What We Never Learned from Viet Nam

[The nation on the eastern side of Indochina is named Viet Nam. Since the late 1960’s, American journalists and historians have referred to it as Vietnam in error. I will not continue this tradition.]

Today, only historians specializing in twentieth-century America or military history junkies remember the name John Paul Vann.  Lt. Col. Vann served as an advisor to the Army of South Viet Nam in the (very) early 1960’s, and later returned as a civilian advisor until his death in 1972. His biography, “A Bright, Shining Lie” by Neil Sheehan, is the single most important book ever written on the American involvement in the Viet Namese civil war.

It doesn’t take a genius, or even much more than a moderate intellect to come to the following conclusions regarding American involvement in Viet Nam. It does however, require intellectual honesty.

  • No single act by either side in the war created more Viet Cong volunteers and sympathizers than American bombing and village destruction in the South.
  • Field-grade American officers were fighting World War II  in Viet Nam, making no adjustments for either a different terrain or a different culture.
  • A total inability (or desire) to understand our South Viet Namese ally, let alone our enemy, was the single most important factor in our defeat.
  • The “feel-goodism” that we could have won the war militarily is a lie that needs to be abandoned now, before it does more damage than it already has.

Now I would like to address America’s true conservatives – those who want to preserve and defend our culture and civilization against our current enemy.  Do not let your knee-jerk reaction to what you are about to read give you brain damage.

We are repeating all the same mistakes, as if we have never experienced the Viet Nam War at all, but we are doing so in a world in which our enemies have exactly the same media technology as we ourselves do.  They are using it, and it is working.

  • Drone strikes in the “tribal areas” of Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan and Yemen are just as much of a recruitment tool as carpet bombing was in Viet Nam. The negligible value of picking off a few Taliban/Al Qaeda/ISIS leaders is entirely negated by the large numbers of Islamist recruits attracted by “collateral damage”.
  • American administrations (all of them), Pentagon top brass, and even the intelligence community have no understanding of the enemy’s motivation because they are absolutely wedded to the Bushian idea that they “hate us for our freedom”.  They enemy leadership has always been exceedingly clear about why they are fighting: because we are there.  For some reason, US leaders have decided that this knowledge is dangerous for the American people to hear.
  • America’s greatest Warhawk, Dick Cheney, wondered aloud whether or not we were creating more terrorists than we were killing.  The answer is an unequivocal YES!

Before his death in 1972, John Paul Vann said that the best weapon to win an insurgency war was a knife.

America does not believe in knives.



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