Photo by Edward F. Palm)

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Could we have won in Vietnam?

One of the followers of the Facebook page "Vietnam and Politics" raised the question of whether we could have won in Vietnam.  Here is my answer:

Ho Chi Minh and his people were first and foremost zealous nationalists who were determined that our brand of neo-imperialism would not replace overt French imperialism.  The sad thing is that, before we intervened, Ho had appealed to us for help in preventing the French return after World War II.  But we wanted France's help in blocking Communist expansion into western Europe.  Hence, we rationalized Vietnam as a potential falling domino and acquiesced in, and eventually aided, the French return to Vietnam.  That wasn't lost on the Vietnamese.  To make a long story short, South Vietnam was our creation, and Diem was our man.  He had no base of popular support.  We were tainted and distrusted for our previous support of the French.  On Ho's side, an entire generation had been raised to believe it was their duty to die for Vietnam.  The majority of the people out in the countryside just wanted to stay out of the way of the war, but the Communists could reach them--through terror and the unfortunate xenophobia of the traditional Vietnamese culture at the time.  And then our overkill methods and our so-called "collateral damage" made more VC supporters than the VC we killed.  Our search-and-destroy strategy was self-defeating.  So we could we have won?  Not against that generation of Vietnamese people.  Ho tried to warn the French that they would kill ten of his people for every one of his they killed, but in the end, the French would tire first.  We should have heeded that warning.  To paraphrase what an unnamed Army major said during the Tet Offensive, while standing among the rubble that had once been Ben Tre, we would have had to destroy Vietnam in order to save it. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And could we have won in Afghanistan and could we have won in Iraq?