Friday, January 12, 2007

The Lessons of Vietnam?

Over at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, Ed Darrell is beginning a series of posts on "Applying the Lessons of Vietnam in Afghanistan and Iraq". He begins by asking the right question: "Can we even say, with assurance, what those lessons are?" Unfortunately, he then does not answer it, or rather assumes that the answer is "yes," for he immediately launches into what he believes the first of those lessons is.

I say "unfortunately," because that first question is the crucial one. It is becoming clear that the answer is either "no" or "yes, but those lessons may well be exactly the opposite of those assumed by conventional wisdom."

Exhibit A is Mark Moyar's book,
Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (Cambridge University Press 2006). Mackubin Thomas Owens, Professor of National Security at the Naval War College, has written a glowing review in the Weekly Standard, "A Winnable War: The Argument Against the Orthodox History of Vietnam", which will provide some idea of Moyar's thesis.

You can't apply the lessons until you know what the lessons are. If Mr. Moyar and others are correct, most or all of the received wisdom is wrong -- and it makes a difference. Just today, for example, the Christian Science Monitor has published an article by Professor Owens in which he draws on Mr. Moyar's book. The Democrats won't like the title:
"Why Bush's War Plan Can Work".

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for pointing me to the Moyars book. Obviously, I've not had time to even find it, let alone read it today. So I wonder: The Monitor article says Diem's government had "broken" the communist insurgency by 1960.

    What repaired it? If the insurgency was broken then, and again by the U.S. a decade later, what went wrong?

    Yes, I'm jumping into the topic way too quickly. And my thesis is that we didn't learn the lessons of Vietnam at all -- at least, not the leaders of this nation.

    And so I worry, and I think it useful to discuss just what we should have learned, that could still save us.

    Do what you can to keep me on the straight and narrow of the topic, please!


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