Magazine article The American Conservative

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Magazine article The American Conservative

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Article excerpt

VIETNAM: THE WAR WE HAD TO FIGHT Professor Bacevich is often an interesting expert on questions of international relations, and his judgment that we-especially the commentariat-have avoided serious engagement with the past as it relates to Vietnam is true. But perhaps my understanding of what such an engagement might consist of differs.

Permit me to make two observations on his review of American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity [July/August 2015], He fought in the war, but he now views the historical context from an odd perspective- "claptrap about domino theories and fighting in Southeast Asia to keep the Reds from invading California." It reminds me of Hans Morganthau lecturing an antiwar audience in 1965 to the effect that the Johnson administration foolishly presumed that if Vietnam fell, Venezuela was in serious danger-to laughter and applause from the student audience.

Not quite: if Vietnam fell, then Laos and Cambodia, and perhaps Thailand and Indonesia, would be threatened. Well, when Vietnam fell, so did Laos and Cambodia. Indonesia had taken the opportunity to conduct a vicious bloody anti-Communist purge, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia the time gained had permitted a reckoning with the nature of the threat. But the Soviets and those they supported made major advances in South Yemen, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Angola. Then the Soviets invaded Afghanistan-and the Shah was driven from Iran. (The Soviets were not only ones that saw implied or explicit U.S. support as of greatly reduced credibility.) I am aware that post hoc ergo propter hoc is a classical fallacy, but there is surely some connection between such a major American defeat and the encouragement of our enemies.

Nor do I believe that "U.S. efforts were all but doomed from the outset." I served in Vietnam as a Naval Advisor in 1967 in Da Nang and went back with the Foreign Service in 1973. …

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