This blog post is the first of a series of reruns, reconsideration of texts from two to three years ago. All the reruns represent to me subjects well worth revisiting. I start with whether we could have won the Vietnam war.
To me, the final days during the fall of Saigon, before I escaped under fire the night of 29 April 1975, were hours of shame. Not only did the U.S withdraw from Vietnam in disarray, we also abandoned our allies who had fought at our side. Was that defeat inevitable?
Until 1968, the U.S. had followed the Westmoreland strategy of search and destroy, assuming that if we killed enough Vietnamese Communists, they would give up. We underestimated the will of North Vietnam to win the war no matter what the cost, and we failed to understand how the North Vietnamese fought the war. Ho Chi Minh had told the French, “It will be a war between and elephant and a tiger. If the tiger ever stands still, the elephant will crush him with his mighty tusks. But the tiger does not stand still. He lurks in the jungle by day and emerges only at night. He will leap upon the back of the elephant, tearing huge chunks from his hide, and then he will leap back into the dark jungle. And slowly the elephant will bleed to death. That will be the war of Indochina.”
More succinctly he said, “You will kill ten of us, and we will kill one of you, and in the end it is you who will be exhausted.”