I am constantly reminded of the American ignorance of the horror of war. No American now living remembers the last time we had war on out own territory, the Civil War, and a fraction of a percent have experienced combat.
According to one estimate from Wikileaks, only 1 percent of the U.S. population serves in the military. Of those, 10 percent see combat. So a tenth of 1 percent of Americans living today have experienced fighting on the battlefield.
And our knowledge of the Vietnam war is shallow at best. So often during my presentations, people ask me whose side we were on. Most people don’t recall when the war was or what year Saigon fell. Some are uncertain where Vietnam is.
But the Vietnam war, like all wars, took a huge toll of human life. Wikileaks estimates that allied forces suffered 282,000 killed during the Vietnam war. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong dead totaled 444,000, and civilian deaths were 627,000.
And why did we fight that war? What was our goal? Different Americans offer different reasons. My memory from the time is that our purpose was to defeat communism. But none of us could define communism.