"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
— George Santayana from "Reason in Common Sense"
Despite the hope that we can learn from past mistakes and not repeat them, history suggests it is counterintuitive to actually believe it could be so.
We won every military engagement of the Vietnam War yet Walter Cronkite and the American media conspired with the enemy to do what the North Vietnamese could not do on the battlefield.
General Võ Nguyên Giáp, who was the commander of the North Vietnamese army, has published his memoirs. He has confirmed what most Americans either knew or suspected. The war in southeast Asia was not lost in Vietnam. It was lost here at home. The American media, enabling and functioning as symbiots for the John Kerry anti-war gaggle accomplished in a few short years what Giap could not do in three decades of fighting.
Giap was an immensely accomplished general, highly respected (some say brilliant). Before, during and after his martial career, he was a scholar, journalist, historian, and philosopher.
The following quote is from his memoirs currently found in the Vietnam War memorial in Hanoi:
"What we still don't understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder, just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you knew it.
But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!"
Giap knew we had crushed his Army in the battles of Tet. Our generals and soldiers knew we had won. But when ‘Uncle Walter’ told the American people that February in 1968, “Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities? I'm not sure.”, waffling public opinion changed. Cronkite may not have been sure but Gen. Giap sure knew.
Not unlike Gen. Robert E. Lee who supposedly said, ““It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers.” "General" Cronkite apparently had greater insight and omniscience than Gens. Giap and Westmoreland.
Cronkite said, “The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw.” No it wasn’t even close to a draw . . . and Giap understood, if the nattering nabobs didn’t. However, that lesson ignored does underscore that the media is the first draft of history, and their errors, omissions and prejudices are obvious in their copy.
The French ran away from Vietnam previous to our flight. When it became plain that France was becoming involved in a long-drawn-out war, the French government tried to negotiate an agreement with the Vi?t Minh. H? Chí Minh and the other indigenous leaders did not trust the word of the French (good call) and continued the war.
Five specific reasons led to the French bailing:
1. Significant numbers of French troops were killed, wounded or captured between 1946 and 1952;
2. The cost of the war had been twice what they were getting from the United States under the Marshall Plan;
3. After seven years, the prospect of a French victory was slim to none.
4. Popular French opinion concluded France did not have any moral justification for being in Vietnam;
5. Parts of the French left supported the goals of the Vi?t Minh to form a socialist state.
Fast forward to today.
1. Although battlefield survivability is greater in Iraq than any previous war, deaths and injuries are the focus of the news.
2. Wars cost big money.
3. A quick clean victory is elusive and unlikely.
4. The drive by media continues to pick at scabs over why we are there.
5. The anti-war left is . . . the anti-war, left wing, left.
Cronkite concluded his broadcast that night in 1968 saying, “But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors . . .” Several of the ’08 presidential wannabes likewise say we should stack arms and "negotiate."
John Stuart Mill once observed, "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse . . ."
Ultimately, the most committed wins, and to date commitment to victory isn't our long suit. Anything we do or don't do that encourages further aggression is unacceptable. We cannot and should not reward the enemy with political, economic and diplomatic efforts.
The most committed wins!
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