Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part XIII

Here is the conclusion of the series taken from my undergraduate thesis.

No war before or since Vietnam has unleashed such doubt about the U.S. government. The soldiers who fought were given what was thought to be every advantage available, but that turned out to be wrong. For America, Vietnam was a pivotal juncture in the Cold War, but for the Vietnamese it was just another war in series of attempts to gain independence. The United States had forgotten its own roots when it entered Vietnam in force in 1965. “This time we were the Redcoats and the Viet Cong were the Minutemen,”said William Bentley of the war; “Not a reversal of roles we should ever emulate again.”  The consequences of that role reversal became clear as the troops came home and enlightened the civilians. 

Ideals had trumped military might, and the men in charge could not see why; the soldiers could, however. The only real victory that can be agreed upon by everyone who lived through Vietnam is that prisoners of war were set free from the clutches of the North Vietnamese. Other than that one thing, the peace in Vietnam was not “with honor” as Nixon had promised.

The South Vietnamese were able to hold out for two years, and then in April 1975 Saigon fell to the communists. It was the final insulting chapter of the war, as the South Vietnamese finally collapsed without the aid they had come to depend on from the United States. Of the horrific end of the war CIA, agent Thomas Pulgar said, “It’s like a goddam circus parade gone haywire! The elephants have moved out in front and everybody else is stumbling through their shit.” The vivid imagery in that quote defines how absolutely awful the Vietnam war was handled by the government. Even someone like Pulgar who had ties to the government saw that the handling of the war was a complete fiasco by the end. Very few elements had gone the Americans’ way, and the fall of Saigon was just one last mishap. 

The images that the war evoked in people’s minds were so horrific and damaging that criticism and analysis became indicative of a nation trying to make sense of a wasted effort. The soldiers felt that their work had been for naught, but just trying to do what was asked of them, even though it was not the best course of action, should have been enough to absolve them. The United States should not have gone to war in Vietnam without more planning or better strategy, or they should not have gone at all. 

Richard Barnet concluded about Vietnam that, “The United States cannot make the world safe for America by seeking to shape the political and economic development of other countries...for the attempt will exhaust both our treasure and our spirit.” Vietnam did exhaust the American spirit, and cost many young vital spirits in the process. The soldiers knew that nothing could win them the war, and nobody listened. Hopefully, that will change as we work to free another nation from tyranny and attempt to fight ideals instead of people.

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