when plagiarizing, it is best to steal from obscure sources and abbreviate often...,
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we could use just such a plan right about now:
Peter Wehrner - former head of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives - leads us into an entertaining discussion about the Cambodian genocide. Echoing the President's speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wehrner blames the heartless 94th Congress for the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge. Peter Collins, reporting in Vietnam and Cambodia at the time, chimes in politely to agree, "Those on the Left who continue to believe their cherished lies can go to hell." I'm reminded of another entertaining discussion:
NIXON: I still think we ought to take the [North Vietnamese] dikes out now. Will that drown people?
KlSSINGER: About two hundred thousand people.
NIXON: ... I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
KISSINGER: That, I think, would just be too much.
I'm still waiting for someone to enlighten us as to what, exactly, this ingenious plan was to prevent the fall of Laos and Cambodia to communism, short of not having waged the war against Vietnam in the first place.
On the other hand, not having waged the war in the first place would be, in this context, as good an answer as any other. Hindsight knows no non-arbitrary limits. Vietnam, the traitorous French Empire rightly concluded, was a lost cause when they surrendered in '54. Nor did the equally traitorous British Empire think victory was attainable:
Given congressional scruples, Eisenhower and Dulles could not act without the British, and the British would not act. "None of us in London,"
Eden firmly told Dulles on April 25, "believe that intervention in Indochina can do anything." Nor was Churchill very sympathetic.
He had himself suffered "many reverses," he mused at a formal dinner party next evening. "I have suffered Singapore, Hong-Kong, Tobruk;
the French will have Dien Bien Phu."
Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars, pp.34-35
As Kissinger explained to the Chinese Prime Minister 18 years later, in June 1972:
If the war continues, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam will surely lose more than it can possibly gain.
And as Nixon explained to Kissinger later that summer:
South Vietnam probably can never even survive anyway.
To which Kissinger responded:
So we've got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after which - after a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater. If we settle it, say, this October, by January '74 no one will give a damn.
So for the next year they continued their air campaign - something Kissinger apparently believed would weaken South Vietnam - to hold the thing together for political reasons. Not because they thought victory was around the corner, only to have congress - or "the left" - come in and muck up all their winning military strategies. Their plan was, more or less, for South Vietnam to lose, if only at a "decent interval".
Pursuant to the "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" mythology, Wehner complains about "Congress's decision to cut off funding to the governments of Cambodia and South Vietnam."
It's unclear what he's talking about, Congress appropriated $700 million (1.7 billion in 2006 dollars, exceeding the 1.6 billion we gave Iraq last year) for South Vietnam in FY 1975. Gerald Ford, during his January 1975 request to congress for a supplemental aid bill (which passed through committee in the Senate, coincidentally, but that was rendered meaningless three weeks later), never complained that aid had been cut off, but wanted additional aid on top of that:
The $300 million in supplemental military assistance that I am requesting for South Vietnam represents the difference between the $1 billion which was authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 1975 and the $700 million which has been appropriated. This amount does not meet all the needs of the South Vietnamese army in its defense against North Vietnam. It does not, for example; allow for replacement of equipment lost in combat. It is the minimum needed to prevent serious reversals by providing the South Vietnamese with the urgent supplies required for their self-defense against the current level of North Vietnamese attacks.
The veracity of this comment regarding whether it was enough was debated hotly at the time, but it's hard to imagine that anybody hotly debated whether any aid at all had been provided. That "aid was cut off" is a post-war invention. Furthermore, the idea that that amount could have saved South Vietnam rather than merely hold off what the Nixon administration considered "probably" inevitable remains, I think, highly debatable.
The primary objection is always that the AVRN was short on ammunition stocks, and that had Congress passed Gerald Ford's $300 million supplemental
the South could have held off the commies. (Nevermind how much ammunition $700 million could buy.) Merle L. Pribbenow (" CIA language officer, operations officer, and staff officer from 1968 to 1995, including five years in Saigon at the end of the war") considered this argument in a 1999 article written for that reknowned communist agit-prop front, the Army War College quarterly Parameters:
Many historians maintain that given the massive reductions in US military aid to South Vietnam after 1973, any major communist offensive was bound to succeed. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) which confronted PAVN in early 1975, however, was no paper tiger. While ARVN suffered from serious morale and logistics problems, and much of its leadership was abysmal, ARVN's soldiers were hardened veterans, and South Vietnam still maintained vast stockpiles of ammunition and equipment (as demonstrated by the massive quantities of war materiel captured by the North Vietnamese when the war ended). The final collapse of the South Vietnamese army may well have been inevitable, but the end would have been much bloodier and much longer in coming had the communists chosen a more direct, conventional plan of attack. In fact, the most damaging blow of the entire communist campaign may have been the crushing psychological blow their skillful and unexpected strategy dealt to the mind of ARVN's commander-in-chief.
Much attention has focused on the role ARVN's ammunition shortages played in the collapse of South Vietnam, but it is not generally known that PAVN suffered similar shortages. Soviet and Chinese military aid, especially in the category of "offensive weapons" (armor and artillery), had declined significantly since the Paris cease-fire. PAVN's massive losses during the 1972 Easter Offensive exacerbated the shortages caused by these aid reductions.
He goes on at length, if one requries greater detail.
Likewise the air bridge to Phnom Phen out of U-Tapao and deliveries via the Mekong were only interupted very near the end, and not because of congressional funding. The Khmer Rouge - who made advances even during the US carpet bombing campaigns,
if not because of them - cut off the supplies with anti-aircraft fire and advances along the Mekong. "The Department of Defense stated that as of March 4, 1975 a total of $274,675,000 had been obligated for military assistance to Cambodia" (Committee on Foreign Relations,
March 21st, 1975 [pdf], pp.10). With that 1.2 billion in 2006 dollars of military aid, Lon Nol's regime fell a month later.
In any case, if there was a "sellout" it was bipartisan. Personally I can't shake the feeling that the logic is deeply flawed. Every year that direct American intervention continued
ground was lost. Limited victories in South Vietnam came at the expense of anti-communist forces in Laos and Cambodia, and by the end their positions were left untenable. The idea seems to be that if we had stuck it out to see another 3.5 million deaths we could have prevented the deaths of "one million or more." This speaks less to the "indecency of the left" than to the moral blinders of those who wish we had continued pounding obliterated countries into finer and finer grains.
To quote, of all people, Norman Podhoretz, "The only way the United States could have avoided defeat in Vietnam was by staying out of the war altogether". And anyway, fashionable opinion these days seems to have come around to the position that if America won, Indochina lost, or at the very least if America lost, capitalism won - a distinction without a difference because America is capitalism. America wins.
You heard me: America. Fuck yeah.
30 years later we're having the same argument about Iraq. With the President
openly embracing anologies to Vietnam he would seem to endorse arguments that we've already lost the war, and that our only role left there is to mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe. If so, he'd be right. It would be nice if this meant the Administration was moving to deal with the 4-5 million Iraqis already displaced by said catastrophe, rather than seeing to it that Iraqi militants on all sides are armed to the teeth for the bloodbath the President has been ominously foreshadowing for years.
But I ran out of ideas after the Administration dashed any hopes
of Maliki forging a national reconciliation. It's all anybody could ask at this point if people just stopped coming up with plans to
make a bad situation worse. I'd fear the worst now, but chances have diminished asymptotic to zero of it turning out that good.
update: More upstairs. The DoD was, late as April 1975, planning on spending the supplemental on communications equipment. When Ford made the request for $300 billion more he still had $540 billion in the bank. QED.