Thursday, May 20, 2010


Excerpt from page 462-3

"The collapse in the South, the one force which the American leaders could not control, continued unabated. The Americans had always had the illusion that something might turn it around; a new leader in South Vietnam who would understand how to get with the program; a realization on the part of the feared enemy (the Americans' feared enemy, though perhaps not the feared enemy of the Vietnamese), the Communists were about to walk into Saigon. Or magically, the right battalion commander would turn up to lead ARVN battalions into battle against the Vietcong, or the right program would emerge, blending arms and pig-fatteners together to make the peasants want to choose our side. But nothing changed, the other side continued to get stronger, the ARVN side weaker. One reason the principals were always surprised by this, and irritated by the failure of their programs, was that the truth of the war never entered the upper-level American calculations; that this was a revolutionary war, and that the other side held title to the revolution because of the colonial war which had just ended. This most simple fact, which was so important to understanding the political calculations (it explained why their soldiers would fight and die, and ours would not; why their leaders were skillful and brave, and ours were inept and corrupt), entered into the estimates of the American intelligence community and made them quite accurate. But it never entered into the calculations of the principals, for a variety of reasons; among others to see the other side in terms of nationalism or as revolutionaries might mean a re-evaluation of whether the United States was even fighting on the right side. In contrast, the question of Communism and anti- Communism as opposed to revolution and antirevolution was far more convenient for American policy makers."

"For members of the intelligence community, the war was directly linked to the recent past; they saw deep-rooted reasons for Vietcong successes and Saigon government failures. As far as the intelligence community was concerned, history was alive and gaining its revenge in Indochina; as far as the principals were concerned (and it was a very American attitude that Vietnamese events and history began only after the Americans arrived and took charge), nothing had existed before because it had not been done, tended to, examined by Americans. The Americans were tempting history by ignoring it; after all, in the past they had been able to dominate events by the sheer force of their industrial capacity, which had exempted them from much of the reality of the world."