Sunday, July 15, 2012

Garden of Eden: Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy & Johnson

Garden of Eden

 A heart-warming novel sharing love, heroism, and the rite of passage during the Vietnam War

Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, & Johnson

Ho Chi Minh was our friend during the Second World War. His men rescued American fliers shot down by the Japanese. They performed heroic acts on behalf of the Allies against Imperial Japan. Toward the end of the war Ho sent word to President Roosevelt requesting recognition of Vietnam as a sovereign nation to get the Colonial French off the backs of the Vietnamese people. But Roosevelt was preoccupied with the Pacific, and a dying man. 

President Truman chose to ignore Ho's request because France was an ally during WW2. Charles De Gaulle was an arrogant windbag similar to Bernard Montgomery. Harry Truman was more of the same vintage. This led to the first Vietnam War where French forces were defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu by General Giap's Viet Minh Communists. The French might have prevailed had the French politicians sent a relief column to the trapped soldiers, but like so many times in France's checkered political history the politicians dithered while their Foreign legion fought and died. 

Ho Chi Minh was a national hero. He had driven the French out after nearly 100 years of colonial occupation. A national election was to be held to determine a new president. But the Diem regime in South Vietnam, friendly with the United States, was against elections. Ho might win, and Diem and his gang of political thugs would be out of power. Fighting broke out between the North and the South. 

The British and the French both warned President Eisenhower not to get involved. They called it a civil war, telling him Ho Chi Minh would probably win the election. But Eisenhower believed in the Domino Theory. If one country goes communist, it spreads like a bad habit to its neighbors. Ike sent 300 military advisers to help train the South Vietnamese Army. The elections were blocked by the South, with help from the Central Intelligence Agency and American Special Forces. With Washington plotting against him, Ho Chi Minh turned to Moscow. 

Ho was a nationalist more so than a communist, but Kennedy viewed North Vietnam with skepticism. President Kennedy believed in the Domino Theory the same as President Eisenhower. Ike advised John to send additional troops. In the meantime Ngo Dinh Diem had become a thorn in the side of American diplomacy. The South Vietnamese government was as crooked as a barrel of fishhooks, and their military was a mixed bag of professionals and clueless incompetents. The ARVN leadership in Saigon was no match for the battle-hardened North Vietnamese Army of Hanoi. 

Two years into his presidency JFK was coming to believe that Vietnam was unwinnable. Many factors played a role, but Diem and his generals were the major stumbling blocks. The people didn't like Diem, and they didn't appreciate their dictatorial treatment at the hands of Diem's military. JFK was probably going to pull the plug if he won reelection. 

Dallas doomed the United States to a land war in SE Asia. That was the very thing General MacArthur warned President Kennedy against in 1961. President Johnson and Robert McNamara didn't know a squat about the centuries old conflicts between China and Vietnam. They knew even less about Vietnam's culture or religion, and very little about Diem and his wicked brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu. The stage was set for disaster, and President Johnson jumped in with both clod hoppers. 

Lyndon Baines Johnson micromanaged the Vietnam War from his air-conditioned oval office in Washington, DC. The Pentagon was seldom allowed to make independent decisions. The Air Force was told to bomb Viet Cong villages and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, while Westmoreland scattered his ground troops across South Vietnam in WW1-style fire bases. Johnson and McNamara both feared China might enter the conflict on the side of the Communists. So North Vietnam was never invaded, the Trail was never cut, and Hanoi and Haiphong were never blown off the map. The war was run by a Texas school teacher and an Ivy League business executive. Militarily, both men were hopeless failures. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Garden of Eden: The Turning Point

Garden of Eden

   A heart-warming novel sharing love, heroism, and the rite of passage during the Vietnam War.

The Turning Point

What would I have done had I been President Johnson? Knowing what I know today probably nothing. Ho Chi Minh was our friend during World War Two. His men rescued American fliers shot down by the Japanese. Ho and his forces performed heroic deeds helping the Allies against Imperial Japan. Toward the end of the war Ho asked President Roosevelt to declare Vietnam a sovereign nation to get the Colonial French off the backs of the Vietnamese people. Roosevelt was ill at the time, preoccupied with the Pacific, a dying man. Truman ignored Ho's request because France was an ally. So Ho turned to Moscow who was only too happy to oblige.

Had I been Nixon replacing Johnson I would have met personally with Ho. "Uncle Ho" died September 4, 1969, so Nixon had the opportunity. Protocol was just another stumbling block which is the usual circumstance with politics. Kissinger was a lousy negotiator. He was all about himself and playing God.

Had my meeting with Ho failed I would have given him and his Politburo fair warning. We were committed so it was a matter of honor and saving American lives. Get your troops out of South Vietnam in thirty days or forfeit Hanoi, Haiphong, and your Red River rice dikes. Blowing people and places off the map has a certain sobering effect.

I don't know when Johnson and McNamara decided to play it safe over their fears China might enter the war on the side of the North. Militarily, both of them were pussies. The turning point via combat was January 30, 1968, the Tet Offensive.

North Vietnam threw 85,000 troops into the offensive, mostly Vietcong, against the objections of General Giap. General Giap was commander of the North Vietnamese Army. He predicted correctly that Allied firepower would decimate his communist forces. But the Politburo overruled Giap and went ahead with their offensive. This was according to the Chinese Doctrine of direct confrontation. The USSR urged caution. The Vietcong were virtually wiped out. What NVA were involved sustained heavy casualties. 

North Vietnam suffered a terrible defeat, but the world news media played it up as a loss for the Allies. The liberals in America coveted an American defeat in Vietnam. When that didn't happen they manufactured one. That was flat-out treason, but many in Congress were Left-wing defeatists so it went unchallenged. Walter Cronkite's "We are mired in a Stalemate" was broadcast on the CBS Evening News February 27, 1968. Public opinion then swung Left against Johnson and the war. 

What North Vietnam never envisioned was a political victory. They lost the battle, but due to the media and the war protesters and a gutless Congress and the American Left, we sacrificed over 58,000 of our men and women plus another 300,000 wounded over a lousy political chess game. 

How does one win a war? Kill people and break things! Bombing Soviet trucks along the Ho Chi Minh Trail with B-52 bombers while leaving Hanoi and Haiphong intact was political insanity. It cost us the war.