I've confessed before to being anti-war in my youth. Indeed that remained almost sub-consciously my position until my elder son started to make comments on Vietnam. Although it was all a long tome ago, often he would say something and I would think: “Wait on! That was not what we were told at the time!” Partly because he was writing a military thriller and needed to allude to Vietnam he did some research. He bought up (isn't the internet amazing) quantities of books both for and against. I read a selection of these too and found my beliefs shattered. I, like many other well meaning people had been hoodwinked!
I have a number of reasons for dragging this past history up again. First to be fair too the men and women who fought there: they deserve to have the truth told. Then If I could be so completely won over by false propaganda, so can today's idealistic young people – there may be lessons we can learn from our past to help rescue them. Also, there were strategic errors made which subsequent military analysts have illustrated. These I think may transfer over to our non-military fight against progressivism / collectivism / statism as lessons help us adopt better strategies.
Ho Chi Minh is central to the story. He was a lying, cheating, murdering scoundrel totally devoted to International Communism.
Central to understanding what happened are three facts about Ho.
Communists, and to a large extent progressives in the West are not truth tellers. “True” is their adjective to describe anything which aids their cause. In short they are liars. Their promises are worthless. Any agreement they sign is purely a matter of expediency – generally in the hope that their more noble adversaries will feel bound by the agreement – which they never intend to let interfere with their grand plans. Ho broke every promise he made and every agreement he signed.
Socialists in general sprout the dictum: “You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs”. Wherever they have operated they have broken the eggs but made no omelette. They have murdered millions of innocent people to no benefit. Even had there been huge benefit – would that have justified the murders? In the West we have produced the benefit without the murders! However the point is that Ho as an ardent Communist did not care in the least how many people he killed or what human misery and suffering he wrought in advancing Communism. Ho killed some 500,00 people just reinforcing his leadership and “land reforms” in North Vietnam.
Ho was a brilliant strategist and propagandist. He understood war, he had read all the manuals, and thought up some more! He was a born liar and propagandist. His adopted name “Ho Chi Minh” means literally “thr one who enlightens” but as one author pointed out in the vernacular “He who charms the pants off useful idiots.” Ho proved the truth of this by understanding American politics and playing us useful idiots in America, Australia and the West generally like a violin!
So no sooner was the peace accord signed in Geneva, granting Ho the North, and Diem the South than Ho began planning what would be a twenty year war to invade the South and spread Communism to Cambodia and Laos. Overall this would result in some six million people dying
Another important factor on Ho's side was that Communism was internationalist at that time. Since then Russia, China and Vietnam have become nationalist. (Properly we should call Russia and China “Fascist” - but it is all a bit of a case of “a rose by any other name ...”. So Ho could count on – and received – huge amounts of military and other aid from Russia and China all in the cause of spreading Communism around the world.
Why did President Kennedy get involved? His speeches focussed on protecting the people of South Vietnam – which was a real but I suspect not decisive factor. My guess is that uppermost in his mind was the safety of the US. The world was divided Communist Vs Free. True the US had just bested China in a war in Korea. But Soviet strength was certainly believed to be very great. The prospect of the Communists taking over SE Asia with Russian and Chinese backing was a real and dangerous security threat.
Next I hope to look at some of the strategic mistakes.