political elites?!

JAR2 ("JAR2"@OFS.co.westchester.ny.us)
Fri, 8 Nov 1996 22:45:46 -0500

When I had said the war in Vietnam was lost by the policy makers in
Washington I was not speaking of "political elites" in any rigid and
strictly defined way. And I was referring both to the politicians in the
White House (including staff and aides) in the Administrations of JFK, LBJ
and Nixon. I was also referring to the "professionals" in the State
Department of whom more and better could/should have been expected.

One point I recall so clearly from that era was that friends,
neighbors, parents would tell us, "the gov't in Washington knows more than
we do. Their information is better and they may not be telling us everything
but they may have a good reason." Variations on this theme were common
currency in my community - until Tet 1968. Trust in Washington then was much
more common. That of course evaporated over Vietnam and later Watergate. A
central admission of MacNamara was that Washington did not know more or
better. Pretence and arrogance usurped trust.

The commitment in South Vietnam had been clearly made in the Eisenhower
Administration but the visible demonstration of that commitment remained low
until LBJ initiated the massive build-up in 1965. The level of involvement
and presence in the JFK years were small enough that disengagement could
have been achieved and responsibility placed on the inability of successive
Saigon regimes to engage the loyalty and commitment of the South Vietnamese
people. It was frankly their war to win or lose if their commitment to a
free and separate South Vietnam were real. Where Saigon generals had padded
their payrolls, evaded combat operations against the Viet Cong and/or North
Vietnamese Army units, and the practice of Saigon generals selling arms and
ammunition to the Viet Cong argue against the reality of the kind of
commitment to a South Vietnam that could have won the war.

I remain convinced that JFK had made the decision to withdraw from
Vietnam and had said to begin withdrawing troops. I don't feel this had
anything to do with the assassination of JFK. I really do not believe that
Vietnam loomed that large in 1963. (it still seems to me most logical that
organized crime was behind the assassination, the best guess explanation)
And, frankly, my view is that someone got to LBJ with rationale that "we"
(U.S.) could turn the corner in Vietnam and produce some kind of victory. It
may be that LBJ was more inclined to use force with fewer fetters on it and
willing to commit ground troops where JFK felt military solutions for
political problems not workable. It was not entirely illogical in 1963 or
1964 to believe that bombing North Vietnam and adding American ground forces
into the southern equation might convince Hanoi to back off. It would have
been and was a misreading of Hanoi's commitment.

History exists and history is the product of those who research and
write it. There is no such thing as totally objective and neutral history.
Whoever writes history has some bias, some interest, declared or undeclared.
If the reader can discern that bias, he takes this into account. There is no
such thing as "History" in terms of objectified or deified moving force or
fate. That was dealt with by Nicolo Chiaromonte in The Paradox of History.