.. auma of Vietnam. A “No more Vietnams” psychology sprung up all over the country. Lewy commented that American turn to isolationism in hope that such an disaster will never happen again. Lewy stated that the “United States cannot and should not be the worlds policeman.” (490) The result for taking up a moral burden such as Vietnam only results in the severe casualties. Despite what the American ideal for democracy, Lewy concluded, we can not support and change the world.
“The Statesman cannot be a saint” (491) as the Korean Conflict and Vietnam conflict had shown to the American people. The American idealism changed significantly because of the impact of Vietnam war. Lewy ended his essay with one of the most frequently asked questions: could the United States have won in Vietnam? Lewy suggested that United States started off on the wrong foot in the beginning. Simple motives like “fighting for democracy in Vietnam” and “halting communist aggression” while having some truth in them are not enough to justify the position of U.S. intervention. President Johnson also made a mistake in the beginning of the war because of his confidence.
He constantly “spoke of success and light at the end of the tunnel, but continued to dispatch additional troops while casualties mounted steadily.” (492) The turning of the war from a “limited war” to a full scale occurred as more troops were sent in. Yet while Johnson was willing to send in more troops, he was unwilling to declare war. American people did not know what they were fighting for because of the undeclared war. Further, without industrial mobilization on the home front, the mission was destined to fail. The nation ended up fighting”a limited with the full employment of its military power restricted through elaborate rules of engagements and limitations.. while for its determined opponent the war was total.” (492) Lewy did not deny that the war was lost militarily.
In fact he believed that U.S. strategy was wrong from the beginning. He wrote that “the U.S. failed to understand the real stakes in a revolutionary war.” (497) United States army failed to realize the objective of the war. Edward G. Landsdale once wrote that “the Vietnamese Communist generals saw their armed forces a instruments primarily to gain political goals.
The American generals saw their forces primarily as instruments to defeat enemy military forces.” (497) As a result Lewy concluded, “the enemys endurance and supply of manpower proved stronger than American persistence in keeping up the struggle.” (497) The resolute Vietnamese opposition simply demoralized our will to fight. When they suffered major casualties it strengthened them while it weaken United States morale when we suffered major casualties. Finally Lewy believed that The United States had set out on the wrong foot from the beginning. “The war,” Lewy commented, “not only had to be won in South Vietnam, but it had to be won by the South Vietnamese.” (497) Yet it seems that from the beginning of the conflict, The Republic of Vietnam did not have the zeal that the U.S. did. The United States however failed to stress the importance of the role the South Vietnamese should play.
As a result the war could not be won because we were not Vietnamese. Henry Kissinger inevitably concluded that “outside effort can only supplement, but not create local efforts and local will to resist.” (499) The United States could neither win a war nor lose one because it is not our war. The failure of the Vietnamese people to take their active roles in their revolutionary war was the cause for the lost war. Lewy therefore concluded that with the war lost on the enemy front, home front and the Vietnamese front, the war in Vietnam could not be won. Finally, in “The Last War, The Next War, and The New Revisionists” Walter LaFeber also attempts to address the Vietnam question.
He first addresses the reason for the losing of the war. He brings up the Westmoreland Thesis which argued that “the conflict was not lost on the battlefield, but at home where overly sensitive politicians followed a “no-win policy” to accommodate “a misguided minority opposition.” and that “the enemy finally won the war politically in Washington.” (500) Other revisionist historians like Gelband Betts proposed that “it was not the system; that failed.. the failure was to be blamed on the American people who never understood the war and finally tired of it, and on the President who supinely followed the people.” (501) Lewy, another historian further, clarified Westmorelands argument that antiwar groups wrongly labeled Vietnam illegal and immoral. But Lewy inevitably destroyed Westmorelands thesis when he mentioned the massacre at My Lai and at Cam Ne. The blame for losing the war, therefore LaFeber concluded, is split among the Revisionists and the other historians.
LaFeber then addresses the impact of the war to build up his thesis of the Revisionists. He argues that “Vietnam greatly altered the world balance of power” and that “American power has dramatically declined, politically as well as militarily.” (501) The lessons of Vietnam invariably became the basis for American foreign policy for the next decade. The Afghanistan and Iran crisis during Carters administration showed that lessons of Vietnam had finally taken itself in the form of the nations policy. Furthermore, Ronald Reagan proclaimed in one of speeches that “we must rid ourselves of the Vietnam syndrome.” (503) Therefore LaFeber concluded that the lesson of Vietnam had changed U.S. foreign policy greatly.
Lastly, LaFeber discusses the arguments of the new revisionists. He criticizes their explicit claims and the facts that they chose to ignore. The new revisionists claim that the country has been “misguided by the opinions of the minority” is not correctly stated. Herbert Schandlers study had shown that the latest public opinions rallied behind the president. (503) Even as the antiwar movements increased during late 1970, the public opinions did not turn the president. LaFeber showed that “it did not stop Nixon from expanding the conflict into Cambodia and Laos.” (504) Therefore LaFeber concluded that the Antiwar movements had been greatly overrated by the Revisionists. The Revisionist instead should emphasize the defeat military in Vietnam. The Revisionists also concentrated too much on the Soviet Union.
Instead they should focus “on the instability of the Third World areas that the Soviets have at times turned to their own advantage.” (505) The Revisionists therefore did not understand where the problems were in south East Asia. LaFeber also stressed that the Revisionist had underestimated Unites States military power. American military will is not lacking; the troops as LaFeber pointed out were “supported by the most powerful naval and air force ever used in Asia.” (505) Bombs were dropped every minute on Vietnam. Therefore neither the will nor the power is lacking in the war. The war was lost not because U.S.
declined in power but rather from the “overestimation of American Power.” (505) The Revisionists, suggested LaFeber, over-exaggerated some of the issues. If the power of United States were overestimated, the war then was lost because of the aid of our allies and the cost of the war. The Revisionists often overlooked this subject, LaFeber argued. He pointed out that “of the forty nations tied to the United States by treaties only four- Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Thailand- committed any combat troops.” (506) Even South Korea, a country which owed much to U.S., only send troops after Washington bribed them. The failure of the aid from the coalition eventually undermined the U.S.
effort in Vietnam. The will of the people which the Revisionists stressed as the downfall of the war is also affected by the cost of the war. The American people simply did not want to fight a bread and butter war. Domestically, the Great Society Program must be sacrificed to accommodate the war. The great cost of the war eventually influenced the public sentiment so much that the will of people favors peace. By overlooking the two key aspects of the war, LaFeber concluded, the Revisionists attempt to make the war “more acceptable,” and “hoped to make the next war legitimate, even before.. where it will be or what it will be fought over.” (508) These three articles in Conflict and Consensus all showed remarkably similarity not only in their subjects but also in their opinions.
They all attempted to address why the United States lost the war. In doing so they also addressed the attitude of American people and the military forces. They analyzed the strength of the U.S. military power and the Vietnamese forces. They all asked the question of why the war started and what importance was Vietnam.
But despite the similarities of the three articles, they differ in details. While Baritz addressed the loss of Vietnam, he attributed the loss to the ignorance and haughty attitude of Vietnam. She stressed the myth of America as the “Gods chosen country” and believed that we lost the war because we were too arrogant and too confident of ourselves. Baritz argued that Americans put too much faith into technology, Bureaucracy and the myth. These things she addressed as the downfall of United States. Lewy shared a different view when he attempted to address the loss of Vietnam.
He attacked the conflict from the beginning, doubting the importance of Vietnam and United States motive to interfere. He also addressed some of the major forces that turned public opinion against the war such as TV, the lack of declaration of war, and the antiwar movements. On a military scale, Lewy also addressed the ineptitude of the American army to fight a revolutionary war and the failure to draw the Vietnamese into their own war. Lewy proposed a more comprehensive theory from the beginning to the end of how the United States could lose the war. LaFebers interest in his article however is not addressing how America lost the war.
But nevertheless by rejecting some of the Revisionists points of view, he revealed a different scope of the war. He rejected Westmorelands theory and pointed out that the public sentiment was favoring the president and the war. He rejected the focus of the war on Communism and Russia to show that the South East Asia problem is a question of stability not communism. LaFeber also pointed out the common misunderstanding of the conflicts central political and military features. He believed that United States overestimated its own power. Furthermore he revealed the reluctance of American allies to commit its troops, and he revealed that the public is unwilling to sacrifice butter for guns.
LaFebers view therefore is extremely different from the two historians mentioned before yet he still attempted to address the same questions.