We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T.S. Eliot


Welcome to Ten Roads! This blog is intended to be a place for me to share my (generally Civil War-related) thoughts and experiences. I try to update once a week at the very least. All comments and readers are greatly appreciated!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

No More Vietnams by Richard Nixon

This is what is known as "double-dipping" - posting something I wrote for some other purpose. Not Civil War related, but related to my current research (I'm doing a research paper comparing the election of '68 to the one coming up in '08). This is a book review I did for my History Seminar (American History 1945-present) class on No More Vietnams by Richard Nixon. I figure book reviews are always a good thing, right?

I am glad to have rescued yet another book off the dusty shelves of my school library; this one had been stranded there since 1995. And this one was very interesting. I was intrigued by the title, and then when I noticed who authored it I knew I had to read it. No More Vietnams was written by Richard Nixon in 1985 and includes six very telling chapters: the Myths of Vietnam, How the Vietnam War Began, Why and How We Went Into Vietnam, How We Won the War, How We Lost the Peace, and Third World War. The book is the story of Vietnam as Richard Nixon saw it, and thus it is quite biased. But then again, no one ever said it couldn't be... it is his book after all.

Nixon provides many details when writing about the events leading up to, during, and after the Vietnam War. He mentions things the public probably did not know at the time of the fighting, such as the more confidential reasons behind the administration making some of the decisions that it made. The former president then defends the choices he made concerning the war. Though he blames his Democratic predecessors for the way they handled the war and left him with the burden of sorting things out and making tough decisions – such as whether or not to follow the North Vietnamese into Cambodia – Nixon also claims to have great respect for them. He is especially sympathetic towards Lyndon B. Johnson, who suffered a great deal during his presidency when the public began blaming him directly for the deaths of U.S. servicemen. In fact, Nixon believed Johnson died of heartbreak related to the war. According to Nixon, we won the Vietnam War by "winning the peace." However, we later "lost the peace" when Congress cut funding drastically, withdrew our troops from the Indochina Peninsula and refused to take action when the North Vietnamese broke the Paris Peace Accords by invading South Vietnam.

It seems as if the main purpose of writing this book was so that Nixon could explain his actions to the public and revamp his image. Whether that ever actually happened in his lifetime, I do not know. Nixon seemed to have believed he’d handled the war in the best manner possible, that he did what was best for the country instead of what would benefit him most politically. If this was truly the case, I believe that is admirable.

The thing that really struck me while reading was how similar everything is to the current situation. People seem to compare Iraq to Vietnam frequently these days, but I never realized how incredibly similar they are. So many things that Nixon writes seem like a prophecy of what was to come. As I was reading, I kept thinking how it’s too bad that Richard Nixon isn't around anymore, because he would have had some very helpful hints to share with the world concerning terrorism and warfare. Some of his ideas are very reasonable, but everyone acts as if reasonable is a bad thing these days, so I’m not surprised that no one has considered utilizing the ones found in this book.

People who should read No More Vietnams include anyone who wants to know why we were in Vietnam and why the decisions that were made were made, people who like amusing presidents who resigned in disgrace (the category in which I fit), and George W. Bush several years ago.

1 comment:

Daniel Sauerwein said...

Sarah,

I am glad that you read this book, as though biased (you'll find that no written account on history is unbiased), Nixon's writing is dead on. The war in Vietnam was one that could have gone much differently. One major problem was that we created a Vietnam-only army, which necessitated drafting men for service in Vietnam only.

Another problem was our strategy. Instead of allowing the generals on the ground to run the war, the politicians in DC who were too far away to fully realize the situation mismanaged the war. We did nothing when North Vietnam broke the Laos Accords of 1963, which guaranteed Laotian neutrality. We also failed to effectively cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail. By not digging in along the DMZ from the coast to the Thai border, we only caused the Trail to shift into Laos and Cambodia, which still allowed the NVA to both support the VC and continue its operations against the US and our allies.

As for Iraq, do not be quick to believe the line of it being like Vietnam, as there are key differences. One is that we have an all-volunteer force, which is more motivated than an army of draftees. Second, unlike the VC, which were South Vietnamese, many of the insurgents are not Iraqi.

Yes, the enemy blends in to society in Iraq just as it did in Vietnam and yes, we do not have adequate forces in Iraq, but we also have the benefit of the lessons from Vietnam. As long as our politicians do not make the same mistakes of Vietnam, like pulling out before your allies are ready to fight alone, and denying them support when they are attacked, Iraq will not be another Vietnam.

Again, I am glad that you were able to read Nixon's book. If you are interested in reading more on Vietnam, I recommend the following books to you:

Steal My Soldier's Hearts by Col. David H. Hackworth (he served in Vietnam)

From Enemy to Friend by Bui Tin (this is a great Q&A with a former North Vietnamese Col. who accepted the surrender of the South Vietnamese in 1975)

Another person who has written a couple of books on the war that are good is Nguyen Cao Ky, former Prime Minister of South Vietnam.

Take care and happy reading.

Yore