Observations from Russia House
When it came to radical change, the Sovs had it easier
than the West. They had a small leadership and an
intelligensia with great traditional influence. In a
Western democracy it was much harder to make yourself
heard above the crowd.
John Le Carre, Russia House, 1989
Seeds of Destruction
Many have attempted to make an argument relating IRAQ -- and to a lesser extent AFGHANISTAN -- involvement to the VIETNAM WAR. Some even try to equate US Army field operations in OPERATIONS IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM to VIETNAM. And an opportunistic presidential campaign is apparently attempting to capitalize on the VIETNAM WAR.
The experiences of the VIETNAM WAR are assuredly important to the extent that they have been considered and applied to our current National Policies/Objectives and field operations. And they have. Militarily, the legacy of VIETNAM is evidenced by the superb fighting forces which we daily see in action; the great battlefield team which the embedded reporters revealed to the Nation and the world. The fighting force is the same, even if the reporters are now engaged in other pursuits. No, the field military legacy is fine. The Defense Department is another matter.
Unfortunately the administrations--and I stress the plural--in charge during that war allowed the war to divide the nation as none other had done--not even the CIVIL WAR engendered such wrenching divisions in the body politic and civic responsibilities as did the war in VIETNAM. The most critical legacy of that war is the incessant pursuit of national fault finding, Americans against Americans. An entire generation of self-serving, self-indulgent, self-centered (all descriptors of the Baby Boomers) Americans was allowed to mature under the atmosphere of hell no, wont go. This was a national self-inflicted wound. It crippled America--and lost the VIETNAM WAR.
Eventually a president was elected who is a draft-dodger; his successor, who followed the laws of the land, is nevertheless smeared as a draft dodger. And the nation is engaged, again, in a great pin the blame self-emulation extravaganza--the world of those who envy or hate the US is amused, anyone who trusted America is troubled, political opponents of the President are giddy, and the Nations fighting strength is sapped.
The real legacy of VIETNAM is the gaping self-inflicted wound of self-indulgent fault finding replacing action to solve national problems. Consider for a moment: virtually all congressional or public discussions on any issue from day care, to medical care, to school teaching, to war fighting substantively reverts to a fault finding or blaming drill, and the problems continue unabated by the self-indulgent grammar.
Since we bred self-indulgent irresponsibility into the VIETNAM generation--and have [every] indication that they pass[ed] that breeding along--there may be no solutions available.
Pat Tillman, Ranger