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Craig234

Why the US (Democratic, initially) leaders made such big mistakes on Vietnam

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Some of the country knows the basic history of Vietnam - the commitment to oppose independence and instead to force colonization on Vietnam, first pushing the French to do so, then our own puppets. (Yes, it turns out, France wanted out by the late 40's, but the US pushed them to keep fighting, paying up to 90% of their costs).

 

What's not clear to many is why.

 

I've been reading the best book on Vietnam I've seen, Secrets by Daniel Ellsberg, and he's suggested a very good explanation I'll expand on a bit.

 

That decision period, the late 40's, when the world was turning toward support independence for Vietnam, wanting out, Democrats were in charge - this was before the Dulles brothers.

 

What was happening at the same time was the communist revolution in China, which led to Mao winning, and US politics being dominated by the idea of 'who lost China'. Democrats weren't ABOUT to 'lose' another region to communists, and the Truman Doctrine was for the US to protect everywhere in the world from communism.

 

That was Ellsberg's point - my addition: Republicans had lost the ability to get elected because the country had seen they had led the nation to the Great Depression, and Democrats led it out, and to victory in World War II. What did Republicans have to run on? They desperately needed an issue.

I've suggested that that need for an issue for Republicans to run on is the heart of the red scare and the tragedy of the unnecessary cold war. That Republicans hyped the threat to the US from communists because they needed the country to vote for them to protect the country from communists more than they wanted to elect Democrats.

And it worked. Now, the issue wasn't ENTIRELY invented. Communists had serious problems, and at times they did wrong in the world, and we needed to oppose them within reason. That's a far cry from the hysterical cold war where we did our own huge wrongs, where we caused harm instead of preventing it, where we persecuted innocent people for a decade.

 

But the root of the Republican pursuit of power was the plutocratic agenda then as now, and the political challenge was how to get elected, and their answer then was the communist threat. And the corrupt Chinese regime falling to Mao creating a political threat to Democrats all added up to the US blindly pursuing the 'anti-communist' commitment to oppose independence in Vietnam.

 

We didn't even see the issue as independence, but since the popular leader who would be elected was a communist, we only saw it as global communism spreading.

 

But those seem to me the roots of our misguided policy on Vietnam - the Plutocrat Republican Party needing an issue, using the red scare as that issue, Democrats on the defensive desperate to prevent 'another China loss' leading us to oppose independence - and an ever-increasing commitment to preventing the popular leader, Ho Chi Minh, ruling an independent Vietnam - ironically, even though his declaration of independence for Vietnam was modeled on the US's, which he'd liked when he lived in the US, as he reached out to the US for their support for independence as he was slapped down (OK, let's also note the irony of this error on independence was from Truman who was from Independence, MO).

 

Of course, once started, the more right-wing Eisenhower administration with the Dulles brothers embraced the opposition to Minh, and really committed the US to a puppet regime there, opposing democracy, throwing away the big chance for getting out when the rest of the world supported and end to the conflict when the French lost their war.

 

This wasn't to review the rest of that history, going on to LBJ and Nixon, but to note the key role the red scare, US politics, and the 'loss' of China played in WHY the US chose such bad policies that led to the war. That snowballed of course into LBJ's not wanting to 'be the first president to lose a war' and Nixon's treason and expansion of the war over other US political issues.


It's sad how nearly all of the country has not learned many lessons from that history.

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Good Post. Republican Joe McCarthy, and FBI Director Hoover played a major roles for Republicans in the early 50's, and caused Ike to become even more hawkish, if that was possible.And of course, there is a direct path from McCarthy to Roy Cohn to Trump.

Vietnam was just an extension of domestic Republican Red scare politics, and domestic Military / Industrial complex.

 

Ellsberg is one smart cookie.  I Remember reading Pentagon Papers a long time ago.

In his autobiography, G. Gordon Liddy describes an "Ellsberg neutralization proposal" originating from Howard Hunt, which involved drugging Ellsberg with LSD, by dissolving it in his soup, at a fund-raising dinner in Washington in order to "have Ellsberg incoherent by the time he was to speak" and thus "make him appear a near burnt-out drug case" and "discredit him." The plot involved waiters from the Miami Cuban community.

 

 

Also (a little off topic, but interesting):

 

The Ellsberg paradox:  a paradox in decision theory in which people's choices violate the postulates of subjective expected utility. It is generally taken to be evidence for ambiguity aversion. The paradox was popularized by Daniel Ellsberg, although a version of it was noted considerably earlier by John Maynard Keynes.

The basic idea is that people overwhelmingly prefer taking on risk in situations where they know specific odds rather than an alternative risk scenario in which the odds are completely ambiguous—they will always choose a known probability of winning over an unknown probability of winning even if the known probability is low and the unknown probability could be a guarantee of winning. For example, given a choice of risks to take (such as bets), people "prefer the devil they know" rather than assuming a risk where odds are difficult or impossible to calculate

 

 

 

 

 

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On 11/28/2018 at 3:49 PM, Craig234 said:

Some of the country knows the basic history of Vietnam - the commitment to oppose independence and instead to force colonization on Vietnam, first pushing the French to do so, then our own puppets. (Yes, it turns out, France wanted out by the late 40's, but the US pushed them to keep fighting, paying up to 90% of their costs).

 

What's not clear to many is why.

 

I've been reading the best book on Vietnam I've seen, Secrets by Daniel Ellsberg, and he's suggested a very good explanation I'll expand on a bit.

 

That decision period, the late 40's, when the world was turning toward support independence for Vietnam, wanting out, Democrats were in charge - this was before the Dulles brothers.

 

What was happening at the same time was the communist revolution in China, which led to Mao winning, and US politics being dominated by the idea of 'who lost China'. Democrats weren't ABOUT to 'lose' another region to communists, and the Truman Doctrine was for the US to protect everywhere in the world from communism.

 

That was Ellsberg's point - my addition: Republicans had lost the ability to get elected because the country had seen they had led the nation to the Great Depression, and Democrats led it out, and to victory in World War II. What did Republicans have to run on? They desperately needed an issue.

I've suggested that that need for an issue for Republicans to run on is the heart of the red scare and the tragedy of the unnecessary cold war. That Republicans hyped the threat to the US from communists because they needed the country to vote for them to protect the country from communists more than they wanted to elect Democrats.

And it worked. Now, the issue wasn't ENTIRELY invented. Communists had serious problems, and at times they did wrong in the world, and we needed to oppose them within reason. That's a far cry from the hysterical cold war where we did our own huge wrongs, where we caused harm instead of preventing it, where we persecuted innocent people for a decade.

 

But the root of the Republican pursuit of power was the plutocratic agenda then as now, and the political challenge was how to get elected, and their answer then was the communist threat. And the corrupt Chinese regime falling to Mao creating a political threat to Democrats all added up to the US blindly pursuing the 'anti-communist' commitment to oppose independence in Vietnam.

 

We didn't even see the issue as independence, but since the popular leader who would be elected was a communist, we only saw it as global communism spreading.

 

But those seem to me the roots of our misguided policy on Vietnam - the Plutocrat Republican Party needing an issue, using the red scare as that issue, Democrats on the defensive desperate to prevent 'another China loss' leading us to oppose independence - and an ever-increasing commitment to preventing the popular leader, Ho Chi Minh, ruling an independent Vietnam - ironically, even though his declaration of independence for Vietnam was modeled on the US's, which he'd liked when he lived in the US, as he reached out to the US for their support for independence as he was slapped down (OK, let's also note the irony of this error on independence was from Truman who was from Independence, MO).

 

Of course, once started, the more right-wing Eisenhower administration with the Dulles brothers embraced the opposition to Minh, and really committed the US to a puppet regime there, opposing democracy, throwing away the big chance for getting out when the rest of the world supported and end to the conflict when the French lost their war.

 

This wasn't to review the rest of that history, going on to LBJ and Nixon, but to note the key role the red scare, US politics, and the 'loss' of China played in WHY the US chose such bad policies that led to the war. That snowballed of course into LBJ's not wanting to 'be the first president to lose a war' and Nixon's treason and expansion of the war over other US political issues.


It's sad how nearly all of the country has not learned many lessons from that history.

It's sad indeed entering our 18th year of undeclared constitutionally illegal war in Afghanistan. Every time we kill an innocent goat herder or bomb a wedding we create more opponents. They aren't the terrorist we are the terrorists. The specter of American soldiers guarding poppy fields while an opiate epidemic rages in the U.S.. Never ending war for profit is the goal of the Military Industrial Complex.

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