Nearly every generation in America has had some war to define its adolescence, whether it be the Revolutionary War, the War Between the States, Spanish-American War, First or Second World War. The current ruling cast of politicians in Washington grew up during another conflict that cost the lives of 58,000 of America's best and bravest young men. It shaped their minds as they grew into political and philosophical roles, and therefore affects the way the nation is run today.
Purportedly, the war in Vietnam was fought to halt the spread of Communism in south-eastern Asia. Already the United States had, under the auspices of the United Nations, fought a limited war in Korea, costing approximately 35,000 American lives, achieving only a stalemate, despite Douglas MacArthur's encouragement that there is 'no substitute for victory'. Unfortunately, those who sent our nation into the seething jungle cauldron of Vietnam did not take MacArthur's lesson to heart. This would be the first war in which the United States would emerge as the loser. Was the failure because of military failures, a lack of capability, or ability of our soldiers? On the contrary, we had, as we do now, the most advanced and powerful military in the world, fighting a rag-tag band of rebels and guerillas, whose only sophisticated weaponry came from Communist allies China and the Soviet Union. Why, then, did we not win? The simple fact is (and conversations with many Vietnam veterans will confirm this) that the government intentionally kept the military from winning. If one looks upon the restrictions put upon our armed forces, it is the only conclusion he can draw. Briefly consider these facts.
- Many times the Air Force commander was not given the authorisation to bomb specific targets that the Joint Chiefs of Staff deemed most strategic.
- Our troops were under the command to only fire the ennemy when first attacked by them.
- Any truck that was not near the Ho Chi Minh Trail could not be a target for an air raid. Once the enemy knew about this they could use this area as a safe zone to supply their troops and escape destruction until the planes were gone.
- Likewise North Vietnamese planes could only be struck if in the air with an offensive posture but not if on the ground.
- Any missile site that was still under construction could not be the target of our bombs until its contruction was complete.
- Our troops could not cross Cambodia or Laos to pursue enemy soldiers. Of course the enemy used the border as a close gate to safety from our attacks just 55 miles from the capital Saigon.
What military can be expected to win a war under such ridiculous restrictions? Imagine if such restrictions had been put upon the armies fighting Germany and Japan in World War 2. Doubtless it would be a much different world than we have today.
One cannot go into a war and expect to win with half-hearted measures. The United States government was well aware of this. For some reason or other, they did not wish to win this war. Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker briefly delineated what impossible obstructions the military confronted: "Our political leaders elected to fight a land war, where every advantage lay with the enemy, and to employ our vast sea and air superiority in very limited supporting roles only..."
"Surprise, perhaps the greatest of the principles of war... was deliberately sacrificed when our leaders revealed our strategy and tactics to the enemy... "The enemy was told...that we would not bomb populated areas, heavy industry, canals, dams, and other critical targets-and thus sanctuaries were established by us along the Chinese border and around Haiphong and Hanoi. This permitted the enemy to concentrate antiaircraft defenses around the North Vietnamese targets that our Air Force was permitted to attack-greatly increasing our casualties.
"Missiles, oil and ammunition were permitted to enter Haiphong harbor unmolested and without protest." Why was our vastly superior military not allowed to throw its full weight into the struggle against Ho's brutal Communist regime? We may never know the full reason, but I think it is safe to assert that the United States government was not, and probably never was, as fierce an opponent of Communism as it pretended to be.
Never did they fight a war to completely eliminate Communism in any area of the world, and in 1941 they became the staunchest ally of the Soviet Union, perhaps the most brutal regime to ever haunt the face of the earth. To deceive its own citizens, and mobilize them completely behind the war against Germany, they made Stalin's murderous government out to be a friend of democracy.
It is anyone's guess as to why the war in Vietnam was conducted with such ridiculous restrictions. Perhaps we were afraid of provoking the more potent Communist powers of China and Russia.
But this is no excuse. When the blood of our fighting men is at stake, every effort should be made to ensure final victory, a victory worth the cause. My grandfather and two uncles fought in that vicious, jungle war, and millions of other Americans can say the same. I am convinced that a victory in Vietnam, though it was an unconstitutional war, not being declared by Congress, would have enhanced the security of the United States, and been profitable for region of Southeast Asia, making the cost of blood at least worth the heavy price.
But our government refused to allow it to happen, and, in the process, spent the blood of 58,000 brave American soldiers in a senseless war they had no intention of winning. This should fill the heart of every American with indignation, and should solidify our determination never to allow this to happen again. If we ever perceive that our government is committing our brave soldiers to a war they do not intend to win, the American populace should stand up, and with one voice declare that we will not allow such a travesty to happen again.
Either allow our military to achieve the victory it is so capable of winning, or bring them home. Their blood is too precious to be spilled in such a casual manner.