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An excellent collection, mostly of articles, written about the war in Vietnam from 1959 to 1969. Offerings snatched from books suffer from their deracination, as is usually the case, which means Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer compare quite unfavorably to Sheehan and Arnett, for instance. Some of the reporting from the field really grabs you. The piece, Paddy War, really reminded me of Orwells Shooting an Elephant. The reporters overwhelming desire to monetarily compensate a wife whose husband was killed by south Vietnamese soldiers he accompanied on their patrol still gives me the shivers. Others deal with Americas internal situation, politically & socially, like Meg Greenfields After the Washington Teach-In. Mary McCarthys piece on her trip to Hanoi is as fine an example of fellow traveler apologetics as youll ever find in print. Jack Smiths Death in the Drang Valley comes alive before you in a way no war movie ever will succeed in doing. Karnow and Fall interpret the political scene in South Vietnam with skill, knowledge and conviction. Grants For a Time We Lived Like Dogs provides witnesses verbal chronicles during their time in a North Vietnamese POW camp. There is no way you can cover the ground offered in this volume and not learn more about the Vietnam War than you knew before. An excellent resource that is presently and puzzlingly undervalued in price on Amazon.Some general thoughts on the Vietnam war gleaned from the pieces in this book:1) Initially, American advisors were aghast by the brutality of the South Vietnamese army and how it dealt with its village people. Rather than change the demeanor of the SVA, American soldiers began to take on these callous and brutal characteristics. Needless to say, this did not help for relations between American military, which took on more and more field responsibilities from the inefficient SVA, and the average SV citizen.2) the Diem regime was corrupt and unbearable. Johnson telling him that he was the man had an adverse affect by increasing his already sufficiently bloated sense of importance. Operation Bravo was a direct outgrowth of arrogance, corruption and delusion. Diems removal, however, left no real legitimate figure to symbolize unity. Catholicism gave way to individualism as Saigon began to be perceived as an American business in which temporary CEOs were appointed. CEOs were regarded as figureheads by all concerned. 3) Reform from within in South Vietnam was impossible, or nearly so. The SVA had a Confucian tradition that refused adjustment to immediate needs, or reform from the top down through incentives. US forces found reform equally impossible as they structured their information back to Washington to serve as fodder against the popular war protests at home. US forces rewarded those who remained subservient to the change-of-command and its position, rather than speaking out against its errors, even when they are egregiously apparent. For this reason Tet in 68 was as much a surprise to Johnson as Cronkite. This prompted a disillusionment that was genuine at home, though rather cynical in the theater of war.4) The mixture of air war in the north and ground war in the south both offered insufficient results for the manpower and resources involved. Air war seldom used very precise methods of targeting and was oftentimes wasteful, if not outright counterproductive. Ground war in the south was of the advance and retreat method as troops would not remain on acquired territory over night. Assets were squandered through abandonment. This resulted in the US military having to reclaim territory previous won on a regular basis. Both approaches did little to foster allies SV gov had amongst the common people of the villages and often drove them into the VC, when they werent napalmed.5) Social engineering of the hamlet system implemented driving SV villagers off their traditional land was costly and pointless. Villagers were no more safe on their new lands as government forces generally left them to their own meager resources. Village economic output suffered in these transitions, to put it mildly. French war left the peasant alone, generally. The US war enfeebled him, when it didnt totally impoverish him.6) North Vietnamese were very mindful of protests and unpopularity of the war in the US. Negotiations for peace were completely impossible due to this. When waiting out the USs commitment and its eventually collapse bored NV & the VC, they switched to the offensive to push the matter further.7) Resources improved for the VC as the war continued. When the VC stopped picking up US weapons to supplement their arms, the war had entered a new phase. 8) US troops on the whole respected Charlie; it held those they were fighting for mostly in disdain. No protective war can be successful under these conditions over a lengthy period of time.9) Hearts & minds won by VC & NVA in the field, where it counts most. Grass roots approach paid enormous dividends, both offensively and defensively. Grass roots extended past nightfall in the ground theater and could go deep underground in the air theater. Violence and terror were always available and utilized to support this approach, making for a holistic strategy. In this sense, the US militarys approach was hopelessly schizophrenic, refusing to acknowledge, much less openly advocate its use of brutality, as well as its abject inefficiency in capturing Vietnamese hearts & minds through pragmatic solutions of personal trust, 24 hr commitment, and economic betterment across the social board.

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