They say (whoever “they” are) that each conflict educates our leaders and strategists…..but I find that not so accurate……for what did we learn about our short visit to the battlefields of World War One? For that matter WW2 or Korea or especially Vietnam?
I know that we learned nothing from our ten years in Vietnam….for I see the same mistakes being made with our cute “War on Terror”…..a cute slogan only….you cannot defeat a tactic….
But I digress.
Will we, the US, make the same mistakes we made in Vietnam?
According to reports, the Army has delayed the publication of a 1,300-page internal Iraq war study commissioned by General Ray Odierno in 2013. The volume, which few in the public were even aware of, was an admirable project. After all, the U.S. military famously ignored and jettisoned any lessons after its defeat in Vietnam. Most of us would agree that simply can’t happen again.
So why the delay? Some fear the Army might be hesitant to publish a study that takes its leadership to task for decisions critical to the execution, and perhaps outcome, of the war. (Basically, while the Army says it wants to learn its lessons, it doesn’t necessarily want to see them in black and white.) One chief Army historian claimed it would “air” too much institutional “dirty laundry.”
Indeed, retired Colonel Frank Sobchack, a study team director, expressed concern about the delay in the report’s release, asserting “that the Army was paralyzed with apprehension for the past two years over publishing it leaves me disappointed with the institution to which I dedicated my adult life.”
If not then tell me what it all has meant?
Possibly the most poignant line of the 1984 breakout hit “19” by electronic musician Paul Hardcastle was the one it deliberately drove home with synthesized drumbeat repetition: “In World War II the average age of the combat soldier was 26. In Vietnam he was nineteen…nineteen.”
When this song hit the radio airwaves, much of the Vietnam veteran cohort—those who had seen the worst fighting in that war—had been home for a little more than a decade. They were in their early 30s now—building careers, raising families, and politically active. The war’s horrors and fallout began reemerging in national headlines and sympathetic Hollywood films, along with Agent Orange and PTSD. A page had turned, too, in the national consciousness. Americans were finally beginning to separate their anger at the government from the young men who fought its war. The mantra became internalized: never again.
Will there be a lesson learned? Or will we remain in the arrogant belief that we do everything properly?
Here is something to think about when it comes to Vietnam…..
“I’m going to Saigon,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis last month before correcting himself. “Ho Chi Minh City – former Saigon.”
It was the fifth time that Mattis would meet with his Vietnamese counterpart, Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich, and it marked the defense secretary’s first visit to a former U.S. military base outside of Ho Chi Minh City. In 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, Bien Hoa Air Base was home to 550 aircraft. Today, it is one of many sites heavily contaminated by America’s toxic defoliant of choice, Agent Orange.
Now you know!