Saving Face and How to Say FarewellBreaking News
Still, there are a few stories of inconclusive wars that left the United States in a more dignified position, including the continuing American presence in South Korea and the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. But even those stand in stark contrast to the happier legacy of total victory during World War II.
Alongside the dampening of hopes, there has also been a fair amount of historical revisionism regarding the darker tales of conflicts past: a considered sense that if the superpowers had made different decisions, things could have turned out more palatably, and that they still might in Iraq.
Maybe not surprisingly, Vietnam is the focus of some of the most interesting revisionism, including some of it immediately relevant to Iraq, where the intensive effort to train Iraqi security forces to defend their own country closely mirrors the "Vietnamization" program in South Vietnam. If Congress had not voted to kill the financing for South Vietnam and its armed forces in 1975, argues Melvin R. Laird in a heavily read article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Saigon might never have fallen.
"Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting off funding for our ally in 1975," wrote Mr. Laird, who was President Nixon's defense secretary from 1969 to 1973, when the United States pulled its hundreds of thousands of troops out of Vietnam.
In an interview, Mr. Laird conceded that the American departure from Vietnam was not a pretty sight. "Hell, the pictures of them getting in those helicopters were not good pictures," he said, referring to the chaotic evacuation of the American embassy two years after Vietnamization was complete, and a year after Nixon resigned. But on the basis of his what-if about Vietnam, Mr. Laird does not believe that all is lost in Iraq.
"There is a dignified way out, and I think that's the Iraqization of the forces over there," Mr. Laird said, "and I think we're on the right track on that."
Many analysts have disputed the core of that contention, saying that large swaths of the Iraqi security forces are so inept they may never be capable of defending their country against the insurgents without the American military backing them up. But Mr. Laird is not alone in his revisionist take and its potential application to Iraq.
William Stueck, a history professor at the University of Georgia who has written several books on Korea, calls himself a liberal but says he buys Mr. Laird's basic analysis of what went wrong with Vietnamization.
Korea reveals how easy it is to dismiss the effectiveness of local security forces prematurely, Mr. Stueck said. In 1951, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway felt deep frustration when Chinese offensives broke through parts of the line defended by poorly led South Korean troops.
But by the summer of 1952, with intensive training, the South Koreans were fighting more effectively, Mr. Stueck said. "Now, they needed backup" by Americans, he said. By 1972, he said, South Korean troops were responsible for 70 percent of the front line.
comments powered by Disqus
- How Clinton Could Respond on Supreme Court Vacancy
- Trump and Clinton Way Ahead in South Carolina
- McConnell Says Senate Will Wait to Replace Scalia
- Antonin Scalia Is Dead
- Clinton Says Sanders Would Be Threat to Obama Legacy
- Internal Tracker Shows Trump Leading in South Carolina
- How the Primaries are Rigged Against Sanders
- Carson Sees Fundraising Resurgence
- Trump Has GOP Mega Donors Frozen
- Quote of the Day
- Top GOP Candidates Haven’t Released Tax Returns
- Trump Attack Ads Finally Begin
- Super PACs Gear Up for Clinton
- Cruz App Mines Data from Your Phone
- Trump Way Ahead in South Carolina
- Humans Hard-Wired to Teach, Anthropologist Says
- Parents outraged after students shown ‘white guilt’ cartoon for Black History Month
- Maryland is once again considering retiring its state song
- One of the last remaining Nazis goes on trial in Germany
- Inside story finally told of the young US diplomat who cracked the case of the murder of 4 nuns in El Salvador in 1980
- Historian at the center of Sanders-Clinton debate
- James Loewen Says Additional Baltimore Confederate Statues Should be Removed
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- A historian’s advice to students thinking of getting a PhD in a tough economic climate
- German historian Heinz Richter cleared of charges