Another Memorial Day is rapidly approaching and again we will gather to honor the memory of all those who gave their lives to protect this country in the numerous wars the USA has had to fight down through its history. In all more than one and a half million have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Vietnam Veterans often think of the 53,307 Americans who gave their lives for their country in the Vietnam Conflict.
The writer of this piece often wonders if the price in American lives this country paid in Vietnam was worth it. 58,307 mother’s lives were devastated forever. True it was important to stem the spread of communism, but could it have been done differently and at a lesser cost of precious American lives?
The answer to that question lies in the careful and complete examination of the lesson of history, specifically in this case the lessons learned in Vietnam. A column in World Politics Review titled: LBJ, Vietnam and the Political Costs of Fighting a Hopeless War by Michael A. Cohen helps shed light on this challenging question. He describes how a “bull headed” Lyndon Johnson refused to take into account messages coming from the his political left to end the war and get out and more-moderate Republican hawks to take more measures to win the war with force. Johnson decided to eschew the pressure from both sides and continue pursuing a “middle of the road” policy to continue the same flawed middle-ground policy of insufficient escalation.
58,307 lives later Cohen concludes: “the real lesson of 1968, and of the wars in Korea and Vietnam, is that the American people are far more reluctant warriors and less wedded to the myth of credibility than politicians are. When it comes to the use of military force, they are more likely to punish a politician and a party that fights a hopeless war than to reward them. And it’s not just Democrats who make these mistakes.
Lyndon Johnson didn’t grasp that in 1968. One can only hope that future politicians learn from his mistakes.”
Check our Michael A. Cohen’s outstanding book American Maelstrom. Just click on book image.