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James DiEugenio

Max Boot gets Booted on Lansdale in Vietnam

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Boot:  "Lansdale’s yin-yang approach, of hunting down guerrillas and terrorists while trying to attract the support of the uncommitted, is the basis of modern 'population-centric' counterinsurgency doctrine as applied by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, by Britain in Northern Ireland, by Colombia against the FARC, by Israel in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza, and by many other countries with varying degrees of success."
 

Doug Valentine says the same things in his own books, but he has harsher opinions of the method.

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Posted (edited)

So many people disagree with this its ridiculous.

It was not a counterinsurgency, it was a military war once the North Vietnamese regulars joined the conflict. The Easter Offensive would not have been stopped without American air power.

But even earlier, the Lansdale  approach was not working out very well.  There had been two coup attempts against Diem by the time Kennedy took office. Diem had already lost control of the countryside and had taken tens of thousands of prisoners in the infamous tiger cages and was using the guillotine in many cases. The outgoing ambassador under Eisenhower had serious problems with Diem in trying to convince him to democratize his government so it would not be so open to charges of nepotism and corruption.  But he would not do it.  He was too much under the influence of his brother and the fruity Madame Nhu.

As it got worse and worse this necessitated more American influence.  But still, Diem would not reform.  Lansdale implicitly noted they had picked the wrong man when he wrote the memo for JFK that begins Newman's book.  That memo clearly insinuated that the use of American combat troops was imminent to keep the government from falling. Lansdale also wanted to be the ambassador, which in my view would have been a disaster. By January of 1963, Jean Paul Vann realized that it was lost unless American combat troops entered theater also. Something JFK was not going to do.

Once it became obvious that Diem was not going to democratize the government, the last straw was Nhu's attacks on the Buddhist pagodas.  Diem had first lost the countryside, but now he started to lose the urban areas. Nhu tried to arrange everything he could once he realized his government was collapsing. This included communications with the north.  In The Making of a Quagmire, Halberstam wrote that Nhu even tried to arrange a fake overthrow in order to make himself a hero, in hopes of saving the government.  By that point, with Madame Nhu talking about human "barbecues" any idiot could see the Diem government was not going to survive.

I personally regret what happened in Saigon, and so did Kennedy.  As one can hear when listening to that tape he made after he got the news of their assassinations.  But once Nhu began to attack the Buddhists, and once it became clear that his brother could not control him, his government was simply headed for a fall.  And Max Boot can make up as much crap as he can imagine, but he cannot whitewash that fact.  Foster Dulles forced Bao Dai to pick Diem.  As Seth Jacobs writes in his biography, Cold War Mandarin, Bao Dai would not have chosen him as premier on his own.  And the French were very discouraged at the choice.  

BTW, the first people to rewrite this history were of course Nixon and Howard Hunt.  They did it for purely political reasons under the duress of the Watergate Crisis.  After he left office, Nixon wrote an absolutely awful book on the subject.  He used every trick a cardsharp could to try and paint Diem as some kind of appropriate and useful leader, and the attacks on the Buddhists as being justified since they were commie infiltrated.  This is how desperate RMN was to justify his later disastrous policies.  As Stephen Ambrose once wrote, Nixon was a little bit unbalanced about Vietnam.  No kidding Steve.

Maybe because he was part of the quartet who first got us involved. He then tried to say that Vietnam was something he inherited.  Dick, you cannot inherit something from yourself.

Edited by James DiEugenio

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1 hour ago, James DiEugenio said:

But once Nhu began to attack the Buddhists, and once it became clear that his brother could not control him, his government was simply headed for a fall.

Not necessarily.

"Today's World Report: Truce Moves Reported In Viet Nam," New York World-Telegram & Sun, (Friday), 25 October 1963, p.6:*

"LONDON - The government of South Vietnam and Communist North Viet Nam are apparently making exploratory contacts that could lead to a truce, diplomatic sources said. There was no official confirmation…Diplomatic sources said the current moves were believed to be aiming at some sort of truce arrangement with possible wider ramifications." <quote off>

The CIA conducted a false flag attack on Buddhists in Hue in May; Harriman and Ball bum-rushed JFK into approving Cable 243 green-lighting Lodge to organize a coup; the CIA ordered the cut in economic aid to Diem, a signal to the rebel generals to go ahead with a coup.

The Diem government was headed for a fall because Americans kept pushing.

If left alone Diem may have cut a deal with the North.

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 Primary sources:

 

Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," August 27, 1963, 4:00PM

https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn05.pdf

It was decided to send a cable to Lodge and Harkins asking for their judgment on the probable success of a coup and their estimate on whether the turmoil would spread to the countryside and the military.

 

Memorandum of Conference with the President, August 27, 1963, 4:00 PM

https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn06.pdf

Secretary Rusk stated that we should make clear to our officials in Saigon that we were not changing their existing directive on which they had already proceeded to take numerous actions.

 

Memorandum of Conversation, "Vietnam," August 28, 1963, Noon

https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB101/vn07.pdf

The President said we should decide what we can do here or suggest things that can done in the field which would maximize the chances of the rebel generals.  We should ask Ambassador Lodge and General Harkins how we can build up military forces which would carry out a coup.  At present, it does not look as if the coup forces could defeat Diem.

Secretary Dillon interrupted to say, “Then don’t go.”

The President asked the Defense Department to come up with ways of building up the anti-Diem forces in Saigon.

<quote off>

Kennedy kicked the can down the road which came to an abrupt end days later when the CIA controlled Agency for International Development cut the Commodity Import Program for So. Vietnam – the signal of US support the rebel generals were looking for to go ahead with a coup (Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, pg 192.)

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Posted (edited)

Oh really? 

The idea that Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan and Giap were ever going to peacefully co exist with Madame Nhu, her husband and Diem is laughable. One only has to look at what happened when Kissinger negotiated with the north in 1968: their first demand was that Thieu be gone.  If you look at it objectively, it would have been easier for the north to overrun the country in 1964 than in 1975.  It took them about seven weeks to do so in 1975 when the ARVN had a huge army, plus armor and rockets.  The ARVN was significantly weaker in 1964.

Some people would argue: well that might have been better since it would have saved millions of lives in all of Indochina.  And there is some evidence Kennedy was willing to do that.  In November of 1963, he ordered an evacuation plan for all American executive personnel, in State, Pentagon, CIA.  I think it was about 1600 people.  This jibes with what John Newman has recently proffered.  Namely that Kennedy was beginning to think that Saigon would fall before his withdrawal plan was complete.  And this may also jibe with McNamara's reaction at the 1963 May SecDef meeting.  If one recalls, when he got the withdrawal schedules from each branch, he looked at them and said:  too slow, speed it up.  But LBJ was not going to let that happen.

The basic problem was that Diem and his brother and sister in law were simply not going to be any match for Ho Chi Minh.  I mean when you get a woman who speaks fluent English, wears her hair in bouffant style, has mascara and eye liner, and wears a skirt, blouse and nylons and loves to be in front of a camera--I mean what kind of appeal to the peasantry is that?  Then she starts smearing martyrs to a religious cause?  When 70% of the population is Buddhist?

Lansdale was stuck with someone that not even he could make palatable to the populace. It was not his choice since I think he was too clever to do something that dumb. But this is why he made that great comment:  How do you expect a fascist designed government to act, like a democracy?  That is what he had designed since he knew he was stuck with a family that would simply not be able to win a really democratic election.

The concluding sentence which Varnell wants to have both ways with--that is by giving Douglass as his source but not putting it in quotes--would get him kicked out of any history graduate class.  Because its not even close to a paraphrase of what Douglass says. 

This is the conclusion on that page after Kennedy was alerted to what had happened with the Export Import program: "By having AID cut off the Commodity Import Program, the CIA had made it almost impossible for Kennedy to avoid a coup in South Vietnam  The aid cutoff was a designated signal for a coup."  I checked this twice because I could not believe someone could hack up and distort such a valuable book.

 

Edited by James DiEugenio

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Posted (edited)

In looking back over what I have written, I think I have not made clear what I think the problem really was.

It was pretty simple: After France lost at Dien Bien Phu, that should have been it.  The unification elections should have taken place and the country should have been one nation.  But the quartet of Nixon, Ike, and the Dulles brothers could not accept that.  Therefore, they created this new country of South Vietnam.  And they then propped up Diem on top of that.

In my study of this history, from 1946 to 1975, I conclude that was the worst mistake.  France had 200, 000 men in Indochina.  Plus they had another 150,000 they had recruited from the population.  By 1952, they had pretty much a blank check from the USA for arms and supplies.  But they could not win.  The Viet Minh simply had too much support in the countryside. And Giap was too good a commander.

So what someone like Max Boot does is tries to refight the war.  The only strategy I have ever seen which might have been successful was the one chosen by the late Colonel Harry Summers.  He wrote that the way to have won was to have had the US army line up at the 17th parallel all the way across the country to keep Giap's army out.  Then have the ARVN fight the Viet Cong behind that line.

The problem with this was you would have imported American combat troops at an early date, I mean hundreds of thousands of them.  And you would have had to keep them there indefinitely. Plus you would probably have had to extend that defensive line westward into other countries like Cambodia.  Then what would you have done if the Viet Cong decided to come in from behind while Giap came in from the front?  

VIetnam was just a military and political nightmare.  And remember, it was Hanoi that invaded Cambodia to relieve the genocide. Not America. And in 1985, Hanoi opened its doors for business investment.

Vietnam was a colossal geopolitical error. Only someone as nutty as Nixon could have the compounded it into Cambodia.

 

Edited by James DiEugenio

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5 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

Oh really? 

The idea that Ho Chi Minh, Le Duan and Giap were ever going to peacefully co exist with Madame Nhu, her husband and Diem is laughable.

So you know for a fact that the New York World Telegraph-Sun report was wrong?

You know for a fact that there was no negotiations under way between Diem and the North?

How do you know that, Jim?

5 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

The concluding sentence which Varnell wants to have both ways with--that is by giving Douglass as his source but not putting it in quotes--would get him kicked out of any history graduate class.  Because its not even close to a paraphrase of what Douglass says. 

This is the conclusion on that page after Kennedy was alerted to what had happened with the Export Import program: "By having AID cut off the Commodity Import Program, the CIA had made it almost impossible for Kennedy to avoid a coup in South Vietnam  The aid cutoff was a designated signal for a coup."  I checked this twice because I could not believe someone could hack up and distort such a valuable book.

Spare us your phony outrage, Jim.

I wrote: " the CIA controlled Agency for International Development cut the Commodity Import Program for So. Vietnam – the signal of US support the rebel generals were looking for to go ahead with a coup "

Douglass wrote: "In late August, the CIA had agreed with the plotting South Vietnamese generals that just such a cut in economic aid would be the US government's green light to the generals for a coup."

My paraphrase is accurate.

Are you incapable of civil discourse, Jim?

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Not phony at all.

 I have the book right in front of me and am looking at the page since I did not recall Jim ever writing what you are trying to sell off as his.

Should not do that kind of stuff.  But we know where you are coming from.  The end justifies the means.

 

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1 minute ago, James DiEugenio said:

Not phony at all.

 I have the book right in front of me and am looking at the page since I did not recall Jim ever writing what you are trying to sell off as his.

Should not do that kind of stuff.  But we know where you are coming from.  The end justifies the means.

What part of this do you not comprehend?

"In late August, the CIA had agreed with the plotting South Vietnamese generals that just such a cut in economic aid would be the US government's green light to the generals for a coup."

My paraphrase is accurate.

You have this weird compulsion to personally attack anyone with whom you disagree.

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9 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

The only strategy I have ever seen which might have been successful was the one chosen by the late Colonel Harry Summers.  He wrote that the way to have won was to have had the US army line up at the 17th parallel all the way across the country to keep Giap's army out.  Then have the ARVN fight the Viet Cong being that line.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail was in Laos and Cambodia, Jim.

 

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

If you cannot tell the difference between the quotes, then sorry, you are as I said dealing in Machiavellian terms.

No, there is no difference between the Douglass quote and my paraphrase.

Are you going to sprout orange hair and start ranting about Spygate, next?

Edited by Cliff Varnell

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This is why I compared thou to Machiavelli.  You somehow missed this:

 Plus you would probably have had to extend that defensive line westward into other countries like Cambodia.

You have one more strike.  After that you join Trejo on  ignore.

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3 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

Plus you would probably have had to extend that defensive line westward into other countries like Cambodia.

Not "probably."

The 17th  Parallel was east of Laos.

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