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John Simkin

Vietnam and the Domino Theory

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I've just read that Colonel David Hackworth has just died of cancer. I have a lot of time for the views he's published about the futility of the Vietnam War. However, I've only really read his journalism … so perhaps I've got the wrong end of the stick.

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It is my understanding that while LBJ was truly in love with the Great Society he was never willing to give it the full funding it needed. Not so much because of the war in Vietnam but because of politics. LBJ was such a politician he knew, or at least thought he knew, that his programs would have to start out on smaller budgets. Sargent Shriver, who was pulled off of the Peace Corps and placed in charge of some of the Great Society programs commented many times that LBJ would ask him to do great things on shoe-string budgets.

I have also read where the LBJ had said that to get re-elected and to get the Great Society off the ground he could not afford to look soft on Communism. If you think about it, Truman was tagged as loosing China and if Johnson pulled out of Vietnam then he would be tagged as lossing SE Asia. Part of this does fall on the domino theory, which I think we would all agree was false. Although I have heard arguments that state that since we fought in Vietnam the communists did not move into Maylasia and the Philipinnes as was feared. While I can see where this argument comes from, I for one, don't buy it.

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Ray - Well, I'd rather be getting older than the alternative. I joined the marines in 1967 - December.

David - I've read Hackworth's book About Face, and while I agree with much of what he says, I didn't find it terribly ground-breaking. I should read it again. I'm sorry he's gone...

Justin makes good sense. I simply can't understand how one could argue that our presence in Vietnam "saved" Malaysia and the Philippines. We were present and we LOST. Wouldn't that encourage communist insurgencies rather than discourage them?

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I've just read that Colonel David Hackworth has just died of cancer. I have a lot of time for the views he's published about the futility of the Vietnam War. However, I've only really read his journalism … so perhaps I've got the wrong end of the stick.

David Hackworth is an interesting character (he was the model for Colonel Kilgore in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now). In Vietnam he was put in charge of 4/39 infantry unit (later known as the Hardcore Battalion). Three times he was nominated for the congressional medal of honour, America’s highest award. His commanding officer, General Creighton Abrams, described him as “the best battalion commander I ever saw”.

Hackworth upset his superiors when he issused a statement in June 1971 that the war could not be won and predicted that Saigon would fall to the communists within the next five years. After leaving the army he published the bestselling Vietnam, About Face. He also became a peace activist and ran the website Soldiers for Truth where he claimed that the Pentagon constantly betrayed the ordinary soldier.

A smear campaign was launched against him. This included the claim that he wore an unearned Ranger tab. It was later discovered that this had been issued to him by mistake and he indeed was the “most decorated soldier” who fought in Vietnam.

Hackworth to campaign against US involvement in other countries. This included the recent invasion of Iraq.

Ironically, Hackworth died of bladder cancer, a common cause of death among soldiers exposed to the dioxins Agent Orange and Agent Blue, used to defoliate Vietnam. The army got him in the end, but not the way he expected.

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Could it be possible that the Domino theory was contrived to justify our presence in Viet Nam?

The real reason for our being there might have something to to do with the rumored to be very large oil deposits off the Viet Namese coast and the large amounts of opiates ferried out via Air America.

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Some time ago, someone on one of the JFK threads included an URL for a newly-declassified US archive. I went to it and found some very interesting original source material on the origin and validity of the domino theory. John moved the URL on to a more general thread, but now I can't for the life of me remember either the URL or the title of the thread it was posted on... I seem to remember that it contains a memo from the very early 60s casting considerable doubt on the whole concept of dominos falling in SE Asia...

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Some time ago, someone on one of the JFK threads included an URL for a newly-declassified US archive. I went to it and found some very interesting original source material on the origin and validity of the domino theory. John moved the URL on to a more general thread, but now I can't for the life of me remember either the URL or the title of the thread it was posted on... I seem to remember that it contains a memo from the very early 60s casting considerable doubt on the whole concept of dominos falling in SE Asia...

Was it the National Security Archive?

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/

If not, I think the URL was posted by Steve Thomas. Let me know and I will ask him.

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I read something the other day that really helped explain the Domino theory and Vietnam. After WW2, the Russians carved out a big chunk of Europe formerly occupied by Germany, and claimed it for themselves. The rest of Europe was returned to Western control. But what did the U.S. get? While Americans aren't accustomed to thinking in such terms, the reality is that the U.S. took, or tried to take, the parts of Asia formerly under Japanese control. There can be little doubt that one of the reasons the U.S. dropped the bomb when it did was to end the war before Russia could lay claim to the chunks of Asia formerly occupied by Japan. When one reaches this understanding, it's easy to see how the U.S. incorrectly assumed that all communist movements were an extension of Soviet imperialism. When China and Russia had a falling-out in the late 50s and early 60s, the CIA, in particular, failed to comprehend. If this all sounds a bit speculative, here's the quote that led me to this understanding:

"Communist intransigence in Korea perhaps will teach the French and the British the futility of negotiation...It should be emphasized that if Indochina went Communist, Red pressures will increase on Malaya, Thailand, and Indonesia, and other Asian nations. The main target of the Communists in Indochina, as it was in Korea, is Japan. Conquest of areas so vital to Japan's economy would reduce Japan to an economic satellite of the Soviet Union..."

The source? Someone who presumably knew a bit about the cold war--Richard Nixon, quoted in the April 17, 1954 New York Times.

Edited by Pat Speer

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I read something the other day that really helped explain the Domino theory and Vietnam. After WW2, the Russians carved out a big chunk of Europe formerly occupied by Germany, and claimed it for themselves. The rest of Europe was returned to Western control. But what did the U.S. get? While Americans aren't accustomed to thinking in such terms, the reality is that the U.S. took, or tried to take, the parts of Asia formerly under Japanese control. There can be little doubt that one of the reasons the U.S. dropped the bomb when it did was to end the war before Russia could lay claim to the chunks of Asia formerly occupied by Japan.

I think this is to see the start of the Cold War from an American perspective. Try to see it from the Soviet point of view. Stalin tried very hard to form an alliance with France and the UK against Nazi Germany. The idea was rejected. This convinced Stalin that France and the UK were trying to persuade Hitler to invade the Soviet Union (they were). To block this move he formed an alliance with Hitler.

Eventually, Stalin did form an alliance with the UK and the US. If FDR had lived I think this alliance might have remained after the end of the war. However, FDR died and Churchill made it clear that the allies should take on the Soviet Union in 1945. This was the main reason Churchill lost the 1945 general election. He was seen as a war-monger. His image was not helped by claiming that if Labour won it would bring in a British Gestapo.

It made strategic sense to leave his troops in the countries in the east that the Soviets had “liberated”. This created a buffer zone against a possible US led attack. The US did the same in those countries in the west that they had “liberated”. Whereas Stalin used his Red Army to control the elections in eastern Europe, the US used the CIA to manipulate elections in western Europe.

I, like most Europeans, preferred US-style imperialism to the Soviet version. They never had to use troops to overthrow left-wing governments (they had enough power to make sure it did not happen in the first place). Countries in the Third World were not so lucky. They had to endure their Vietnams and Guatemalas where we were rewarded with the Marshall Plan.

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I think it's also important to see the Soviets as primarily Russians. I think that it's fair to say that Stalin had abandoned a political approach which was based on political principles and theories a long time before WW2 (if, in fact, you feel that he'd *ever* looked at power that way). Russia's principal problem, since the country emerged from the Middle Ages has been the lack of warm-water ports. The routes to the west go through Öresund, Skaggerak and Kattegut. The routes to the south-west not only have to pass through the middle of Istanbul, but also pass through the Dardanelles a day or so later. Vladivostok is the only 'open seas' port … and that's a long, long way from Moscow.

St Petersburg itself was built on the site of a forward Swedish military settlement, designed to hem the Russians in, and Russia suffered invasion after invasion from the west, which resulted in tremendous loss of life and destruction of property. Napoleon's was just one of them … Even Narva, which the Swedes lost in 1709, could very easily have gone the other way, and the Swedes wouldn't have been merciful if they'd won.

Basically, just about every time a western power had an army on Russia's border, the result was invasion. In this context, I can understand Stalin's desire to have a couple of hundred kilometres between Russia and the next set of hostile western forces.

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The domino theory was the result of US policy planning rational and was a very logical theory as it pertained to post war economic area planning.

Before the second world war the US realised it was going to be the most powerful country in the world since all other imperial countries would be exhausted and in need of reconstruction; so they set about planning the post war reconstruction under US "leadership". Dismantling closed economic systems (empires) was a primary objective,; no economic system from which the US was not a major player would be permitted. The main thrust of the `decolonisation` was to place certain areas (those rich in resources) into the hands of regional managers or clients dependent on the US; the millitaries in these areas would be independant of the regimes but dependant on the US for training and equipment (millitary aid in other words), then whenever the managers became unmanagerable, the generals would step in. The USSR played this game to a far lesser and somwhat contextually different degree.

In the wake of the ww2 some of these countries had national aspirations whos objectives were to freely trade with whomever they wanted on an equal footing and bring the living standards of their countrymen up to an acceptable level. This was contrary to US policy and could not be allowed to thrive hence the domino theory. It had nothing to do with communism (whatever that is) and everything to do with an objective psycological state called nationalism. If a nationalist regime could rebuild a society and raise the living standards of its citizens, then this would demonstrate to other x colonial regimes that it was an achievable objective thus putting their resources out of US hands and into their own.

Of course the US was mostly concerned about areas that are rich in resources like all the countries around the equatorial belt these are the richest most important countries in ground wealth and thats why today; thanks to US policy; the poorest people in the world live in the richest. Because the demonstration effect was a powerful motivater, the US couldnt allow it to take place in any country no matter how small and insignificant.

I could go on but I think ive given you the gist of the real domono theory here.

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