Peace With Honor

| January 27, 2013

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana

On January 27, 1973 the Paris Peace Accords were signed.

There appear to be sufficient parallels to justify a reminder.  Of course such comparisons are apt to get nitpicked into meaninglessness, but with the GWOT morphing into “something else” it might be worth revisiting the words Thieu  offering when resigning before the fall of Saigon:

“At the time of the peace agreement the United States agreed to replace equipment on a one-by-one basis. But the United States did not keep its word. Is an American’s word reliable these days? The United States did not keep its promise to help us fight for freedom and it was in the same fight that the United States lost 50,000 of its young men.” Emphasis added

I dunno…

ETA: Oh yeah! John Kerry for Secretary of State. That’ll show ’em.

Category: Geezer Alert!

Comments (27)

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  1. CI says:

    “Is an American’s word reliable these days?”

    Is an Afghan’s?

  2. CI #1: We can only be responsible for OUR word.

  3. OldCavLt says:

    And the word of the United States isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell.

  4. CI says:

    @2 – Very true, but our word should also not be wasted on sociopolitical adventures while there are terror groups that need some face shootin’.

  5. Hondo says:

    CI: arguably true. But once the nation is committed, failing to follow-through on wartime commitments has long-term consequences also. Our failure to live up to our commitments to South Vietnam emboldened the Soviets generally, the Cubans in Angola in particular, and likely also encouraged both Khomeini and Saddam Hussein. We were still feeling those effects as late as 1990-1991.

    Since one of the adventures the emboldened Soviets undertook was their 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, our failure to follow-through in Vietnam may well have indirectly contributed to the rise of al Qaeda and 9/11 also.

    The time to determine whether a war is worthwhile or not is before committing to fight – not while already fighting. By then, you’re generally left with a slew of choices, all of which are bad.

    Had we truly done our “homework” ahead of time, I suspect we might never have become involved in Vietnam. The true tragedy of Vietnam is that due to LBJ’s mendacity we went in with our eyes shut.

  6. OldSoldier54 says:

    In the context of your post, Zee, it is the Word of the American people, as given by our representatives to other governments, that is in question, and a simple majority of the American people do not appear to give a a flying fig about our National Honor: they just reelected the Deceiver-in-Chief for a second term.

    I do not trust the Federal government any farther than I can shotput the moon. IMO, anyone who does is a fool, governments or otherwise.

  7. OldSoldier54 says:

    #5 Hondo

    That would be Kennedy’s responsibility wouldn’t it?

  8. DaveO says:

    The question as to whether an American’s word is any good is a clown question, bro.

    Our press corps regularly lies to the American people through editorial decisions to omit coverage (Benghazi), or to lie (Jeep moving to China).

    We’re told Obamacare will drive down costs, and cover everyone. Except medicines like pain killers will be restricted, drying up the supply and driving up the costs. And by everyone, the Panel (don’t call it a Death Panel) means everyone not in the womb, too old to work, the ill, the obese, and the smokers. It’s not so much Soylent Green as Logan’s Run.

    The President declares he wants unity, but not with the bitter clingers, non-liberal whites, Republicans, and anyone who criticizes him.

    Criticism = racism, sexism, ageism, fascism, pro-Israel, Christian, and moron (legal definition). That’s unifying.

    And then there are the folks who say they don’t believe because they can’t believe. So they vote Democrat because it’s the same as a conservative.

    So no, an American’s word isn’t any good anymore. And it won’t be for another generation because it will that long to rebuild our honor.

  9. CI says:

    @Hondo – Sorry no, it is always in the national interest to score the efficacy and wisdom of our national policies. It borders on treasonous to assess that our COA is failing and not in our national interest, yet continue to pour lives and dollars in it’s pursuit.

    Our homework hasn’t largely been done with any prudence since circa 1917.

  10. Hondo says:

    OldSoldier: that would be a negative. There were on the order of 16,000 US troops in Vietnam when Kennedy was shot. LBJ is the one responsible for the massive commitment of US forces to Vietnam. And he did it by stealth and behind the scenes.

    LBJ had his staff prepare the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in draft a priori, looking for a reason to use it. He deployed major forces to Vietnam without consulting Congress or leveling with the US public. He had McNamara “cook the books” regarding the DoD expenses in Vietnam for over 2 years to hide the magnitude of the growing US involvement. And LBJ told the JCS point-blank that they could have their war after the 1964 election, but not before.

    It’s all documented in H. R. McMaster’s book Dereliction of Duty. And the documentation McMaster provides is unambiguous and complete.

    Yes, Kennedy sent a fair number of US advisors to Vietnam who ended up actually fighting alongside the South Vietnamese at times – some 16,000 of them. But Johnson upped the ante by a factor of 10 within a year of being reelected (he only added about 8000 additional advisors in 1964) – and by a factor of over 30 before he left office. And LBJ was the one who explicitly committed US troops to a combat vice an advisory role – he “Americanized” the war.

    LBJ did virtually all of that before any serious debate on Vietnam was held in Congress, or before telling the US public what he was doing. So yeah – in my book, it was LBJ – not JFK – who got us into Vietnam. Calling it quits was still an option until after the 1964 election. A year later, it wasn’t.

  11. Ex-PH2 says:

    @5 — It was Zbigniew Brzezinski advising in the White House during the Carter administration. He encouraged Carter to support the Taliban in pushing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, which resulted in an enormous financial burden to the USSR. He said in an interview in Paris with La Nouvelle Obsevateur, that the collapse of the USSR was more important than a few disgruntled muslims.

    Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentlaism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

    B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

    This is the only link I could find to that interview:

  12. Ex-PH2 says:

    Sorry, my response was meant for @7 – Old Trooper.

  13. DaveO says:

    #10 Hondo – interesting that McMaster was passed over twice for BG, and only succeeded in getting promoted when Petraeus personally took over the selection board.

    Thirty-plus years after the war, and Army brass can’t handle criticism. Maybe the critique of Vietnam can be applied to today?

  14. Hondo says:

    Ex-PH2: minor correction – the Taliban did not exist during the Carter or Reagan administrations. Rather, the Carter and Reagan administrations supported a broader group who were opposing the Soviets – the Afghan mujahideen.

    The Taliban trace their roots to southern Afghanistan in the early/mid 1990s. The Taliban were formed at that time during (and largely as a reaction to) the ongoing bloody Afghan civil war that broke out after the Soviets departed Afghanistan in 1989 and which continued for years. The Pakistani ISI was probably their first patron, and may remain their primary patron today. The US does not appear to have ever supported them.

    The folks Carter and Reagan supplied may well have included folks who later became Taliban, as well as various other groups who later turned on us (as well as many who did not). For example: bin Laden got his start in Afghanistan as a lower-level organizer who opposed the Soviets and turned out to have a knack for organization and getting $$$. However, at the time they were all rather loosely cooperating with the US, Pakistan, and each other in fighting the Soviets. War makes for strange alliances sometimes.

    The term in use at the time was the Afghan mujahideen. With respect to Afghanistan, that was a collective term for pretty much anyone actively opposing the Soviets. They were generally controlled by regional Afghan warlords. And, frankly, if they were shooting at the Soviets we were probably supporting them at the time, politics/religion/ethnicity be damned.

  15. Devtun says:


    Vietnam involved 6 Presidents in some capacity…Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Ford. Truman got the ball rolling by sending advisors (MAAG) to assist the French in Indochina in 1950. Amazing that we had troops in Nam for almost 25 yrs. It was only during LBJ’s reign that Vietnam drew any significant attention from the press…for obvious reasons.

  16. Devtun says:

    @14 DaveO

    H.R. McMaster is a MG now. He might have another star left in him…I believe just as with Petraeus, he’s on good terms with Army CoS GEN Odierno.

  17. DaveO says:

    #17 Devtun,

    He’s likely a member of Odierno’s clique, which is only good until Big Ray retires. Would be good to see McMaster take III Corps. I stopped following his career while he was at the Fortress.

  18. Hondo says:

    Devtun: well, I seem to remember Vietnam drawing quite a bit of attention in 1969-1971, too. I think Nixon was president then. (smile)

    You are essentially correct above, with one caveat – we also had forces in Vietnam in 1945 for a while, immediately after World War II. In fact, the first US soldier lost to Vietnamese communists was lost that year. He was LTC A. Peter Dewey, son of the famous politician. He was killed at a Viet Minh roadblock just outside Saigon on September 26, 1945.

    However: out of all of the US presidents who had a hand in US involvement in Vietnam, LBJ is the one who committed the US to fight a major land war in SE Asia. And he did that by stealth, by hiding the truth, and by outright lying to the world until he could no longer hide what was going on.

    Here’s the US troop strengths in Vietnam by year, starting in 1959 (can’t find readily-available figures for 1945-1958). Figures are as of end of calendar year. I believe this includes forces in Thailand and afloat in the defined Vietnam AOR as well, but I’m not positive. US involvement in Vietnam formally ended in 1973.

    1959 – 760
    1960 – 900
    1961 – 3,025
    1962 – 11,300
    1963 – 16,300
    1964 – 23,300
    1965 – 184,300
    1966 – 385,300
    1967 – 485,600
    1968 – 536,100
    1969 – 475,200
    1970 – 334,600
    1971 – 156,800
    1972 – 24,200
    1973 – 50

    Want to know who got us into a major ground war in Vietnam? Look at the above and tell me who was POTUS in 1964-1968. From looking at the figures it’s pretty obvious that’s when it happened.

  19. OldSoldier54 says:

    @10 Hondo

    I see that I have another book to read. Thanks for the tip. From your list though, it still looks like it was Kennedy who got the ball rolling with serious increases in numbers. Who knows where that would have gone?

    Kennedy’s an enigma. He starts the Bay of Pigs invasion, but doesn’t give them air support. He seems to have been an “I’m in charge” kind of guy, so it seems reasonable to assume that it was his decision to make. What the heck was he thinking?

    As far as LBJ, he’s tied with Jane Fonda on my Hate List. Sounds like McMaster’s book may he put him at #1.

  20. streetsweeper says:

    Um, did he something like:”Today, I am ordering in the 1st Cavalry Division…..and an additional 125,000 troops” or something to that effect?

  21. Hondo says:

    OldSoldier54: yes, Kennedy did increase the number of US advisors in Vietnam substantially – by a factor of about 18, from 900 to 16,300. The key, however, is that the troops were still advisors. Even in Nov 1963, the Vietnam War was still South Vietnam’s war to fight. We (the US) weren’t yet fighting it for them.

    That all went out the window by early/mid 1965. By then, LBJ had abandoned all pretense of Vietnam being a Vietnamese war. He introduced the first US ground combat units – Marines at Da Nang – in March. The Marines were followed shortly afterwards by large numbers of Army troops, starting with the 173d Airborne in May. The floodgates opened after that, with over 180,000 US troops in-country by the end of 1965. That total would roughly double by the end of 1966, and would peak at over 1/2 million in 1968.

    The primary mission of US forces also changed from supporting the South Vietnamese to engaging the NVA and Viet Cong directly. March of 1965 is also when the abomination of a bombing campaign called Rolling Thunder started.

    Bottom line: Kennedy was still trying to keep US involvement limited and let the Vietnamese fight their own war. It was going badly. Rather than truly reevaluate the situation and level with either Congress or the public, LBJ kept Vietnam on the “back burner” for a year until he could get reelected. In the meantime, he engineered the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to in Vietnam. Once he got reelected, LBJ got us into Vietnam so deep we couldn’t get out. However, he did it on the quiet so as not to have to make the case to the American public or Congress and risk his “Great Society” programs.

    You might also want to read the first two books by Robert Caro about LBJ: The Path to Power and Means of Ascent. Both show how ambitious, deceitful and dishonest LBJ was starting at an early age. The bastard rigged his first election in college, for crying out loud!

    Nixon has the worse reputation, but for my money LBJ was the least honest and most reprehensible POTUS of the 20th Century – if not of all US history. IMO he was a thoroughly disgusting individual.

  22. Ex-PH2 says:

    Hondo, that last sentence is an understatement. LBJ is the epitome of someone on a power trip. I do not remember where I read this, but if you wanted something from Johnson, you were grabbed by the short hairs to get it. Nixon was paranoid and not a very sociable person. LBJ was a bully.

  23. Devtun says:


    LOL, yeah I meant Nixon too. Tricky Dick definitely put his stamp on the whole war with Operation Linebacker I & II bombings…The film footages of B-52’s dropping millions of tons of iron bombs has become iconic and definitely stirred up the hornets nest of the anti war movement.
    Also, poor Jerry Ford couldn’t catch a break…got tasked with the humiliating and desperate evacuation of Saigon in ’75.

    Yep, forgot about troops in Indochina in ’45…so we were there closer to 30 years.

  24. Hondo says:

    streetsweeper: essentially, yes. Over a 4-month period in early/mid 1965, LBJ – without either meaningful debate in Congress or seeking public approval – began unilaterally committing large numbers of US combat troops to Vietnam and approved changing their mission to direct combat vice advisory and support roles. This wasn’t even publicly announced until late July, after the decision had already been made and major deployments had already commenced.

    Committing US forces may have been militarily necessary at the time – the South Vietnamese were getting hammered, and the North had just “upped the ante” by beginning to move substantial numbers of NVA units south. But whether doing so was in the US strategic interest, or was worth the foreseeable cost, was never seriously examined. The issue was never brought to either Congress or the US public to get their “buy-in”. Both were presented with a fait accompli.

  25. streetsweeper says:

    Hondo: Am very well aware of that, oldest brother and division were underway right about that time from Okinawa. Yep, yep! Remember it real well, and reality set in during his second tour. Do have to say with all honesty, it was rather surreal one fall morning, a light knocking on the front door, mom opened rather slowly, staring at several officers and NCO’s standing at attention wearing the all too familiar dress blues. Three hours later, her bags were packed and they whisked her off to catch a flight to a naval hospital. And, there was good old LBJ on the morning news for the umpteenth time….yep, yep!

  26. Hondo says:

    streetsweeper: didn’t realize you’d heard that speech and had a personal reason to remember it, amigo. My apologies if my comments above inadvertently dredged up bad memories.

    I hit this issue hard when it comes up because it matters, even today. It pains me to see how few people realize just how LBJ got us into a major war in Asia by Presidential fiat and stealth. We (public or Congress) had no real chance to ask questions until we were already in too deep for the questions to matter very much.

    Further: I’ve seen us come close to doing that a few times since – most notably in Bosnia and Libya, and maybe Haiti. And, frankly, the US public doesn’t usually seem to much care. Until the coffins start landing at Dover in quantity, that is. But by that point any argument is usually academic.

    Whether or not to go to war is an argument we need to have up-front before committing ground forces, and if possible before taking any overt military actions beyond immediate self-defense. Because a significant commitment of ground forces changes the game, and makes extracting ourselves from a bad situation a whole lot more difficult.