12 Followers
12 Following
MEslaymaker

MEslaymaker

 

 

Vietnam: The Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America's Most Disastrous Military Conflict - Michael Lind Originally posted 2/11, but I just re-posted on Amazon after noticing they deleted the review.

So why include and review a book that I am giving only one star?
Because anyone concerned with the history of the Vietnam War or proxy wars in general needs to know about the neoconservative school of thought on the subject, and Lind is their poster boy.

He's smart and a fairly good writer, but the alleged scholarship behind this historical take is dangerous precisely because it sounds so scholarly.

Lind uses Vietnam to argue the necessity of proxy war, proxies being conflicts between bigger players fought on and over smaller turf, which is a preferred neo-con solution to geopolitical problems. I agree with almost nothing Lind has to say, but I read this book twice and compared him to other neo-cons before writing the following.

It's a given that one's thesis will favor supportive sources, but it's shoddy scholarship to overstate. Lind claims to "rely heavily on the work of scholars who have also been soldiers" to support his endorsement of this and other proxy wars, but he ignores the era's most lauded.

He mentions that General Matthew Ridgway opposed the Formosa Resolution, but if you blink you will miss it. He uses a couple of quotes from Marine Colonel William Corson but doesn't tell us that Corson joined Ridgway in opposing the war.

Lind has drafted a military polemic using the Vietnam War as a case study without addressing the findings and recommendations of the formidable contingent of military leaders who opposed military intervention in Vietnam.

Surely Lind reads the Political Science Quarterly. In Volume 101, Number 4, in an article titled The American Military's Rationale Against the Vietnam War, we read that: "[Generals:] Ridgway, Shoup, Gavin and other military leaders -- including Air Force General Lauris Norstad; Army Generals William Wallace Ford and Robert L. Hughes; Marine Generals Hugh Hester and Samuel G. Griffith; Rear Admiral Arnold True; and Marine Colonels William Corson and James Donovan (and there are more) -- testified before congressional committees, wrote books and articles, appeared on television and radio programs, and made the front page of American newspapers, always with the message that the Vietnam War was a political, strategic and moral blunder from which the United States should quickly disengage. As a group, the military brass who spoke out against the war gained the attention of millions of Americans, played an important role in the national debate over Vietnam, and . . . were arguably the most respected and influential military figures of their time."

If you know anything about Gen. Matthew Ridgway you will find it telling that despite all his laurels he wanted to be remembered for preventing military intervention in Vietnam. He wrote that as Army Chief of Staff under Eisenhower: "I sent out to Indochina an Army team of experts in every field: engineers, signal and communications specialists, medical officers, and experienced combat leaders who knew how to evaluate terrain in terms of battle tactics. They went out to get the answers to a thousand questions that those who had so blithely recommended that we go to war there had never taken the trouble to ask. . . . The area, they found, was practically devoid of those facilities which modern forces such as ours find essential to the waging of war . . . . The land was a land of rice paddy and jungle, particularly adapted to the guerilla-type warfare at which the Chinese soldier is a master. This meant that every little detachment, every individual, that tried to move about that country would have to be protected by riflemen. Every telephone lineman, road repair party, every ambulance and every rear-area aid station would have to be under armed guard or they would be shot at around the clock." [from Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway]

Is Lind arrogant enough to think he can ignore the above and expect us to consider him an authority on military intervention? Apparently.

Though it often reads like a political science textbook, this is not just an academic exercise. "Let there be no doubt," Lind writes, "there will be Vietnams in America's future." Not only is he encouraging us to fight them, he purports to tell us how.

The book is written with the intent of justifying this call to action, but the peculiar construction of Lind's argument is telling: The actual proposal for successful military intervention takes just 28 pages.

Much of the book is spent rebuking others for rendering "a collection of debating points that do not add up to a coherent moral argument at all," but that is exactly what Lind does best.

He relies on the Cold War International History Project to prove points about a communist conspiracy but omits findings that show America "overmilitarizing" political conflicts. He also omits project findings that don't support his insistence that there were no opportunities for a nonmilitary solution in Indochina. And he mostly and arrogantly ignores the Vietnamese.

I can appreciate his desire to prove that the Vietnam War was necessary and in our best interest, we just did it wrong (many of us would like to believe that after the fact), but the most spectacular contortions of reasoning do not make one smart enough to dismiss findings at will or to take credit where none is due.

(original review posted 2/11)