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Another Vietnam – Unseen images of the war from the winning side (mashable.com)
243 points by dnqthao on Feb 7, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 169 comments



I'm reminded of an article I read in one of Jerry Pournelle's anthologies. It was written by a Vietnamese man who had agitated against the Americans during the Vietnam war.

At one point, he was in jail for resisting the Americans. His father visited him, and asked "What the heck are you doing?" He answered "Fighting against the oppressor Americans!" His father responded "It's true that they're oppressors, but the communists are worse."

He didn't believe his father. When the Americans left, there was a victory parade through Hanoi. Which was composed only of communist regiments. He asked the other people involved in the resistance "Where are all the non-communist regiments, which were the majority of the fighters?" The answer was "On exercises in the country."

It turned out that the communists had infiltrated all of the non-communist resistance groups (of which there were many), and taken them over from the inside.

A few years later, with his life in danger from the communists, he fled Vietnam, became one of the boat people, and immigrated to America.


Bear in mind that Jerry Pournelle is a very right wing guy and was right wing at the time of the Vietnam war, so he looks for confirmation of his own pro war views.

The big problem we had in vietnam is that we backed the wrong side from the beginning, and we did it for blindly ideological reasons (Ho Chi Minh was an avowed "communist" therefore evil). If Ho Chi Minh had been a race supremacist (South Africa) cannibal (idi amin) drug dealer (too many to mention), we'd have been happy to back him.

The Viet Minh, who fought the Japanese and largely defeated them with little outside help during WWII were disarmed by the French with US and British help after WWII. (Roosevelt appears to have wanted to let Vietnam be independent after the war, but he was dead.) So Vietnam went back to the French who created a hot mess, got their asses handed to them (despite a lot of US help) and then we stepped in and picked as our clients the bizarre collection of mobsters and thugs the French had been backing. And while your correspondent appears incensed that some people didn't get a parade (you know that they had reeducation camps in the South after the war? I would have led with that), from what I've heard and seen, Vietnam didn't end up too terrible, and certainly in no worse shape than places the US "won' in like Columbia, Chile, Honduras, etc.

No Buddhist monks burned themselves alive to protest the _north_ Vietnamese government.


The Vietnamese certainly deserved independence from colonialism but it's hard to argue that the "right" side won when you consider how badly the current ruling regime mismanages and exploits the country.

Without an independent press corruption runs rampant and people are still routinely jailed for exposing the kleptocracy at the top. Ordinary Vietnamese aren't starving but it's still the case that most people with the means to emigrate will do so at the drop of a pin.


Have you been to/lived in Vietnam? Their economy is booming compared to their neighbours. They are communists in name only; much like China. You're conveniently missing out the part where the South reneged on promises for a vote on reunification which led to conflict.

From the Vietnamese POV, the Americans were in cahoots with the French; they didn't want to go back to being a subjugated people. Mind you this was not America of 2016 but the America that toppled a democratic government in Iran to secure access to oil.


I've lived in Vietnam for the last five years. Ask the average Vietnamese how much they think their economy is booming.

Then go visit Bangkok and marvel at how far behind Vietnam is.


I think our economy is not growing as fast as we would like, but it is doing OK. Just ten years ago, most people who had a chance to emigrate would do so, but in recent years I've noticed that many people who studied in Western countries have come back to start their businesses at home.


That's woefully poor analysis. Thailand did not fight wars from the 50's to the near 80's. That's a bit like asking the former Yugo states why their economy looks nothing like Turkey's.


Vietnam suffered mass near starvation after the war thanks to misguided communist economic policies. Go travel around the country like I have and tell me how much the average working class Vietnamese feels the current economic "boom".


Or maybe the US and pals placed Vietnam under an embargo from 75-94, and war only really ended in 79 after China got booted out? 94-16 isn't really that long. Check back in 20 years. I'll bet my bottom dollar their standards of living will improve faster than their neighbours'.


You are trying too hard and thanks to your recent comparison with the capital of a country that has been / is currently governed by military dictatorship, I really can no longer take you seriously.


It probably helped that a sizable portion of the food crops were sprayed with Agent Orange by US forces, rendering them worse than useless.


You have a really weird way of phrasing things. "Things really sucked after the war. They don't suck like that now, decades later. The average Vietnamese doesn't like how things are now".

It's hardly surprising that the communist government went crazy-anti-capitalism after having half the country turned to mush by the Americans, but things are getting better. After the war, the communists didn't even allow privately-owned shops, and the economy was awful. They started reversing that and the economy started recovering.

But just because somewhere else is doing better doesn't mean that a place hasn't improved significantly in recent years. That's a boom.


http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/31/vietnamese-blog...

"The mother of a prominent Vietnamese blogger has died after setting herself on fire as her daughter prepares to go on trial next week.

A police officer in the southern province of Bac Lieu said Dang Thi Kim Lieng, 64, died on Monday afternoon on the way to hospital in Ho Chi Minh City after setting herself alight that morning near her home.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said Lieng's death 'points to some very, very serious concerns about the kind of harassment' that relatives of dissidents face in Vietnam. "

I'd rather live in Santiago, Chile or Medellin, Colombia.


You clearly have no idea the kinds of crimes Diem and his cronies got up to in South Vietnam.

Vietnam would have been another former colony with western companies exploiting resources and the political class getting rich off corruption.


Doesn't the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have a former colonial status, Western companies, exploited resources and a political class getting rich off corruption now?


No. They're the second base for manufacturing after China now. Their economy is young, relatively debt free and growing. In a few decades they will overtake most of their ASEAN neighbours


The relevant comparison, though, I'd whether you'd rather live in a contemporary Vietnam after it had been under control of an American-backed military junta since the 70s plagued by a constant brutal Communist insurgency. Latter may be preferable, but it's not a huge difference.


Throw in the other counterfactual scenario, which is no US involvement in Vietnam post WWII at all, not much of a war, and thus far less incentive for reprisals, and the installment of leader who was always populist nationalist first and Marxist-sympathiser second and actually had good relations with the US in the immediate aftermath of WWII. Also probably no Communist coup in Laos, and a slim chance of stability in Cambodia.

The ironic thing about Vietnam is that culturally it's still one of the most capitalist countries on earth.


I've lived in both Chile and Vietnam, and Chile is light years ahead of Vietnam in every respect. I love Vietnam, but it has a long way to go before it reaches the standard of living of most South American nations


You cannot explain the difference in economy of those countries based on the ideology of their governments. Its more complicated than that. For instance, Chile is rich in agricultural and mineral resources and has less population than Vietnam.


Chile today is not Chile in 1980 say. And Chile did not suffer massive economic embargos arranged by the US for 20 years nor was it bombed by a superpower for a decade. (The US dropped more bombs in Laos -- which wasn't even technically a combatant -- than were dropped on Europe in WWII.) The amount of damage inflicted on Vietnam by the US is simply unprecedented. (And let's not even get into the "free fire zones" the US declared late in the war where it would simply shoot peasants and call them insurgents.)

Vietnam is currently accused by Human Rights Watch of having "over 135" political prisoners. The scale of human rights abuse in Vietnam, at its worst, is utterly dwarfed by those in US client states in South America.


> Bear in mind that Jerry Pournelle is a very right wing guy and was right wing at the time of the Vietnam war, so he looks for confirmation of his own pro war views.

That may well be. I don't have much information about the Vietnam War seen from the Northern side. However, Stalin-backed communist infiltration of the Spanish Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War is well-documented, so this part doesn't sound unlikely.


What is the purpose of that statement? That communists infiltrated other groups? Its not just communists who do/did that.


That if USSR-backed communists have effectively infiltrated army command in Spain, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that a different group of USSR-backed communists did exactly the same thing in Vietnam.

I'm not claiming that communists were the only political movement to infiltrate army units.


> Bear in mind that Jerry Pournelle is a very right wing guy and was right wing at the time of the Vietnam war, so he looks for confirmation of his own pro war views.

That means you have to read his work with a critical eye. It doesn't mean he's wrong. Communists have done similar things elsewhere.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=3y4uAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT130&lpg=P...

"Castro assured the world that his revolution belonged to neither the Communists nor the capitalists, that it was neither red nor black, but Cuban olive-green."

We know how that turned out.


It turned out that they needed a sponsor, and that turned out to be the Soviet Union?


> We know how that turned out.

As a massive improvement in the expected quality of life for 80% of the population, as opposed to when the government was jointly run by Batista and American organized crime?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba

"In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards".

Compare with Chile which used to be poor.


Cuba was under embargo all this time. Where and how it would be without embargo is the question.


Maybe so, but what of those in the other 20% who found themselves disappeared or shot for political reasons, or those simply held prisoner in their own country?


I'm not sure the situation wrt human rights changed much one way or another under the communists. It's not like the Batista regime encouraged dissidents and rewarded independent journalism.


I think the "race supremacists" were only supported in South Africa as the ANC and all the rebels were Communist. Letting the USSR get control of South Africa would have caused massive problems for the West.

I think it was an example of "real politik".


Thanks for this bit, very interesting!

This shows how even though difficult, it is very important to keep in mind that conflicts like these are most of the time very multidimensional.

'The communists' might be the ones that surfaced at the end of the war as leaders of the new country, yet the vast majority of the battle was fought on the shoulders of young men and women believing in fighting for their independence.

They probably didn't give two cents about communism.


I think all of that pales in comparison to having a mole[1] be put in charge of village defense. It's much easier to turn the people against the government when you can choose parts of what the government does.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ph%E1%BA%A1m_Ng%E1%BB%8Dc_Th%E...


If it weren't for the American retreat, Vietnam would be as beautiful and egalitarian as Afghanistan or Iraq.


Or even South Korea.


South Korea did manage to maintain the human rights standards of other US allies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel until 1987; hopefully a little northern belligerence will get them back in line.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm really inspired by this on-the-nose third-hand bit of propaganda, and believe that if we hadn't lost our nerve at just 1.3 million deaths, we may have been able to save Vietnam from the evils of communism.


I think it is crucial to understand the motivations and principles of the people involved, in order to shed more insight unto the matter.

Regardless of the political overhead, from my personal experience the vast majority of the Vietnamese people at the time, already being Spartan like in certain manners and living in times of turmoil, saw the 'war of Resistance against America' (as the Vietnam War is called in VN)as the continuation of resistance against foreign superpowers, dating back thousands of years.

The US, after, Japan, France, the Mongols, China was seen as yet another invader in a long line, albeit arguably the one with the most overwhelming strength.

The average North Vietnamese person did not care about Communism, Capitalism, Political theories or world politics. They only cared about them in so far how they could help them achieve their goal: To be free! Sovereign in their own land.

This mindset coupled with the history of Vietnam is important to understand where the dermination of these units came from. Yes, the US military would 'win', as in being the last party to remain with living soldiers in an all out war until the very end no discussions, hands down. That is because, similar to the Japanese the morals of these Vietnamese guerilla peasants fighting would fight till the end.

In that regard, especially when seeing discussions here and mostly on reddit going back and forth about who 'won' the war, people forget that they might talk with completely different defnitions of winning in mind. (Or they are just American kiddos that cannot accept their great US ever loosing ever.)

It is a great tragedy in the end, because in the end, absurdly in a certain way, both sides fought for the same thing: Freedom.

The US won the battle, but lost the war.


The saddest part of it all is that we were allied with Vietnam in WW2 with OSS operatives in assistance.[1] Ho Chi Minh reached out to the United States for our support at the end of the war. Unfortunately, the French wanted back their pride and their colonies and refused to support the Marshall plan without them. So we turned our back on a people who wanted to be independent for politics and a desire to buttress Western Europe against communism.[2] We then followed the French in after their fiasco at Dien Bien Phu to fight the spread of the communist menace.

For the longest time I thought the Vietnamese were the biggest losers in this. They got their independence, but down a path closer to North Korea instead of South Korea after much loss of life. But now I think America was the biggest loser. We lost a cornerstone of our culture: military service. We killed the draft and a generation has been inoculated with the attitude military service is for poor people without other options. The military has begun to privatize and isolate itself from America. Fewer and fewer people serve. Many people serving in Iraq were paid, foreign contractors. Debate about the military is nonexistent. Everyone “supports the troops,” but the wars are either patriotic or evil, with little discussion of execution and goals. It saddens me and makes me think of Rome at the end of the Republican period. [3]

[1] http://www.historynet.com/ho-chi-minh-and-the-oss.htm

[2] https://books.google.com/books?id=B59ZUKeNoD4C&pg=PA47&lpg=P...

[3] http://www.historynet.com/romes-barbarian-mercenaries.htm


Exactly! Here is a telegram Ho Chi Minh sent Truman on the 28th of February, 1948. A piece of history you can touch. (well you would have to break into the archive or work there, but theoretically hehe)

http://todaysdocument.tumblr.com/post/18436528466/dated-febr...

Published by the national archives, it shows that Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist and independence seeker first, and Communist second (or even third)

In fact, having spent time in Paris, Boston, Moscow and Hongkong working menial jobs and getting in contact with western philosophies in his youth he actually chose to quote

    "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness"

this from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in his independence speech after French occupation.

The course of history might have been slightly different...


This is one of those moments in history where we can clearly see history itself branches into different routes. Had Truman reached out to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam wouldn't have had to spend the next 30 years in war.

It's a shame, really.


> We killed the draft and a generation has been inoculated with the attitude military service is for poor people without other options. ... Fewer and fewer people serve.

The US hasn't been militarily threatened since the end of WWII, nearly four generations ago. Put the US in a realistically threatened position and watch the numbers swell.

And while the personnel count is lower than it has been for a few decades, the budget is still phenomenally large. For example, the US has as many aircraft carriers as the rest of the world combined, and their smallest carrier is bigger than everyone else's bar Russia's single vehicle. Given that you have to get over giant oceans to even start to demonstrably threaten the US...

Rumours of the US's impending military demise are greatly exaggerated.


"The Vietnam Red Cross estimates that Agent Orange has affected 3 million people spanning three generations, including at least 150,000 children born with severe birth defects since the war ended in 1975."

Sounds to me like the people of Vietnam are the worse losers in this whole tragedy.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article24...


The draft is government-run slavery; there is no significant moral or ethical difference between conscription and slavery. Good riddance to the draft, I hope that it is gone forever.


> ... both sides fought for the same thing: Freedom.

Not really. The US government doesn't give a crap about freedom. What they want is influence and hegemony. Freedom/democracy are only PR excuses for american public consumption when it's convenient. Ordinary american people are nice people though.


I wrote that more to emphasise the irony. Obviously whether the US as a whole has worked and contributed towards 'freedom' as one of their main goals is open for debate.


That's not always true. I agree that pure altruism isn't the modus operandi, but you're ignoring a lot of non-Americans who're appreciative of any help in the past.


Aside from "American kiddos that cannot accept their great US ever loosing ever.", is there anyone that considers the Vietnam War as a victory for the US ? It was hands down the biggest military failure of this century for the US.

Also, as a french, I'm contractually obligated to do this:

We warned you guys, we told you this wasn't going to work out, we tried :^)


Yes, it was a victory for the US. The objective was telling any country in the world "look, this happens if you side with the wrong guys, that is, not us". Saying "we lost" while ignoring the millions of vietnamese dead, civilian and military, north and south, the millions of wounded, the forests and infrastructure destroyed, the consequences of that war today (Agent Orange, unexploded bombs), is an exercise of imagination that baffles me. A victory for the US would be what, the same destruction plus a parade of US forces in Hanoi?


>look, this happens if you side with the wrong guys, that is, not us

So if you side with the wrong guy, you force the world's biggest army to get in, wave it's dick around then force it withdraw and manage to establish a communist regime anyways ? Ho Chi Minh would consider that a pretty good deal.

>north and south

You do know the US was fighting WITH the South Vietnamese army, right?

>the forests and infrastructure destroyed, the consequences of that war today (Agent Orange, unexploded bombs),

A war happening in your country does that. It's not particularly special. We've had this little thing take place around here called World War I & II. The marks still exist, we find unexploded bombs rather regularly. It tends to happen when you bring explosives and various kinds of weapons and shoot them around. Are antipersonnel mines OK in your book too?

But hey, if you're happy that civilians died by the thousands (you know, that thing that almost every single country on the globe has agreed to not kill in the case of a war) as an example, that chemical weapons were used against populations and that hundreds of war crimes were commited in the name of "look, this happens if you side with the wrong guys, that is, not us", good for you. Muh freedom.

In the mean time, every single source I can find, the history I learned puts the US as the loser.

----------------

As an aside, our set of people who think the Vietnam was was a victory is now {"American kiddos that cannot accept their great US ever loosing ever.", mmustapic}


You know the US was mostly bombing South Vietnam, right?


Ho Chi Minh's successes against the French and then the US stirred a wave of anticolonialism across the globe. If you're arguing "domino theory!" as a political win (which is questionable anyway), then you should also account for the rise of many NATO-hostile nations from anticolonialism as well.

However, since you apparently think that death count is the only thing that matters, that must mean that the South won the US civil war, since the North lost more lives.

I must say though, it is disturbing that you count civilian dead in the South as being a point towards US victory, given that the US involvement was supposed to be defending those people.


> In that regard, especially when seeing discussions here and mostly on reddit going back and forth about who 'won' the war

Only the most blinded, foaming patriots try to spin it that the US won the Vietnam war in any way, even with scare quotes. They were kicked out of the country, and at the end of their involvement had achieved none of their objectives.

It doesn't matter how many victorious battles you can point to, if at the end of the war you have lost all your land, extracted nothing of value to you, and greatly tarnished your own reputation both foreign and domestic, you have lost.


'North' Vietnamese? The partition is a colonial construct.

And what "battle" did the US win? As a military exercise it was a debacle from start to finish (much like our more recent efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan). Wrong war, wrong reason, wrong plan, incompetently executed (strategically).

And the comparison with 'Spartans' is off too. The Spartans were pretty weird (not just by our standards, but by contemporary standards too) and their society was entirely wrapped around military tradition. Despite centuries of foreign occupation and resistance, Vietnamese culture was and is basically Confucian (in which the soldier is pretty much the bottom of the totem pole).


Actually the cultures of north, central, and south Vietnam are quite different. The accents vary so much that people from one section of the country struggle to understand people from another. They have been ruled by different rulers for much of the last thousand years.

Speak to many southern Vietnamese even today and they'll tell you the war was an illegitimate land grab of the more fertile and valuable land in the south by communists in the north wrapping themselves in nationalist ideology.


South Vietnamese ex-pats are not an especially unbiased source. (Consider the Cuban ex pat population, which again tends to be descended from people who backed the anti Castro forces. Not saying Cuba or Vietnam are perfect, but the people who flee a regime aren't the best people to assess it. Our strategy in Iraq was informed by information from Iraqi ex pats.) North, South, and Central Vietnam are traditionally distinct regions, yes, but the war wasn't between the north and south, it's just that the south started out occupied.


I've discussed this subject with Vietnamese, in Vietnamese, all over the country, including Hanoi. Anti-communist sentiment runs strong everywhere. People are smart enough to understand how much the communists have held back the development of their country.


> The accents vary so much that people from one section of the country struggle to understand people from another.

Same thing can happen in England, too. They all seem to agree that they're English, though.


> What "battle" did the US win? As a military exercise it was a debacle from start to finish.

No it wasn't. It was a political, moral, social debacle from the start. But not a military one. Read some history and understand difference between "engagement", "battle", and "war". Those words mean specific things in military context.


True, I should have been more precise. I meant 'North' aligned forces as in all those that opposed American invasion, Northern and Southern Vietnamese alike.

In fact, Vietnam would have never won if there were no substantial (some might even say majority) support from the Southern inhabitants. From manpower, to resources, to shelter and hiding FNL agents the support of the population helped to erode the Diem regime et al.

Being Spartan like in certain ways! Confucian philosophy Vietnamese flavoured. Values like respecting elders, being of virtue, and being studious certainly are highly regarded. But just as much valor, military prowess (and by proxy the ability to defend the country against much stronger occupying forces) and endurance in the face of adversity are highly regarded in Vietnamese culture.

So yes, the profession of being a soldier e.g. being a mercenary is not as respected as a teacher; a soldier 'by circumstance', following the call of duty, fighting to defend the country? Very much so.


This is sure to be confusing to many, as a majority of Americans believe the US won the war on Vietnam, or won it but were forced to declare defeat by Congress.

The VC won fair and square against the occupying and invading forces, and despite all the doom predictions of the time, they appear to still be a functioning state.


> they appear to still be a functioning state

As someone who lives in Vietnam, I'd disagree with this statement. It functions at the whim of all of the foreign investment, not of any particular genius on its part.

As for who won what, it's way more nuanced then you are presenting.

The US wasn't really in Vietnam to win anything, but there to stop the North from capturing the South, which it did quite easily until the money dried up. There was a reason the US never went north of the 17th parallel and it wasn't because the North was beating them back. Saigon didn't fall until two years after the US pulled out.

Militarily, the US was maintaining a kill ratio of 134:1 until the pull out. The NVA rarely won a battle in military terms. The Tet Offensive was a failure too, from a military perspective anyways.

I don't personally believe the US should have been here and am anti-war in most circumstances, but growing up in a household with three Vietnam vets (my grandfather served in Saigon for 8 years as a Colonel, my dad, my uncle died in Danang) I'm fairly studied on the situation. I don't think anyone "won", especially after living here for five years. Everyone was a loser imho.


> The US wasn't really in Vietnam to win anything, but there to stop the North from capturing the South, which it did quite easily until the money dried up.

[...]

> Militarily, the US was maintaining a kill ratio of 134:1 until the pull out.

But that's just not how wars work. No politician goes to war to get a good kill ratio. It's a question of strategic objectives. AFAIK, the dominant theory on the US side was that once the incompetently-led South Vietnam fell to the North, the "domino effect" would turn the rest of Southeast Asia into a bastion of godless communists. The US lost due in a large part to political factors, but anyone thinking that military factors are the only important thing in war shouldn't really be allowed to take any strategic decision. There is just no question that North Vietnam, on the other hand, achieved its own strategic objectives and won.


Vietnam was the first modern asymmetric war. Overwhelming military superiority simply did not translate into victory, and short of total genocide it could have never been otherwise. It is a shame that all those lessons were so easily "unlearnt" after a single successful campaign (Kuwait), resulting in the mess that were (and are) Iraq and Afghanistan today.

It's weird: on one side, killing more people than your adversaries is not as important as it once was, but this means that conflicts are now harder to solve on the battlefield, so they tend to be longer and more bloody than before.


I subscribed to the standard leftist narrative about the war until I actually moved here and spent five years traveling around the country and speaking to people on the ground. Exactly as you say, the truth is much more nuanced. It was a complex war fought for different reasons by different people.

And anyone that has lived here can tell you that the ruling communist kleptocracy is no friend of the Vietnamese people.


Agree. But the alternative would be a diem-type junta that also killed people in large numbers but didn't care for the 90% of the population that were peasants. You'd probably get something closer to a central african state where multinationals exploit and the political class gets rich at the expense of the majority


The current government doesn't care about the working class either. They're too busy siphoning cash off into their offshore nest eggs. A political elite class getting rich at the expense of the majority describes modern Vietnam exactly.


That's why minimum wage got bumped 13-15% in 2015? Geez. Thailand and Malaysia have barely progressed since 2000. Vietnam's growth has been off the charts.


Inflation has also been out of control. Ask any random working class Vietnamese and they'll tell you they're having more trouble making ends meet now than several years ago. And most people are predicting a huge banking crisis thanks to bad loans made to cronies of the party leaders. I wouldn't trust economic figures coming out of Vietnam any more than I would from China.

Centralized economies encourage corruption and stifle growth. Vietnam is no exception.


I've been in and out of Vietnam since the 90s. It takes a long long time to bring up the working class. You could substitute your statement for Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand; all of which have had democracies for a long time. All corrupt without exception.

And Vietnam doesn't have a centralized economy any more. And neither does China. Your rants sound like the standard rants of everyone who wants to be willfully ignorant of development in these countries. "They aren't progressing because their stats are false. Why? Because I said so!". Nevermind the rise in real wages and standards of living.


the US was maintaining a kill ratio of 134:1

This ratio makes no sense and would imply almost 8 million dead NVA/Vietcong combatants by the end of the war.


This Wikipedia page suggests that you're right:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_count


The only war which has been strategically won by the US after WW2 was the Cold War, and possible a tie in the Korean War. It's a f.ucking huge win, don't get me wrong, but this puts into perspective the huge US military budget which has been consumed in countless other wars with almost nothing to show for it.

And, as an anecdote, as a guy how grew up in Eastern Europe in the 1980s things like Michael Jackson's music or Coca Cola bottles had a lot more lasting effect on "winning" the Cold War for the US then the nuclear warheads from North Dakota or the Nimitz-class carriers. Too bad that know-how has not been translated into trying to "win" over the hearts and minds of the Arab people.


To be fair, whilst I can see the case for arguing that the Gulf War and other MENA victories were pretty hollow from a strategic point of view, and intervention in the Balkans was too late to prevent genocide, I can't see how US intervention in (eg) Panama or Grenada can be classed as anything other than a strategic victory. Just because US involvement was unpopular with the UN doesn't mean they didn't achieve what they wanted in the short and long term at relatively little cost.


I'd disagree with "prevent genocide". That was some pro US intervention rationale; but in the end it was "the enemy", the Serbian/Montenegrins of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, that got ethnically cleansed. The US was involved.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Storm

The New York Times reported the US Air Force did the AWACs on this particular job and other sources report that the administration used mercenary contractors and supplied the invaders.

Check out Serb population in Kosovo, too.


Prevent genocide was the ostensible reason for US/UN participation in the conflict. It's pretty difficult to see a logical reason for the US secondary goals (stabilising the area, securing territories for certain groups, [indirectly] effecting regime change in Serbia) which they actually achieved outside the context of "people are appealing to us to stop this genocide". The US doesn't get much strategic benefit from being on relatively good terms with the Kosovars.


I mean, the US "lost" in the sense that they failed to accomplish whatever vague political goal that they had in mind when they went to war, but if you look at the body count, it's like 10 to 1.

Same with all of the other "wars."

The advantage in weaponry is staggering, and this weaponry has been bought with unprecedented military spending.

So, there are some kinks in the ideological goals and imposing those on others, but the killing machine seems to be fully optimized.


You have a really strange way of deciding who won a war. Most people would consider those "vague political goals" the whole point of going to war, and the people killed undesirable casualties. But if USA really did go to war just for the sake of killing people, I guess they have indeed been pretty victorious. Much like Germans in WW2. I mean, they might have failed to accomplish whatever vague political goals Hitler had in mind, but they definitely killed a lot more people than they lost.


There is no peaceful war so obviously headcount is also a measure of superiority. Ever heard of Pyrrhic victory?


But it's largely a pointless measurement, unless your goal is the extermination of a population. Soviet losses on the Eastern Front were much higher than German losses, which didn't prevent the German from losing on that front.

Or take WWI, where the collapse of the government was the death knell for the German military effort.


On the Russian front this was only true at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, then it became very clear a year later than the German losses became increasingly in Soviets' favor. Plus Soviets were fighting on their home ground, with direct access to resources, which would eventually turn the advantage on their side. Of course hindsight is everything, but several generals opposed Hitler's decision to go against the Soviets because they knew the odds were against them. So assuming that Germans expected to win is, I think, improbable.

And to come back on the original point, you do War to kill enough people to make your opponent give up or until it is completely destroyed. In the case of WWII, even if Russia kept losing soldiers 10:1 vs German soldiers, Germany would have still run out of soldiers to fight with anyway because of Russia's massive supply of men behind the frontlines - And even if Russia did give up at some point, there would have been no way Germany would be able to control a country as large as the Soviet Union with the army they had on site. Germans were clearly bound to lose no matter what.


I don't think anyone ever questioned the "superiority" of the US army. But whether that accomplishes the objectives of the war the the real question.


The goal was to prevent Vietnam from becoming a communist state supported by the Soviet Union. Vietnam became a communist country: that's a clear cut Soviet win and US loss. That US was not able to translate its technical superiority in a victory is very interesting (including with regards to recent wars), but doesn't change the outcome.

If you are talking about recent or ongoing wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria), indeed the goals are much less clear, so it's hard to see how anything currently being done is really helping.


Why do you put "lost" and "wars" in quotation marks?

It seems to imply that because of the higher body count, we should consider the US the winner?


By the body count metric, the Nazis beat the Soviets.


How many wars have there been since ww2 for the US?


22, according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_Uni...

Interestingly, none of them on their home territory.


The US never had a full war on their home territory in recent history (even including both world wars).

The closest anyone's been able to point out to me are Pearl Harbor (which -- though striking -- was just a single attack) and some practically uninhabited islands Japan took over for a while.

The last time foreign soldiers invaded the US proper was when Canada marched into Washington.


German UBoats operated with near impunity up and down the East Coast as well as in the Caribbean. Many indigenous tribes that fell under the purview of the US suffered under Japanese attacks and incursions in the Aleutians. I find that many Europeans wish to posses the World Wars above others. Though the governments in Europe share the largest responsibility for starting the War (I) and allowing the War (II), and they also have the most collective casualties, suffering is suffering regardless of degree.

Side note: a few Canadians marched into Washington with their British overlords. I have never understood why Canadians always seem to reference 1812 and never mention Dieppe when they talk about Hosers on the warpath.


Suffering is suffering, but there is still a huge difference between having U Boats off the coast, and having entire cities flattened and thousands of civilians killed, which was the case in most of Europe and south east Asia. It also meant that as the war ended, the US was the only one of the belligerents that wasn't effectively bankrupt, but was on the contrary booming.


There's one hell of a difference between having submarines patrol your coast lines and having soldiers on your ground and bombers in your skies. There are worlds between having soldiers die and having civilians die, en masse. You're talking about indigenous tribes. I'm talking about people the man in the (US) street would recognize as "American" (yes, it's discriminatory, but such is society).

Sure, war is hell. But a war at home is an entirely different category of horror than a war overseas or off the coast. Its effects on the collective psyche are entirely different.


> The last time foreign soldiers invaded the US proper was when Canada marched into Washington.

A foreign army invaded the South decades after that.


That's a rather bizarre and frankly foolish look at US foreign policy since 1945.


GP is certainly more informative and convincing than a single unsupported "this is bizarre and foolish" statement.


I might also throw in the Gulf War to that list.


You could, if you determined that "getting Iraq out of Kuwait" was the primary goal of that war. Such a goal would have been wiser than the confusing mishmash of motives revealed by actual USA actions.


> war which has been strategically won by the US after WW2 was the Cold War

I am not sure I agree. According to what I heard, the western leaders didn't know what was going on when Gorbachev let the Berlin wall to fall. Sure the U.S. built lot of weapons, but calling it a strategic victory.. you could then call peace a military victory as well.


You are missing the point of war, it is not to win!!! The aim is to perpetuate war and the profits made by the war-mongers, as paid for by the domestic tax payer. WW1 poets - Sassoon et al - noticed this and nothing has changed since. So, from that perspective, when Gorby 'took the enemy away' that was a serious loss for our overlords in the likes of Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems etc.


This was also my perspective on the war before I moved to Vietnam. However, after living here for five years and talking to people all over the country my opinion is much more nuanced. To this day many, or even most, southern Vietnamese view the northern Vietnamese as the invaders and occupiers, not the USA.

It's a difficult war to understand because it was not only a struggle to end colonialism in Vietnam but also a land and power grab by the northern communists.


>>as a majority of Americans believe the US won the war on Vietnam, or won it but were forced to declare defeat by Congress

Do you have a source for this? I don't personally know anyone that thinks either of those things.


I don't believe the majority believe we won in Vietnam. I certainly don't.

There are definitely some who believe 'were forced to declare defeat by Congress'. I have heard a Vietnam Vet say the military won the war, but the government forced them to pull out.

Here's a video explaining that thesis - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hqYGHZCJwk - which places the blame squarely on the Democratic Party for the US losing the war. You'll see that some in the comments also believe this to be true.

FWIW, 'Prager University' gives an American conservative perspective, and was set up to 'combat liberal bias and teach Judeo-Christian values'.


>>There are definitely some who believe 'were forced to declare defeat by Congress'.

Sure, and the video you linked to is a great example of that. "Some who believe", though, is a far cry from the "majority of Americans"

Edit: Not saying you made that leap..more for the parents of this comment.


I started with "I don't believe the majority believe we won in Vietnam".


I have seen references to a "stab in the back" myth/belief for Vietnam e.g.

https://newrepublic.com/article/64982/the-other-vietnam-synd...

[NB I'm not in the US so I have no idea how popular these beliefs are - I suspect they aren't that common and perhaps quite understandable given the impact Vietnam had on the US].


It just seems odd to me. Most people I know in the US would be familiar with the term "Fall of Saigon", which would strongly imply the first option "We Won" isn't correct.

Even the pop culture doesn't seem to put out a vibe that suggests the US won. Most of the popular movies about Vietnam tend to highlight the horrors of war in general and not some romantic notion of victory, patriotism, glory, etc. Almost all of them feature scenes with the US soldiers talking about how misguided and poorly run the war was.

At best, there may be some people that think "we could have won" had the war been waged in a different way, but I don't even hear that often. In fact, the quagmire of Vietnam was used repeatedly as an argument against the war in Iraq.


Can confirm: quite common in the midwest. Wouldn't be at all surprised if it's a more common view, in this region, than that we simply lost.

Typical complaint is that Congress wouldn't let them do enough bombing, and/or placed too many restrictions on it, in addition to choosing to withdraw rather than keep fighting.


I had never heard of this before (but then again I'm not from the US). It immediately reminded me of the "Dolchstoßlegende" though: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stab-in-the-back_myth


The NVA won the war not the VC who where frozen out post the final victory


Here are some reasons why people believe those things.

First off, in the context of the Vietnam War, VC stands for Viet Cong. I think that you mean North Vietnam, instead, because the Viet Cong were spent as a fighting force after the Tet Offensive. Thereafter, the Vietnam War was mostly a fight between regular armies.

In 1969, Richard Nixon began a modest pull-out of US troops from Vietnam.

In 1972, North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam with 150,000 troops. They had support from the Soviet Union in the form of tanks. Lots of tanks. Zhukov would've been proud of that force. South Vietnam defended themselves with help from the United States in the form of air support.

Result: Fewer than 50,000 North Vietnamese soldiers made it back North. American KIA: 650.

Perhaps not coincidentally, peace talks improved for a while before breaking down in mid-December 1972. Nixon then ordered North Vietnamese cities to be bombed for eleven days (the "Christmas Bombings"). Perhaps not coincidentally, peace talks resumed. On January 27, 1973, both sides agreed to a cease fire, America would withdraw all of its forces, all POWs would be released, and South Vietnam would remain independent (of the North). By the end of 1973, all US troops were gone.

Being a bunch of communists, the North Vietnamese lied about their end of the deal. How's that for fair and square? They kept fighting to subjugate South Vietnam with the full support of the Soviet Union. South Vietnam fought on with aid from the United States... until August 1974 (thanks, Congress!).

So, strictly speaking, America didn't lose the Vietnam War in much the same way that tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable. See? History can be complicated.

As for "doom predictions of the time," well, North Vietnam proceeded to aid communists elsewhere in Indo-China, just as the war hawks predicted (cf., Domino Theory: http://thevietnamwar.info/domino-theory/ ) By 1975, Cambodia and Laos had fallen to communist insurgents. In all of these places, they instituted revolutionary socialist reforms to overturn the legacy of foreign colonialist occupiers. These reforms so impressed the locals that more than a million of them took to the high seas in hand-made boats in order to return to those self-same "occupiers."

Here, in America, we have a number of Vietnamese neighborhoods made up of those people and their progeny. The grey hairs among them would take issue with your evaluation of modern Vietnam as "a functioning state."

http://ngothelinh.tripod.com/50_years_communist_crimes.html


Nixon then ordered North Vietnamese cities to be bombed for eleven days (the "Christmas Bombings"). Perhaps not coincidentally, peace talks resumed.

Give or take 1,000+ civilian deaths:

In just one night, more than 2,000 homes were destroyed around Kham Thien, a busy shopping street in Hanoi. About 280 people were killed and at least as many again injured. Ha Mi had a friend, whose house was hit.

"There were a few houses still standing, but most of it was just rubble, flattened on the ground - or even just a big hole. Houses were just gone, it was horrible. I remember seeing people just standing there looking at it - but there was nothing there. Everything was just gone."

At the time the communist authorities said about 1,600 Vietnamese were killed, but many suspect the true figure is far higher.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20719382


Yeah, Vietnamese had no Hollywood to force their point of view onto the global society.

I lived in Hanoi for two years, and been attending a local climbing club. A friend of mine, an American climber, once shared his thoughts on the war, and the way Vietnamese don't hate modern Americans despite having a war veteran in every family - it was a bit of surprise to him.

I think what he did not realize is that the US lost the war, and retrieved the forces, and Vietnamese are really proud of that, and it's very different to, for example, modern situation in the Arabic world, where the US just can't get enough of it.


The rest of your comment is interesting, but this...

>>Vietnamese had no Hollywood to force their point of view onto the global society

Sort of implies that Hollywood was reinforcing some view that the US won in Vietnam, or that the reasons for the war were noble, or?

I can't think of any Hollywood produced Vietnam centric movies that follow that sort of theme.


Rambo II re-iterated the fiction that massive POWs were still in Vietnam. Watch the History Channel and you'll see almost no mention of agent orange, and none (that I've seen) would ever use the phrase "chemical warfare". The narrative that the media lost the war for the U.S. at the Tet offensive is pervasive.

Then there's what is omitted. I can't think of a movie/TV show I've seen about Vietnam that mentioned we bombed South Vietnam as well, or that we propped up a dictator that rigged the election and made life so intolerable for the Buddhists that monks were self-immolating in protest.


This I agree with...Hollywood did not put out movies with the full context and nuance.

On the other hand, most of the movies did highlight the horrors of war, highlight the futility of the effort, disillusion of the front line troops, etc.

So, the argument isn't that Hollywood did a terrific job, just that they weren't portraying the war as noble, winnable, etc.


I think John Wayne's The Green Berets is possibly the only movie that attempts to portray that particular war as "noble" (and I should add that I only know of that movie by reputation).

Apologies for answering your question with another question - but have their been any movies that were even distributed (let alone produced) in the West that try and given an account of the war from a North Vietnamese viewpoint?


You don't know any not because there weren't any, but because in the end nobody remembers propaganda.

In the beginning the society didn't take the war too seriously, it took ten more years for the anti-war movement to gain strength. Ten years!


Yet something must have gone wrong. As a European, I've met many Americans who only learned of the US losing the Vietnam war, when they were in Europe.

Some of them might not have been that bright, though. I remember an exchange student protesting a poem we read in English class because she thought it implied the US lost the war. There was complete silence in class and our teacher just said "well, they did lose." She actually said "No, we won it when we threw the bomb on Hiroshima."


So, you've met some number of ignorant Americans, including someone who thinks Hiroshima is in Vietnam.

That's not really compelling evidence that there's a widespread belief among Americans that we won the Vietnam war.


Well, to counter your anecdotal evidence: I am American, was once an exchange student in Europe, know what country Hiroshima is in, and don't think we won the Vietnam war.


* Just because have facts in textbooks, does not mean that students will actually learn them.

Take the most average person you know. 1/2 of people in the world are dumber. Surprised someone doesn't know who won Vietnam?


that's not how averages work...


It kind of is... IQ is normally distributed, and in the normal distribution average == median.


Except it isn't - because of sampling biases.

> Take the most average person you know

The average person you know might not be close to population average, depending on the circle of people you know - let's say Stanford post-docs.


* Take the average person from a high school class you took


Some of these photos are probably staged: https://www.reddit.com/r/CombatFootage/comments/44dwib/aston...


That wouldn't surprise me at all - a lot of wartime photos are "staged" or "recreated":

http://militaryhistorynow.com/2015/09/25/famous-fakes-10-cel...

The article even says "this wasn't staged" - making the question of authenticity very obvious. Still, even if some of these were staged it's still a fascinating set of pictures.


Maybe, but at the moment that reddit thread doesn't provide any convincing evidence.


There's no firm evidence that they are staged, agreed. However if you spend enough time looking at combat photos and videos, you get a good feel for what kind of situations are captured during combat. This situation is just too perfect (too well composed), and at too close range.


> However if you spend enough time looking at combat photos and videos, you get a good feel for what kind of situations are captured during combat

I strongly disagree with this armchair analysis, 'gut feel' isn't good enough! Some photos happen serendipitously (not sure if that's the correct word for combat photographs). I'll be damned if the Saigon Execution[1] or the burning monk[2] were staged - yet the framing and timing could not have been any better.

1. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-XwjZTVlnghk/U3Jv5jqOpBI/AAAAAAAAJF...

2. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ul72G5EX-Pc/VYjrTroozbI/AAAAAAAAJ5...


Those are striking photos of course. But neither are combat situations.


There are two larger points about Vietnam that I think are often overlooked.

1) Vietnam was, as others wars are, a most profitable venture for the military industrial congressional complex. Even with the draft, the upper elite usually wiggled their way out it in some form or another.

2) The war was started, as were other wars, on false pretenses and lies. Now this is where you may expect a rambling about the gulf of tonkin, but the more sinister angle is that of the created enemy: communism. Through the Yale in China group, a front for an intelligence group, the Maoists were trained and put into power against Sun Yat-Sen who wanted to actually modernize the country.

The supranational elite use the hegellian dialectic in order to control the outcome. It's nowhere as direct as maany theorists would say, buts thats how its done, for whatever the enemy is, be it facism, communism, terrorism, and soon cyberterrorism.

No ones learns any of this in their heavily controlled history textbooks though.


It's striking that we're only seeing these 40 years after the war. If people saw both sides earlier on we might have less conflict. (Typed from Saigon which is booming at the moment).


Jose Rocha Ferreira Bastos Neto - That wouldn't surprise me at all


So, this article not only retranslates Vietcong propanagda, but the only commentary it seems to offer is by Vietcong themselves, with phrases like "resistance to foreign invasion". How isn't this article isn't considered a propaganda piece by itself? It's one thing to present interesting historic material; it's another thing entirely to glorify a marxist dictatorship.


"Resistance to foreign invasion" is essentially accurate, is it not? I find the quotes interesting. They help to illustrate the rhetoric which likely motivated much of North — that there were foreign countries intervening in what many locals considered a country's own struggle and not just another battlefield for a proxy war.

I think pieces like this are important. Whilst you can disagree with it, it still makes you consider the views held by millions on the other side.


Well, this is exactly my point: this piece is presenting only one point of view, without even an attempt to put it into context of a conflicting worldview.


Well, the point of the article is how NV photographers saw the war. You don't need any extra context since it's explicitly stated that this is from one particular point of view. If you want a different point of view, there are thousands of articles, books and photographs.


I've had decades of the US point of view.


But Vietnam war was essentially an effort to resist foreign invasion. It effectively started when

"On 23 September 1945, with the knowledge of the British Commander in Saigon, French forces overthrew the local DRV government, and declared French authority restored..."[1]

It was one of the awful proxy conflicts of 20th century. I have no idea which is better - to be a colony in a market economy (the dominating effect is that profits from capital leak into the owning country) or a marxist dictatorship. Most dictatorships are kinda shitty - Marxist or not - but I have no calculus to compute is being a colony any better

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Indochina_War


What is more, they did it with the weapons taken by the British from the Japanese who surrendered to the Vietminh.[1]

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz8H_oi1ck0


The only reference to "foreign invasion" that I can see in the article is in a direct quote from one of the photographers who had witnessed US bombing of his country - not sure what other reaction you would expect him to have.


but the only commentary it seems to offer is by Vietcong themselves

Yeah, nobody cares about the point of view of a 60kg Vietcong soldier. They are not supposed to have a face and keep quiet beneath that 2+ million bodycount. The brave war stories are reserved for the american GIs.. and hollywood.


You seem to argue against an imaginary strawman instead of a point I was trying to make.


I think OP was implying that this argument also holds for American soldiers talking from the American perspective, but wouldn't be labelled propaganda.


Your comments are being down voted to oblivion. The prevailing narrative of our time is pretty anti-western. Anything the west does is auto-bad, whereas the activities of other cultures, current and historical, are (re)presented as heroic struggles against evil imperial forces. I agree with you, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It seems like it should be an uncontroversial stance doesn't it? Welcome to the modern era where shades of gray don't exist, and the best way to accrue Twitter followers it to kick your own culture apart.


I don't think the downvoting of a comment claiming it's nothing but propaganda means anything about shades of grey not existing. I mean, that comment was pretty black and white itself.


As always there are two sides of a story. That what the oppressors want their citizens to believe to gather moral support and that what the suppressed want their citizens to know so they resist.

By putting those two sides together, only then we can approximate truth.


> By putting those two sides together, only then we can approximate truth.

Absolutely agree. And this is exactly where this article fails, which is precisely the point of my comment.


The article does not fail. It does it's part beautifully. You're abdicating your responsibility.


What responsibility are you talking about?


Probably the responsibility to do the comparison yourself. The article doesn't claim to present a balanced view or "the truth" (which propaganda would), it is clear about showing one perspective. There is more than enough documentation for the other perspective available, as is material contrasting the two. It would be bad if this article stood alone as the only source of information available, but it doesn't.


Reading your initial comment, its very hard to believe that. It reads like someone who only believes one side of the narrative.


You are right. But I'm not saying that only viewpoint that I believe in should be presented: both should be presented side-by-side, at least.

Imagine the same article with Third Reich, Mao or Cuban Castro regime. Would reading the thoughts and commentary by wermacht photographers, praising the fuhrer and describing the Normandy landing as "foreign invasion", without any neutral commentary, at least, not raise any questions or issues with you?


>You are right. But I'm not saying that only viewpoint that I believe in should be presented: both should be presented side-by-side, at least.

I'm pretty sure most everyone is well aware of the "other side" while looking at this one. Humans aren't so stupid that they can't compare what they already know to new information.


But the captions in the article don't actually praise the Viet Cong leadership, and even the Nazi leadership didn't believe that Normandy was German territory. It's not like there's anything remotely untrue about the observations that the ARVN wasn't much of a fighting force without US support and Agent Orange wasn't particularly friendly on the local wildlife.

I've seen coverage of the war from a skewed pro-Viet Cong propaganda perspective. This isn't that.


> I've seen coverage of the war from a skewed pro-Viet Cong propaganda perspective. This isn't that.

After reading several replies like this one I finally understand why I'm being downvoted.

See, you assume that the article is in english, the audience is supposed to be from US, and the context is US culture. This is no longer true in modern world.

Personally, most of the information I was fed about Vietnam war throughout my life was the bullshit of Soviet and post-Soviet anti-US propaganda, so seeing this shit once again without any context seems sick. I guess a person from US, who have been mostly subjected to the other perspective, wouldn't understand it.


> After reading several replies like this one I finally understand why I'm being downvoted...See, you assume that the article is in english, the audience is supposed to be from US, and the context is US culture

I'm not American, and I downvoted you for taking away from the discussion. What were you expecting from a link that reads "Unseen images of the war from the winning side"? Did you expect the Viet Cong to lack conviction in their beliefs?

> Personally, most of the information I was fed about Vietnam war throughout my life was the bullshit of Soviet and post-Soviet anti-US propaganda, so seeing this shit once again without any context seems sick.I guess a person from US, who have been mostly subjected to the other perspective, wouldn't understand it.

Speaking as a person born in a former colony, what I find sick is the pro-imperialist mindset that assumes being a western/american puppet state is better than getting communist benefactors in the fight for self-determination. Liberty or Death.


> Speaking as a person born in a former colony, what I find sick is the pro-imperialist mindset that assumes being a western/american puppet state is better than getting communist benefactors in the fight for self-determination. Liberty or Death.

So, you would prefer to live in a North Korea to the South?


> So, you would prefer to live in a North Korea to the South?

1. That's a false dichotomy -those are not the only options. The unstated implication (western-style democracy = success, communism = failure) is also wrong because there are many other orthogonal dimensions at play

2. Is South Korea a puppet state or a colony?

3. I think what you are really asking me is if I would rather be Fed or Free. There is no correct answer, but I would prefer both. How about you; would you rather be oppressed and flourishing or free and impoverished?


> 1. That's a false dichotomy -those are not the only options. The unstated implication (western-style democracy = success, communism = failure) is also wrong because there are many other orthogonal dimensions at play

These are typical options though. A lot of historical examples show this pattern throughout 20th century.

Remember, how originally, words "1st world" and "2nd world" were supposed to mean "capitalist" and "communist", and ended up meaning "great places to live" and "not so good"?

> 2. Is South Korea a puppet state or a colony?

It may not have been formally a colony, but it's certainly a country under enormous political influence of western world in US in particular — just like post-WWII Japan and Western Germany. I don't think that formal status matters as much.

> 3. I think what you are really asking me is if I would rather be Fed or Free. There is no correct answer, but I would prefer both. How about you; would you rather be oppressed and flourishing or free and impoverished?

This is a false dichotomy, because "freedom" is good first and foremost because free societies are fed. Freedom is just a more effective society organization.

But a lot of former colonies never actually had this choice; instead, their struggle for "freedom" from western capitalism typically ended up in communist dictatorships in the USSR's sphere of influence. It's like the "free Palestine" guys, who know really well what they're fighting against, but refuse to open their eyes on what are they're fighting for.


However, in the vast majority of cases, only the US perspective is given, and no one complains then.

There is a lot more documentation about the Vietnam war that is from the US' perspective than from Viet Cong. Which is precisely what makes this article interesting. And it's just one article, and pretty short too.

(Also compare with the US wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, or, more recently, the war on ISIL? How many articles tell ISIS' perspective?)


How so does it fail? Are there any useen images of the American side of the war they are hiding?


Why unseen? They're presenting this images without challenging them, without providing any historical context at all.


We're still glorifying war? Even on HN?


The Vietnamese people didn't win the war. The people lost when the communists won. They realized that a couple decades later..after the communists had inflicted their brutal tyranny on the people.

Neighboring Cambodia lost a seventh of their population because of Communist evils.

By the way, despite leftist gleefulness of "American loss ". The US militarily won almost every battle and had a kill ratio of 134:1.


I wouldn't conflate the communists in Vietnam (USSR ally) with those in Cambodia (Chinese ally). Vietnam fought wars with both of the latter countries.

Winning battles doesn't count for much if you don't meet your strategic objectives (if you even have any). The same story has played out many times since then; the Soviets dominated the Afghans in every possible way, but accomplished nothing of note. Iraq now is much the same.


True.

Losses in "Afgan" (Russian slang name of the country) weren't too high (15k either killed or died from wounds), even compared to American losses in Vietnam (58k KIA), and technically there were no major battles lost. Vietnamese were backed by the USSR, Afgans - by Saudis and the US.

But from a political point of view it was a clear loss, similar to Vietnam for the US: no pro-USSR government established, anti-war movement back home, further deligitimisation of the Party, etc. Unfortunately for the Soviets, this strongly resonated with other problems at the time resulting in... The collapse.


First off, these pictures are amazing, and the stories of the photographers are hard to describe with words.

Reading through the comments, I see a lot of purportedly european folk who believe that many, if not most, people in the US are unfamiliar with the Vietnam conflict. If we discard children (15 and younger) I would be very surprised to find that half of the country is unaware of the war.

I think the confusion here is coming from the Idea that the US lost the war. They did not. There were two groups of winners and losers. On the winning side, you have Vietnam, Thailand, the US, and Japan. On the losing side you have France, Laos, Cambodia, and China. The last one was the true "enemy" the US was confronting. Given the recent developments in the Spratly's and Cam Ranh Bay, i think it is even more clear that the US, losses notwithstanding, gained much from the Vietnam Conflict.

Another point brought up by another comment was that the US does not fight at "home". This is intentional and the US has been very successful in this regard. Even if the US is forced to abandon policy aims as well as territory, it is hard to see it as a loss when it continues to economically prosper.

Wars are not like sporting events; there is no official scorecard. Body counts and capital losses play a role, but so do evolving narratives and cultural identity.

Only time tells us who wins and loses. The French definitely lost. The Vietnamese definitely won. All other participants, direct and indirect, occupy a gray area.


>Given the recent developments in the Spratly's and Cam Ranh Bay, i think it is even more clear that the US, losses notwithstanding, gained much from the Vietnam Conflict.

I don't understand. U.S. controls neither, Vietnam controls Cam Rang Bay. Given recent developments there, it looks like U.S. gained nothing from the Vietnam war.

Edited, I mistook about Vietnam controlling Spratly.




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