Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Lessons Unlearned

Advisors: Part One

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam began under President Truman, when, in September of 1950, the Military Assistance Advisory Group was set up in Saigon with the stated purpose of supervising the issuance and use of $10 million in military equipment to support the French Legionnaires in their combat of the Viet Minh. By 1953, now under President Eisenhower, this military aid to France had jumped to over $350 million on the excuse that the French needed to replace the badly worn WWII equipment they were being forced to use, due to economic devastation their own country was still suffering from that war.

For those of you who are not familiar with that bit of history, the French lost to the Viet Minh, and French forces surrendered to the communists in 1954.

The U.N. promptly stepped in and partitioned Vietnam into north and south, and the Viet Minh went, reluctantly, back up north. But not for long.

Advisors, Part Two:

President Eisenhower promised to aid South Vietnam in an effort to keep it from going communist. Direct aid to South Vietnam began in January of 1955.

American "advisors" began arriving a month later.

A warlord by the name of Diem consolidated his power by suppressing religious sects in the Mekong Delta and brutally put down unrest in Saigon. He arrested 25,000 communist sympathizers and killed 1,000 of them. In October, he was officially elected President of the Republic of Vietnam.

The communist insurgency continued. In 1957, Diem arrested another 65,000 suspected communists and killed another 2,000 of them. By 1959, sensing the time was ripe for resumption of open conflict, the Viet Minh began returning from the north.

During the period of 1950-1960, the U.S. had 750-1,500 military "advisors" in Vietnam.

Advisors, Part Three:

In 1961, the Soviet Union decided to begin aid to North Vietnam. The insurgency was getting to the crisis point. New U.S. President John F. Kennedy sent more aid to prevent a collapse of the Diem regime in South Vietnam. By December of that year, there were 3,200 American "advisors" in South Vietnam. Aid passed the $200 million mark. That wasn't chicken feed in 1961. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and CIA personnel began organizing covert resistance in the mountains.

The numbers of North Vietnamese fighters began to increase dramatically in the South and found much sympathy. President Diem reacted with more repression. He appointed his brother to concentrate on suppressing the passively protesting Buddists. In May of 1963, South Vietnamese Army troops fired into a crowd of demonstrators in Saigon. Buddhist priests began setting themselves on fire in the streets. The Soviets increased their own aid and advisors. Diem arrested 4,000 protesting students in Saigon. At about this time, disillusioned, they say, with life in the Soviet Union, an American by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald returned home with his Russian wife. He settled in Texas and got a job with a schoolbook warehouse in Dallas.

President Diem and his brother continued the repression of their own people, ferreting out communists sympathizers wherever he thought they were. The people of South Vietnam and the people around the world were outraged at Diem.

By 1963, the number of U.S. Military "advisors" in South Vietnam had grown to 16,000. The Americans were firmly identified with Diem as far as the South Vietnamese were concerned. Something had to give.

In November of 1963, Kennedy ordered Diem and Diem's brother assassinated. New Government ensued. Three weeks later, President Kennedy himself was assassinated in Dallas.

***** ***** ***** *****

If you know anything at all of that era, you know what happened then, and what continued for another 12 years, years that gutted the United States and changed it forever. But there is a point to all this writing today. The reason why I am writing this post is because I picked up a newspaper about an hour ago, and read this:

"UK to send military advisors to help Libya rebels"

LONDON (AP) "Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague says the U.K. is sending a team of advisors to Libya to help organize the country's haphazard opposition forces.

Hague said in a statement on Tuesday that the experienced military officers would join British diplomats already cooperating with rebel leaders in Benghazi.

Hague says the military team will help the rebels improve military organizational structures and offer help on communications and logistics.

He insists the advisors would not be involved in supplying weapons to the rebels, or assist with their attacks on Moammar Gaddafi's forces."

Ok. This is not Vietnam. Right?


  1. Good, no... GREAT points—It just might be another Vietnam, can out government do anything correctly?

    Thx for you support on my blog, I really do appreciate it.

  2. I'm saddened by our willingness to supply for war as opposed to peace.

    Has anyone read "The Report from Iron Mountain". I haven't read it yet. It came out in the 1960's, it is a satire, but it talks about the economic case for war. Thoughts?

  3. It's not the first time (though, technically, the article calls out the UK, not the US) we've butted in where we shouldn't. We might here.


    There are a number of factions always agitating for an excuse to interfere. Usually, one can track it down to some sort of profit or power motive, while others, our children and young adults, and taxpayers will end up paying the costs.

    One serious downside to feeling powerless to stop the obvious excesses and corruption in our own government is that people become more and more convinced they can't stop anything.

  4. This post was about the United Kingdom not learning from the past mistakes of others. I'm sure they won't be alone. Perhaps they can pull it off where the U.S. only got sucked in deeper and deeper. As far as the U.S. goes, well, right now we have a chance to see if Obama is different than Bush, don't we? Is he true to his beliefs? Or was all the Bush bashing just rhetoric. I hope our President can find the strength to sit on his hands until we find out who these people we want to help are. We know they are anti Gaddafi. Is that enough to help them?

  5. When I was young (don't say a word) all the prime ministers and most of the senior Members of Parliament were in their late 60s or even into their 70s. Hague and Cameron don't even get close to that age group so they aren't going to remember those horrors of Vietnam. Whether older statesmen are any wiser even though they can draw on more experience is debatable of course.

    You would hope that they could learn from history and from other people's mistakes but I think it's well-established that nobody ever does. It makes you despair sometimes.

  6. I, alongwith several others, have posted already about this. We learned the other day off meetings concerning the need to 'secure Iraq's oil' which took place before any thought of regime change in Iraq. Gosh that surprised us!

    Libya has oil. Cameron is determined to show he is a strong leader, he is being seen as a woofter in everything else, and along with Sarkozy he sent an airforce he was reducing to drop bombs on Libya. Obama wisely has withdrawn! Cameron, now also the French and Italians, are getting in deeper. The media are beginning to mention Vietnam or Iraq II, and this could be Cameron's Iraq. He thought Gaddafi would fall easily, how wrong he was. I suppose this will at least reverse the armed forces cuts......

    I wonder how many of the tanks we have destroyed were British made?

  7. @Jeff King - Can our government do anything correctly? Probably. Doubt they will, though. Too many people trying to impress other people. Too many people trying to please too many people.

    @Rocketscientist - I agree. We should act as if war were simply not an option. What would we do if we couldn't make war? We would have to think of other solutions.

    The book? It's been around since 1967. The author has admitted it is a hoax and the publisher has admitted they colluded to give the impression it was nonfiction. In order to accept its premise, you have to believe that many people who were high enough up to get government security clearances would betray that oath all at one time and be of one mind to act as all-knowing mentors of the American people to do what was really right for those people. Gods with no conscience, so to speak. Sort of like a poor man's Wikileaks, only the info is bogus. (Well you asked if anyone had an opinion. That's mine. Heh.) That aside, and assuming you read it as satire (the author tried to foist it off as truth for a very long time, not a satirical treatise on the economic aspects of making war) I do think there are some points in the book which were THEORETICALLY valid in 1967's war economy. Worth your $5? No. Nobody is really cynical enough to think we make war and kill off our young simply to further the economic fortunes of, say, Halliburton. Ummmm. Are they? :( :(

  8. @Stephanie Barr - "Usually, one can track it down to some sort of profit or power motive..."

    Give a specific example of a war that was fought to gain a monetary profit, will you?

    And please don't start off with "everybody knows..."


    Please understand I am not contesting anyone's contention that people have made money from wars through the ages. I just can't think of any war that was caused by someone (the U.S., I mean, wanting money.

  9. @Stephanie Barr - I will also admit that I may be incredibly naive. So don't take advantage of me.

  10. @Stephanie Barr - And now that the Republicans have gotten themselves voted in control of the House, it makes you lose the last vestige of hope that government corruption and unresponsiveness can be corrected by the ballot box, hey?

  11. @Stephanie Barr - "There are a number of factions always agitating for an excuse to interfere..."

    I don't want to put words in your mouth. So I will just go by what you said above. I agree that we should not interfere in the political business of other countries. For example, since Germany never attacked us, we should never have fought in Europe in WWII. I assume you agree with me that helping our friends is unimportant, and furthering our political philosophy of, say, democracy, is simply imperialism like the commies have said all along, right?

    Now, I am not arguing with you. I even looked up the word interfere in the dictionary, so as to be sure not to put words in your mouth.

  12. @Stephanie Barr - Please don't go away. :)

  13. @A. - No, not saying a word. I don't think your Parliament age assortment then was any different than it is now, though. They just seemed old to you because you were young with a protest sign over your shoulder. Face it - age of Parliament or congress makes no difference. They all lose their memories as soon as they are elected. It would be unreasonable for you to ask them to remember the lessons learned in Iraq last week, much less vietnam.

    You are such an optimist. It will never change. :(

  14. @Adullamite - I have been reading that about securing the oil too. That seems pretty arrogant for all of us to say that. Seems like the price of oil and petrol keeps going up anyway, even though the flow hasn't been interrupted. Gosh, I'm getting so I just don't believe politicians about anything!

  15. I have not gone away. Just spent a busy weekend. Nor am I offended when you disagree with me or I'd be long gone.

    I believe, and have believed for some time, that the only reason we attacked Iraq post 9-11 is that it has great gobs of oil and had an easy-to-hate even the other Arab leaders disliked given the Islamic infighting. That does not mean I think the gov't was behind 9-11. The two, in my opinion, were entirely unrelated.

    However, I also realize you might disagree with me. So, since you love history, you can also note the number of times we started wars of conquest for territory against (or quietly supported rebel factions to do the same thing). Such as Texas and Hawaii.

    Sugar, by the way, was a big driver for both stealing and then refusing to make a state of Hawaii.

    Note also that just because some wars were started on flimsy excuses to play for power supremacy (like both Korean and Vietnam conflicts) or profit motive, there were others we were involved with because it was just the right thing to do. I believe.

    History is not an exact science.

  16. Actually I have a new edition of the book with an afterword by the author. What I find interesting is I was told about the book by a friend at NASA who was under the impression the book was real. Further, (and it upsets me greatly) that many times I have gotten into the discussion with people who are prowar for its economic benefits. My two sentence response is we could easily overfund many other goals (i.e. the space program) and get many more economic benefits other than building more bombs and guns. Of course I am about to up a movie "Charlie Wilson's War", but we can spend billions to fight a war for years, but were unwilling to build schools in the 1990's. Actually, now I rambling but we were also willing to give the taliban billions if they "promised" not to grow heroin. Insanity. Wish I had more time...

  17. @Stephanie Barr - Well, if we attacked Iraq for it's oil like everyone says, then we sure got screwed, eh? I mean we didn't take any after spending all that money. Only kept buying it from them like everybody else. Of course, maybe we seized the fields and pumped it dry like all the bush haters said, and I just didn't notice the price at the pumps plummeting. :) So give me a real factual example that doesn't just tell me what you have always suspected. I still say nobody attacks just to give employment to its corporations. Am I Pollyanna? Now, attacking to get natural resources, true. But it doesn't look like we did. I mean, it's been 8 or 9 years already. When do we get all that oil we came for???? Sadly, it looks like we attacked bercause Sadaam wouldn't let us inspect openly. And then, for some unfathomable reason, we stayed on after that.



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