tv Discussion on the Vietnam War CSPAN March 11, 2018 3:41am-4:42am EDT
you want to be in one of those. but then you know pick the thing you about like. because to like it you'll do better at it and nasa like what is they do at their job. because don't become a test pilot because i was a test pilot but rather be a chemist be a chemist or something else and then be a well rounded person have some other skills. show you can work as a team and i think in the future there are a lot more opportunities to find space not just nasa and you kno.
>> thanks very much for coming we wish to thanks steve for sponsoring this session. this presentation will last about an hour including questions and answers so please hold your questions until the end. following this -- session panelist max boot will be participating in a booktv interview in the c-span tengt it outside the l building. this will last approximately 20 to 30 minutes and then mr. booth will proceed to signing area. the other panel member will proceed immediately to signing tent autographing books in the bookstore tent on the mall. books are available for purchase at this location, any book you buy at the festival supports our literacy efforts. because you are enjoying the festival we hope you're a member of the friends of the festival program for a sponsor. joining us this evening for a free concert immediately following the festival at jefferson field, at the far east side of the u of a mall south of
the science city. rock bottom is band members amy, ridley pearson, mitch, and a greg ills and scott will be playing. out of respect for the authors and your fellow audience members please silence your cell phones and to begin with i would like to see if there are any veterans in the audience with this, this afternoon. >> thank you very much for your service. [applause] do we have any vietnam witnesses. welcome home. this is quite a retrospective of vietnam we begin with max booth right after the second world war and end after the fall of saigon request greg so i think you're in for a treat todays and we'll start with the introject rei with max he's a best selling author and foreign policy analyst. max latest book road not taken edward and the american tragedy in vietnam came out in january
2018 and became an instant "new york times" best seller. max is author of three previous books that were all widely acclaimed. boot served as advise to u.s. commanders in iraq and afghanistan. max like to say a few things if. >> about the book. sure. sure. well it's a pleasure to be here, and a delight to be able to talk about my book, the road not taken. edward and the american tragedy in vietnam and tells story which i don't think has ever been told surgery not in this kind of depth and detail, about of edward said to be the model for both quiet america and ugly american he was a legendary covert op. are ative. officer in the air force and worked for cia and early 1950s he masterminded defeat of the hook rebellion in the philippines a communist insurgency got a ticket to saigon in summer of 1954 from ci director alan where he helped to create a u new state of south
vietnam became very close with the first prime minister and then president of the state ofspout vietnam. and then left vietnam and worked in washington among ore things. he ran operation mongoose to overthrow or kill fidel castro didn't quite work out. at the same time he tried to keep a hand in vietnam policy and he warned policymakers in washington not to overthrow in 1963. he said that, you know, i know he's not perfect but he's better than alternatives including the military officers who want to overthrow him. his advice was tragically ignored and the cue against -- in the beginning of november 1963 at the very time when lance was being -- forcibly retired from the pentagon and the results were every bit as catastrophic as lance had warned the -- called they haven't said for them and they stopped their infiltration of south vietnam.
by 1965 lyndon johnson decide that he had no choice but to -- but to bond north vietnam and to sending american combat troops into south vietnam this was other stuff that headlined -- the people of south vietnam and wanted to take a leads on their own defense and didn't think the war should be americanized and again his advice was ignored and he went back from vietnam to 1968 he was there -- during the offensive in finally left in the summer of 1968. feeling very much dejected to feel demoralized because he tried to tell general and policymakers that they were not going to win the war with firepower that he could not simply kill faster than they would be replaced. only way to win they said was to stand is up a stable and legitimacy government in saigon to command his people and hiss ignored and ultimately not surprised when in 1965, about north vietnam invaded quickly occupied the husk of its state that was south vietnam ppg now
the question i raise in my book the reason it is called road not taken is what would have happened if afghanistan has been listened to and i certainly can't sit here to promise if you're listening we would have necessarily won the war because north vietnam wases formidable advisory with greater will and at the last, we would not have lost 58,000 american ation a enhad millions of vietnamese killed in cross fire because he never wanted to qaij this conventional americanized war in the first place. >> thank you very much. ed -- brother flunked out of the university of arizona in 1929 -- [laughter] but his son -- ted graduated from the university of arizona in 1964 having gone through rotc. next, doug stem is a journalist lecturer, screen writer, and best selling author. his book horse soldiers
extraordinary story of a banding of u.s. soldiers who wrote to victory in afghanistan is a basis for a just released movie called 12 strong. probably heard of it. the previous book in harms way thinking of the uss indianapolis in extraordinary story of its survivors spent more than 6 months on "the new york times" best seller list. his latest book is the odyssey of echo o system in 1968 offensive and epic battle to survive in the vietnam war and quick note a local tie -- main character in that book parker got so many of his training at the forward too because it is not far from here. [laughter] >> thank you all, and i'm pleased to be up here. my odyssey of echo company i think -- is meant to be a kind of home coming and to try to dramatize the emotional journey as max's book is the geopolitical journey that we oangt on as a country. i focusedded very closely on --
a squad with and stanley parker 19 years old from gary, indiana, and floaled stan as a young boy and then later into adulthood when i meet him in a helicopter in afghanistan researched he's and he's in the army and he said would you ever write about vietnam? i said stanley in 2005, i don't think america is ready to hear that story yet. i wish i could tell it. i did start with stan where the book we understand some sench of -- to the light. it's not an angry book, but a book i find my experience dealing now with veterans an three different words very intimately a book where my job was to acknowledge their experience -- and hopes that someone would slide the book across the
kitchen table and say were you there and something like this happen to you? so that perhaps in our country there's a conversation and men and women who served in this conflict which created really so much chaos and which we are living with today in our families you're 25 and think you don't have anything to do with vietnam and you have someone in or why family you're wrong. think of the conversations we haven't had in america because we thew that uncle george at the family reunion wases in vietnam and would never talk about it. that to me is a tragedy. if and i don't know why we can't separate the war from the soldier and talk about the cost of that war. and you know, the heroism also the poignancy and melancholy that combat brings. and -- it was real honor to write this book so thank you. >> gregory is the associate, is associate professor of history and director of chapman program in war and society.
that is joined chapman after having served in department of history at the united states military academy at west poijt retired u.s. army colonel he's serve master's degree both operations desert storm and iraqi freedom. specializes in history of vietnam wars and a the cold war era. he's authored it four books including most recent withdrawal reassessing final years in vietnam. >> thank you all for coming out this afternoon. i greatly appreciate it so the title of this panel is vietnam retrospective and tom is given me three minutes or o us three minutes to entire rett have to spect of a vietnam war. which is -- which is a heavy task indeed so i thought i would talk for just a moment about two strains of memory. that memory is not history. and what both can be contest ited clearly history of the vietnam war is contested that oftentimes memory is more engrained i would argue in our
sense of self. and because it's more engrained i think too often a times the memorial has to -- has to be more reduced to simplify notions to better fit within our memory. so the first strain i would argue of the memory of the american war in resolves arranged phrase if only. we have a series of american errors fixed -- in our memory by the phrase if only. if only we hadn't the u cue and ultimate aassassination in 1963 things might have turned out differently if only we had better general and better strategy things qowld turn out differently. if only we had bombed more -- and bombedless -- if only congress had funded the south government for longer. if only the antiwar movement will be squashed if only american media more patriotic.
if only -- if only, and those if only stack up to the point to then argue in our memory, that if only these things qowld happen we could have had come to a different conclusion with the american war in vietnam, in fact, some have argued that if only -- we could have won. second strand fits neatly into the first and we remember as a search for blame. and so in this case, we can blame certain individuals for how the war turned out. we can blame its general like william west for having a mid-guided strategy. we can blame a president like lyndon johnson on richard nixon for getting with into the war o- having not gotten out as quickly enough. you can blame individuals in the media like walter cronkite for coming out for the first time in offer an editorial about 1968
observancive that supposedly changes ark of the conflict. or we can -- blame certain individuals in the antiwar movement like the most famous of jane fonda. but i would argue that both strangdz of this rockettive memory allow us to -- avoid some deeper issues with the american war many vietnam and deeper questions to all be asking. why isn't example throughout the conflict did we see ourselves as superior to vietnamese both north and south? how did this eliminate power abroad and perhaps most importantly was it moral and right for the united states to intervene in a civil war that in the end -- it was about one question one question only -- what did it mean to be vietnamese in a post colonial modern era? at the end of the day this was a civil war over vietnamese national identity. so to me to engage in retrospective most profitly is
to tackle these deeper questions. ones that no doubt make us uncomfortable and i think that's okay. we should be uncomfortable when we look back at history. the history is not memory. and history should be -- something more than a pal but something more than a dose of patriot pick therapy. and to me the best way to gain perspective from are history and not just him is by asking questions of these historical actor it is not just questions that place blame but ask questions that are different something along lines of asking question it is that help us better understand the decisions that they at the time so we can get a better perspective of those decisions that they made. >> thank you, craig. i would like one of my first questions back to you, matt. quite a bit of lands dale perntle comes out through his writers to kelly who is mistress, how did you decide when to insert his personal e
flexion and feelings along side with the international events that he was involved with? >> i tried to, you know, like any good biography it has to be a balance of the broader world showing how they interact and i'm glad you brought up pat kelly she's one of the most intreeging least known characters in the story. she was this -- phil pee that war widow whose husband died during world war ii who was a journalist and then worked for u.s. agenda and ed first met her when he wect out to the philippines as an army intelligence officer and she was a great interest of him because she was is from the same part of luzon so the tour guide, and to go out on very dangerous into the back country and on adventure a friendship developed and then a romance and she was the great love of the life. something that was not generally known before i began my book research in the course of my research i actually managed to it track down pat kelly's
granddaughter who lived in northern virginia. she invited me to her house and she said would you be interested in these letters. i have in my basement and i said boy would i -- this was biographical gold years and years of the private interpret letters between pat kelly that no outsider had ever seen before and lucky enough to get the cooperation of ed's boys one of whom mentioned ted and other one pete who shared with me letterses that he wrote to their mother helen simultaneously so i'm first person after ed himself to have read both sets of letters. and that provided extraordinary advantage point into the intermost thinking that no outside orer had ever before and one of fascinating thingses thai try to bring out in the book is incredibly important role that pat kelly played never been revealed before because when ed wrote his own memoir in 1971, his first wife was still alive so he couldn't write about his relationship with pat kelly whom he married in 1973 after his
first wife passed away and so -- one of the things i try to do in the book is restore her to place of prominence she was incredibly important to him i would argue not only -- prnlly although she was incredibly important it him permly but also professionally because she helped him to understand filipino society in a way that's difficult for owsdzer to do and then he was a i believe to harness that understanding to help deteat the rebellion to help become a very effective observance administer and and so what i try to do in the book and -- it as we mention i have a lot of quotes from their letters which try to aluminate ed lance most thinking but also to place in the context of the broader vent so that interplay of the personal and political that i find so fascinating about biography that i try to bring out in my book. speaking of letters he does an
amazing detail description of what he doesn't want to feel like when he gets home in essence would be having ptsd. he knew that would be his fate. did that premonition surprise you and what does that say about sam? >> he was the kind of precocious person he was at the age of 19 who after fire fight begin to scribble notes of the day down on a heat rash in box lit an mail it home to gary, indiana so that at home accruing is this really his own series of vignettes and memoir, and thft i was able to read are the letters he had written to his girlfriend. no i don't think sam parker and get to that in q and a initially when they take their first step from the -- the skit on to the soft grass, i just kept imagining that boot
coming down and then things happen to fire fight happens and then next step, next step and suddenly book becomes odyssey of echo company buzz each step is really the step home. and about half way or quarter way through, you realize ting that he would be forever changed by this. when he finds -- a young girl to whom he gives a can of features and there's a -- seen in the book that deals with that. i don't to jump ahead here. but -- >> okay. that's great, thank you. >> and then greg, much of your book speaks to the personality of the political hurl leaders. and how that impacts the political and military decision making that they've done. does some of that come from your pone personal experience as being in the military as a army colonel? >> i think a little bit unvoidably although i try to imrowngd my work more in the -- it in the historical evidence in own personal experience although i certainly saw echoes of --
policy in what we were doing in iraq and afghanistan and serving and being around cadets on daily basis and hoping that history qowld have some utility or for them from a perpghtive clearly has influence by approach to history. but i want to thank appreciation for difficulties that are -- that are predecessor army faced in 60s and 70s so me too often time history of the vietnam war will take these historical actors and -- kind of collectively roll their eyes and have oh, my god how could they do this? they were so stupid clearly much smarter than they were. and i think having served in the army especially overseas to see the political complexities and -- military difficulties that senior leaders face on daily basis it certainly i think gave me hopefully a little bit more empathy for --
what the era leaders were contending with during that time period. >> along those license i would like toe get back to you max, and a please greg jump in if you would. i was really surprised to see how much it shall the some of the leaders ed and general abrams things like that they're -- their fate, their -- their job depended upon whether somebody like them could at times from -- from the president or from the vice president type of thing. and max can you start and talk a little bit had about that? >> ted was kind a maf rack and trouble maker who didn't go along with the bureaucratic system often fought against it. he was established tremendous empathy and friendship with leaders and asia in particular, and in the philippines and in yemen, south vietnam but he had more trouble infliewngsing leaders back home. now in the 1950s he had some success because --
he was under protection of the brother secretary of state john foster dallas, and he had often clashed with more conventionally minded leaders, americans in vietnam and -- in the philippines for example, general lightning joe collins four star u.s. ambassador to saigon in 1954, 1955 great conventional war soldier and didn't have a great understanding of unconventional conflict in south asia so he didn't get along and wanted to stop during a amount of power, and he was able to go over his head straight to alan who in turn went to president eisenhower and overruled lightning joe collins. and so -- as a result of that was able to consolidate hold on power but you can get away with that for so long. he clashed with his boss and -- telling him for example, called had l into office and sod you em
trying to reduce the war down to set of mathematical equation withs to figure out the way ahead and i would like your help and mr. secretary don't forget the "x factor" and so he writes on a ground paper "x factor" so tell me how to calculate that and he says you can't calculate it. it's the feel technician of the people about how they want to be rolled. that's going to ultimately determine the outcool of the war. and then hindsight wise advices and he chose to disregard what ed had to u say, and these kinds of clashes filed up overtime such that by 1963 when the u.s. -- was in the south vietnam it was in the midst of this buddhist crisis led to the cue which turned out to be a misindication and been entirely sidelined in vietnam policy and later in 1960s back to vietnam from '65 to '68 but again could not pin course of documents because big
army took over with half a million trolls and johnson administration wasn't interesting in the what he had to say. hubert humphrey supported him and he ignored so he was a helpless spectator to careening out of control so at the end of the day it didn't matter good insight and what was on the ground or not and he did. because policy makers in washington disregarded his insights and that's problem that i think did not pepgd but remains true to this day. >> from the perspective who was a commander of the military system comangd vietnam, from 1968 to 1972, and his relationship with the nixon white house, to be brief is con tenge contentious almost twigs fired at the commander. once after -- the encourage into louis in 1971 and again in 1972 during spring easter offensive. i think part of this contentious
relationship is inability for the senior officer in vietnam to balance the competing command of the presidency. so nick realizes it is no longer possible so think about being in vietnam and your president is now telling you that military victory is no longer possible. and yet nixon also gives abrams this incredibly wide ranging -- strategy that he has to deal with oftentimeses pieces and parts of that strategy are outside the purview of abrams influence tboarkses with the north vietnamese and paris diplomacy with the chinese and soviet union. which is turning war back over to -- it the vietnamese military and government. passive tight the enemy withdraw of u.s. troops this is incredibly complex -- strategy with incredible amount of competing demand and each one of those by the way, is supposed to have the highest priority.
not sure how that work so what this does is it puts a strain on the relationship between the chief american officer in vietnam abrams in the president. i think this is important perspective for all of us to think about. that -- if that dialoguing between senior military officers and -- sifn y'all policymakers is somehow broken or broken down that has an impact in terms of policy. and what our civilian policy make reverse asking too much of our senior military officers -- that creates a strain on civil military relations and, in fact, undermines the -- the conduct of foreign policy and i think, in fact, that's exactly what happened in the withdraw years in vietnam. >> thank you. >> beth -- you mentioned the episode with the girl with the peaches. that was intensely personal and certainly a pivotal experience that he went through while he was over there and fighting in the offensive -- can you talk about that a little
bit but also a i'm curious did that come out in one sitting with him? or does it take a long time for that whole story to come out? >> during some of the fighting so we're -- just to back up one moment whereas my book horse soldiers is a wide angled book with afghan points of view went there twice, and a lot of different element it is that were on the ground in '01 in days after 9/11 i just decided to rlg change the appiture so afghanistan it was for mcdill and he's the guy who is always keeping records to read maps and he knows his way aired the world. so to answer -- so -- he. written a vignette as part of his home coming. and mcdull he, they discovered he served so much combat time that no one asked him his mental state and so as he gets ready to
retire they're looking under the hood like who is stan farcer because he also -- had a bunch of -- combat time in afghanistan and he began to write for the post psychologist on his exit, and he had conceived of this earlier but. it seems to me it's in the middle of the book he gives a young girl of -- allegiance a can of peaches and then catches up with the rest of his -- squad and suddenly hears gunshots turns around and runs up to her and she's been killed and he believes by sol scwhroars he sees running down the street because -- she's received a gift from -- this american. and so it brought home to him the question i think all of us are writing about which is it shall it's the "x factor." and the "x factor" in this case was -- the north vietnamese are not going to be timely to this --
essentially intervention by him giving can of peaches. and -- my book really tries to -- dramatically bring home complexities that these young men faced. in this larger geopolitical matrix that they've written about so brilliantly because for me -- we talk about this as a vietnam retrospective we're talking really -- so far about the political retrospective. i am interested in the emotional as we move forward in this country and -- try to come to terms with what i still think is america's unfinished narrative which is vietnam. i'm -- you all know we're here to talk about vietnam today this is a large crowd, and it is the hardest thing the first thing i found in my interviews with people in talking about the odyssey of company is how do you talk about this war?
now it's -- it's not easier. but it is friendly tear to talk about it as the political adventure for this adventure it is much more difficult but i think just as immediate that we learn how to it talk about it as an emotional venture or journey for so many men and women who had to live through that both of those who protest the war -- i find have much in common with their fellow neighbors who -- combat veterans and so -- thank you. >> emotional is a good word to describe your book. [laughter] certainly. max, speaking of ed he was a military man. he was a general by -- for goodness sakes but he he was not -- your typical military person. in fact he told the commander in chief that jfk know that he would not go along with killing of president deaning at that time. how much do you think himming
being kind of a rogue either helped him understand what needed to be done and also put him at odds with -- the people he had to work with? rming there's no question that ed had a very unconventional background he was not a graduate of west point or the army war college or any similar institution. he was a -- ucla dropout and joined oss and afterwards got into the army and got into army intelligence and then transferred to the air force even though he had no intention of becoming a pilot or navigator or anything like that, in fact, he was probably most antiair power air force general of all time and he argue with curtis who thought he could bomb the north vietnamese and stone age and he kept telling had him that wasn't going to work so he was -- and then he was an air force officer seconded to the cia and had his greatest success there but he was a troublemaker even within the cia for example,s there was difference between the
way that fed operate od it in the light of the cia operated right after ed left vietnam at the end of the 1956, the cia -- recruited a cleaning lady in the presidential palace to steal the -- waste paper basket and this was classic cia trade craft and when he found out about it he laughed because when he wanted to find something out he would go to the palace to tiewk him and he was good friends and he thought it was ridiculous that the station was trying to literal steal garbage to piepgd out what was in his mind but that was indicative of the way that he clashed with institutions arranged him and, of course, he clashed with army because he didn't believe that firepower or conventional combat forces were the way to win. he believed it was in -- helping to foster stable representative in the legitimate government in south vietnam. that was ultimately what will get the job done and he thoughts using too much firepower could be counterproductive because you would be killing a lot of innocent people and there shall
creating more enemies than you eliminated so whenever he went he was kind of a -- a maverick troublemaker and conventional wisdom as i said that caught up with him and created too many enemies to handle and he was retired a two star general from the pengt gone and thereafter founded -- nearly impossible to have a -- a major voice in vietnam policy. doug how did session unfold and were there special locations that he was most most comfortable in speaking about to you? >> well interesting thing about this discussion is that you're hearing on either sides of me kind of the -- you're able to place yourself by reading these two gentleman books just where we were this the world what we were thinking when we went into vietnam. but what i found around kitchen
table with stan farcer was he had no idea. because of the helicopter, it was so asymmetrical because of the brilliant idea that measuring success bit body count as stan had been a bomber in world war ii taken ground in a symmetrical fashion much easier, however, it may be piewghts futile to measure success so because the helicopter might land four or five times in a day to a new lz when we finally got grid man map and going to quack some of these areas by sat at the kitchen table with him and watched almost a new person being born. because -- he read the grid map and then we read the coordinance and put it down on the map and he said holy cow so we're here and we had time too. because of the after a the report he said, now i get it. now i know where i was. finally -- so not only did they serve in
the war and sure veal for a number of reasons. then they come home, and basically learn to forget it be pretty quickly. because no one wants to ask them and they don't know how to talk about it. so i just felt it really put a -- point on this that act of story telling was act of ordering the universe for this one particular person and whatever value there might be in that -- that will be up for you to judge but that's really for me what the power of pros can can do in this particular case. thank you i'm curious if you can have a long dinner with general abrams or some of the other enemy you have written about -- what would -- you want to discuss and ask them? >> i think for general abrams do you prefer gin or vodka in your mar tee that?
abrams was a -- renowned throughout the army for his lover of a good martini. [laughter] >> i think for abrams and it this might be to riff off of doug's point about emotionality of afl this is -- very basic question -- what is it like to preside over a war that you know you're not going to scwin? and i think when you peel that apart a bit that that's exactly what -- he's doing and he knows it. when nixon assigns max the overriding notion he knows that from a traditional sense he won't win his war so think about that for a moment. they be the emotions of leading american soldiers of advising south vietnamese allies, knowing that it very beast you're going to leave the war in a stalemated fashion. think about the emotion emotional toll for somebody like
cait abrams dedicated his entire life to the professional military career to command a war knowing that he's going to leave at best in a stalemate. so i would love to have a conversation with him about his feelings on that for anger the frustration, the disappointment, the feelings of regret, and then i think perhaps most importantly his plans for the future because abrams is someone who realizes that -- this is not the end for the american army in particular. an has continue on with his responsibility not just in vietnam but ultimately chief of staff in the army and has to start thinking about rebuilding the army after a vietnam in a cold war.
so observancive was 50 years that played a major role in all of your books that was a u.s. military success. but a resounding propaganda failure for the united states. most of the citizens of the united states at that time learned through almost entirely through print journalism and through television. how do you think a similar military event today would play out with the internet, with social media, with cable news, and the traditional news sources and whoever would like to take that? >> i don't know that it would be that dramatically different because i would say tv coverage played a huge role in the way americans under along with the precinct coverage. i mean differences that today, of course, precinct coverage could be instantaneous on the internet and wouldn't wait 24 hours to find out what would happen. but i think result would be largely similar and i disagree with this popular interration within the military that we the u.s. army won the war. but we lost it because -- you know, the offensive which
was u truly a victory portrayed as defeat by the media so media doing stop i think basically what happened was that johnson administration kind of dug its own grave there because in 1967, they were trying to maintain u.s. support for the war effort by widely overpromising claiming that there was light at the end of the tunnel and we're about to beat them and everything was going great and the fact that you have tens of thousands coming out of nowhere to attack across south vietnam gave the lie to that, to that notion that we we were on cusp of defeat so therefore coverage of the offensive i don't think it was hideously bias but gave a accurate interpretation of it but it made clear that, we were not as close to victory even though the offense oive largely wiped out and communist not triggered what they hoped despite afl that. that fact that they still had all of these residual camibility
made clear it wasn't finished as general and president johnson and others claimed so therefore i think with their accessible level of propaganda johnson administration in their humorous folly set themselves up for this massive defeat which helped it to -- to bring american popular support for the war effort. >> yeah, it's an interesting point you make max because -- you know, you can go online to watch a lot of the coverage of the -- and there's -- not much different than the kickoff in the war and fallujah still the same world. just more instant there as max says i wongd per you're driving in a point about -- maybe greg is there too. but you know what was the gears weren't meshing there between the military strategy and the politician. but if west is overpromising he's not really aware of what's going on on the ground.
>> yeah, he is. yeah. i think we food to be very, very careful about this idea that west is kind of a -- doesn't understand what's going on. so i wonder to overplay the hand. >> i think he makes a critical critical -- in this case in public he overstates the case but the problem in private he's having different conversation with the president. but that's not the story but saying different things to the president. and unfortunately i think is part of this salesmanship campaign is a johnson white house calls it, late 1967 that helps -- over sell progress in the war that creates a credibility gap in early 1968. and again this is important to consider in terms of -- artificial lining to us if you're selective in how they're telling us about progress in the
war and not sharing everything with us publicly. but what are being much more honest and close door sessions with civilian are policymakers. should we expect leaders to be completely and utterly honest in public or expect that they're going to -- be more -- spect to make -- decisions about what they're gobbing share with the public and i'm not in my way -- coming across here to support to say he was right in this. but this was a clear case of -- failure in communication. >> i have one more question then like to open up to the audience if you have any questions we'll take yours after this last one that i have to them and they entered the group. the majority of the americans that were killed in sleem between years of 18 and 22 years old, what do you think 18 and 22
year old os today need to know about the vietnam war? and how will they find out about it? well i'll take a stab from my part of the universe if you're 18 or 22, and you have someone who is 7in your extended family they think, they're thinking about vietnam. and the best thing what i -- what i have tone with my world war ii book in harms way is to ask -- those grandchildren to interview grandfather about what happened in the war. and the transmission of the story handing down is an important thing. and then to read a max and greg's book, i mean, there's two things to do here. and -- otherwise where do they learn about it? i don't know if it's really touched upon in high school curriculum. >> not in high school i don't think. and it's -- >> no i think it's just great if younger people today would just
educate themselves about what the vietnam war was about because i know i have kids who are, you know -- ranging from ten to 20, and for them you know the vietnam war might as well be the war it is a distant conflict and they don't know about it and it is pornghtd because it has for somebody like me growing in 1980s overhang in the youth in a way that it isn't. and i wish people understand the important role that it played to get beyond some of the mythology that dominated the his tore yog if i of the vietnam war that this was a right wing myth that -- that, you know, we lost because we had one hand tied behind our back if only we use more fire power on and on everyone though we drop more bombs than we had in -- in -- left wing myth that ho chi minh victory was impossible and, in fact, no way to resist it and most south vietnamese never
showed desire to be ruled by a government that wasn't a procommunist uprising so important to see your way through the mythology on both sides and important to give american troops some in this room todays due and too much of a tendency to maingt u.s. vietnams duped into this war or people who did terrible things whereas, in fact, the vast, vast, vast mantle of american troops served very honorably and bravely just as -- as a previous generation had in world war ii and honor their service in the way we honor the world war ii or any other conflict and not -- not imagine that there's something wrong or o shameful about about their military service in vietnam, in fact, it was -- it was brave honorable and courageous and they deserve to be honored for it. i think i would like to in part to 18 to 21-year-old that it's important to empathize with local population.
that they're, in fact, the ones that are living daily with war. that in vietnam, the young 18 to 20-year-old would spend a year in vietnam in the society enguferl fled war but would come home those vietnamese never had that option for many did not have that option and so they're making daily choices about survival and how to deal request a political struggle in their very homes, and to have empathy for that. that there's -- just because you're a communist sympathizer doesn't mean you're an evil person who doesn't love their family and i think that's difficult sometimes for americans to -- young americans to do to empathize with folks that -- look differently than they do that live in a different society than they do. and to -- and to to do just that to empathize. >> i would like to briefly pick up on greg's point because that resonates with me because etch
thy was the secret weapon. he was somebody who figured out how to turn empathy into almost a weapon of war. how to take emotional intelligence and marking this a battle and ability to forge a fast friendship with people in philippines and vietnam was the key to his success, and to deal request them on basis of trust and humility not to look down and treat them as equal to form these friendships with people like ramon, and many people less important in powerful. that was what really enabled him to be this effective envoy of american power and i wish united states in general would do with other countries from attitude of friendship and humility rather than attitude too often from washington these days. >> he even had a belief in the power of music as well. j he loved studying the music, poke music was philippines in vietnam you can go to the it library of congress, and listen to collection of vietnamese folk songs that he deposited there because he thought this folk
music would you say help understands people. the core of the cull which are by listening to their music he thought he would understand what the people were all about and that was part of the way he try ared to understand local people just in the way that greg so they would not be statistics or caricatures but flesh and blood people to understand what they were all about. again if you have questions you need to go up to microphone there's one on either side please sir, go ahead. >> first off, thank you all gentleman for coming to tucson for this great event, and personal thanks to max to the good work pointing out fallacy in washington, d.c., i know that, it's often been said drawing analogy between american experience and vietnam and american experience in afghanistan is dangerous. but i wonder if there is one thing that -- that the two conflicts have in common. and that is -- an a illustration of the limits
of american power. i wonder for you might take up that for a moment. >> absolutely. i agree wholeheartedly that we need to be careful drawing direct line from vietnam to iraq and afghanistan as i mentioned in opening comengts, ig that's one of the key perspectives is that it is uncomfortable fors u to deal with right. that we -- like to believe there are no limits to american power abroad. and i think -- that one of the perspectives to be gained by a deeper study of the vietnam war is to except a sense of humility with american power and again that's not being unpatriotic. i think it just the opposite that -- it's okay for a powerful nation like the united states still is to have limits. i know that's difficult for a politician to stand up on a campaign speech and say you know what i don't think americans -- americans are exceptional.
clearly you're not getting voted in on that. but -- but i think it would help us it have a more -- circumspect and -- more realizable foreign policy because -- alternative sing what we're dealing with now is 700 plus billion dollar defense budget with the assumption that there are really no limits and we can just spend our or way to -- national security on a global scale. >> sir. >> i'm like -- whole bunch of people in this room veteran commissioned officer in the army of occupation and of 3 many of our people went on to vietnam, and greg -- i saw your book west marlin was oustanding. >> thank you. >> and i never appreciate what had you talked about wrote so much and that's counterinsurgency in germany we never heard that word.
counterinsurgency. our unit second fourth armor division was demonstration unit for all u.s. troops in europe, and we had every general it seemed like came to see us demonstrate nato officers and we were -- we were preparing poem to fight a traditional war. >> right. and a little bit i know about vietnam most of it was not very traditional. and that concerned me when i think about vietnam can you respond to that? >> we have to put the american war and vietnam in a larger cold war context that threat from the coach never goes away southeast asia. but my sense is that american officers in vietnam did try to learn about counter insurgency and did believe that the political side of the war was just as important as military side of the war.
that -- that the narrative is what max is saying that fire power a body search and destroy that's the narrative of the vietnam war but in my research that's no not what the documents say. in fact, documents say something very different. the documents say that -- military commanders understood the importance of -- of passive and revolutionary development they understood importance of nonmilitary aspect of the war give that, did not go clearly as well as they might have thought but i don't think that american commanders were that conventional in their thinking they didn't realize war in germany or what would have been a war in germany get the soviet union was somehow xeangt the same as it was in vietnam. they were smarter than that. they realized that it was a different war. and they crafted a strategy that tried to -- to the political and military environment in which they were operate oing. >> respectfully i disagree request greg here because i do
think that the u.s. army when it came into vietnam was not well prepared for counterinsurgency folks on conventional conflict in germany and adaptation that occurred certainly aft programs you can point to. but it's significant that they were called the other war. because they were considered a lesser effort to the main effort which was the search and destroy mission that free fire zone racking body count trying to achieve a crossover point where you would be killing it faster to be replaced which was an illusion that we can never possibly achieve. and so -- and so all of our -- a lot of our fire because we were killing a lot of innocent people and now i think there were some good programs. the phoenix program and cords later on especially i think got the some things right. but tragedy of vietnam is after the war, the army almost literally threw out manual and basically said we don't want to do that again and got into the iraq war and ill prepared for
counterinsurgency and army learned and marine corps. learned on fly and figured out how to do it right and saw the same thing happen wring military is once again moving away from counterinsurgency thinking that future is conventional conflict i hope that they're right because if they're wrong i suspect future u.s. soldier will not study this kind of conflict in the future. >> real quickly real quick -- here's the problem with that argument is that the war in vietnam was not stat tick, the war in 1954 to 1956 when edward was there was not the same war many 1964 and 1965 a decade later. by that time period, the the bureau head general secretary of the bureau had decide to militarize the conflict. decided that he was going to go for what he called a decisive military victory thus seconding north vietnamese regime into south vietnam. so it was both unconventional and conventional fight if by the time they take comangd and has to deal with what he calls bully
boy and termite and so -- as -- we just need to be very careful of thinking there's a space in vietnam because the enemy has a vote here as well. and he's -- taking a more conventional approach in 18964 and 1965, and u.s. military has to deal with that. >> go ahead -- go ahead. >> i have to say something for u.s. army fifth special forces group. because thar t they're the within who is practice what's called uw or unconventional war playbook comes out of the ios you create special forces which is not special operations. they're dealing in unconventional war, and that's why these very small teams of dozens of guys were called up as the answer to 9/11 to go into afghanistan. they understood they spoke arabic or russian. they understood the culture and religious morse if they were here and back into this room.
they would sit in the plidle to get us lined up in one direction fighting towards one idea. not necessarily a bullet or a bomb. and so -- that is alive and well in u.s. u.s. but i'll end with this. at the end of soldier the book one of the uw generals is walking down the pent begun he pass ascon vengessal general conventional general says, about sir you're pretty proud of what you did in afghanistan for those six weeks for everything worked out very, very well. they said well we sure were. and conventional said that's great because you're never going to get a chance to do if again. because -- there are too many cowboys. >> go ahead please sir with your question. >> thank you all for a wonderful presentation. my question -- your are comments are almost perfectly leading into it. will we ever have -- an agreed vietnam and -- in particular one that takes -- into account the international components in specifically like them or not how well the north
vietnamese fought? >> we have only a few minutes so if you would -- >> from my perspective i think the greatest trend in vietnam war historiography is seeing more and more historians work with vietnamese sources and to more and more get a vietnamese voice into the storyline so that's going to help us better understand the american war by get thing the vietnamese perspective into the history. i think that debate will last for -- for a long after we're with all here. >> hr mcmaster shows duty that ho chi minh reached out asking for aid in quest for independence of vietnam. if we had gone down senate, path would it had been a more beneficial outcome? >> in fact ho chi minh did receive a war to fight against japanese and declared a new
state in vietnam he followed rhetoric from the declaration of independence and wrote letters to truman but he was not a closet democrat he was not really bengt on emulating the united states. he, in fact, was determined to create a communist dictatorship because he was a long-term agent of the common and worked in moscow been trained in moscow. and he was basically -- just trying to reach out to the united states as a ruse to prevent us from backing the french and reference to reestablish control in china. and so -- you know i think it's a mist to suggest that he was a possible ally with the united states or a possible democrat. but he really are was a communist at which, american policymakers understood at the time. but what they didn't understand was he was a nationalist but that was as important to him as communism. whaing we didn't get was general assumption that if it took part in vietnam they would be sub and that wasn't the case all because
after the fall vietnam wound up going war against china former patron and became a independent communist country. so failure ho chi minh was not to imagine he would have been a liberal democrat but forel to imagine that he could have been independent chiewnist, in fact, what had the regime turned out to be. >> we have kind of a one short question. do you have a short question, sir? >> well, no i had -- couple of more -- one, possibility -- effect of the vietnam war was the come domino theory as far ae other countries in southeast asia. becoming communist but the communist spent so much money in vietnam that they were unable to preserve, pursue -- the other conflict and other countries. also like to -- [inaudible conversations] like to put a -- thank god, thank god for because he got us out of there.
>> thank you very much and welcome, welcome -- one last comment? very short comment? [applause] thank you all of you for coming sorry we can't get to anymore questions and thank you gentlemen for your fine words. thank you for attending the session and for your supports of the festival. don't forget to become a friend to ensure our festival remains a free event and supports important literacy programses in the community. thank you very much for coming. [silence] ... the university of arizona to take your calls. max boot, in the vietnam war as a military historian is vietnam war a unique war in american history? >> guest: is certainly the largest guerrilla war that we have ever fought so it's unusual