Thirty years ago today, two years or so after the United States essentially cut its losses after 58,000 dead and widespread discontent at home, the Republic of South Vietnam fell as the North Vietnamese conquered Saigon. The most vivid memory for me of this day is the picture of a helicopter evacuating the last staff from the roof of the U.S. embassy as scores of Vietnamese clambered in vain to reach the helicopter.
The United States 'lost' in Vietnam because we quit. It's interesting to note that the mainstream media as we know it today came of age during the latter stages of the Vietnam War. The biased, occasionally near treasonous, reporting of the MSM played a huge part in the disenchantment of the American public with the war. The MSM's reporting of the Tet Offensive, the Vietcong led uprising over the Lunar New Year in 1968, is particularly instructive. Tactically it was an unmitigated disaster for the Vietcong gutting its ranks (usefully for Hanoi as it enabled the North Vietnamese to more effectively 'run' the Vietcong in the years to come) but thanks to extraordinarily one-sided reporting the American public was convinced that Vietnam was no longer winnable and we were just helping a bunch of thugs.
How many of you remember the photo of an ARVN (Army of the Republic of South Vietnam) officer in plainclothes executing a North Vietnamese operative in the middle of the uprising? Absolutely justified -- the operative was in plainclothes as well in a combat setting. However Americans 'saw' only a brutal execution without the appropriate caption.
Thanks in large part to the increasingly powerful MSM and the rants of the newly powerful Left, exemplified by the execrable John Kerry, the United States retreated shamefully and abandoned our friends - who were no saints but were infinitely preferable to the Communists - and helped create a ruthless dictatorship that spawned among other things thousands of boat people who were willing to cross dangerous seas in rafts than face the depredations of Ho Chi Minh's victors. Indeed one might also remember the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia also as an effect of the U.S. throwing in the towel.
When the Monk and I were in high school, any American military presence abroad, notably El Salvador, was jeered: "It's going to be ANOTHER Vietnam." A scant ten years later, the doctrine of containment was proven right as the Soviet Union tottered and disintegrated with the vast bulk of its satellites cutting ties and looking West, including, as it turns out, Vietnam.
In the end, a generation later our mistake seems to have been set right except for the generation of South Vietnamese - our friends and allies - who were persecuted, murdered and driven out. The final aching part of this is the subsequent admissions by North Vietnamese generals that they could not have beaten us or the South had we not quit.