Ken Burns’s Vietnam, Part 3

Ken Burns presents the US escalation of involvement in Vietnam as a couple living together: committed to remain uncommitted. As is the norm, whomever goes all in wins. Maybe VMI’s football team could learn a thing or two from that. Maybe? But I digress. Burns presents the theme of commitment in three acts: political empowerment, the operational arts, and mobilization.

Act 1 opens with Burns telling of Le Duan’s seizure of power away from Ho Chi Minh and the subsequent consolidation of that power the Moscow Playbook of Purges. The North Vietnamese Politburo met in November 1963 and voted in favor of Le Duan. This gives Burns a reason to excuse Uncle Ho from further responsibility for the war. Ho’s allies were purged and Le Duan committed North Vietnam to active if not formally declared warfare in the south.

Burns starts his contrasting illustration using LBJ as an almost-sympathetic figure, an inheritor to a meandering mess, and pushed by the provocation of Le Duan and Barry Goldwater (because aren’t Republicans responsible for everything?). Le Duan committed. Johnson would not.

Act 2 continues the Little Lost LBJ meme through the absence of the operational level of war on the part of the RVN and US. There was a strategy – stopping communism and creating an environment that allowed for the Far East to stabilize and restore itself after WWII and the Korean War. There were tactics emphasizing mobility and firepower. There was nothing in between – no invasion of North Vietnam, no indirect approach to stretch the North’s resources to breaking. Perhaps the presence of 320,000 Chinese PLA soldiers performing support duties in the North caused Johnson and the JCS to blink.

The North had an operational-level plan and carried it out, with allies in the US, USSR and China. The Anti-war Movement was a cheap investment that paid huge dividends, and having spawned today’s Antifa, continues to return on the investment. For the American people and their military, the absence of a larger vision meant Vietnam was about patrols, in combat, with casualties broadcast during the evening’s supper – young men resembling meatloaf to watch with leftovers.

Other evidence of commitment was the mobilization of civilians to maintain and act as porters on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The USSR and Communist China committed men and materiel to prop up North Vietnam so more men and women could be sent into combat with the single tactic of attrition – and the North refused to count the cost. The US responded with first 3 battalions of Marines. Then 2 more. Then Army units. Then a request for 200,000 troops while still maintaining a presence in West Germany, Korea, and across the globe.

Some questions that Burns doesn’t ask:

Had LBJ not had to focus on Vietnam, could he have effectively ended Jim Crow without the pain and creation of abiding anger? Could his Great Society actually have achieved at least 1 positive thing?

Where did the Anti-war (now Anti-fa) come from? Why did they only protest wars and incidents in which the USSR had a vested interest?

Marshall, Ike, Nimitz and MacArthur were gone, so whom among their lieutenants – the Vietnam-era generals and admirals gave a thought to the operational arts?

Communist China would have had to react just like it did in Korea had the US decided to reunify Vietnam as a one, pro-democracy country. Could China and the USSR afford to react, or would they have folded from the increasing internal contradictions that make up communism?

Would a similar anti-war movement in the USSR and China have caused them to restrict support?

Does a new, pet theory of war – in this case JFK’s belief in limited, guerilla warfare obligate the officers of our armed Services, and the diplomats and spies, to forget how to prosecute warfare at the strategic, operational and tactical levels of war? To integrate, synchronize, and to go all in?

Has Anti-fa and the Progressives ever actually studied the Moscow Playbook? I know that means being exposed to real history, not Zinn’s horsesh*t. It never ends well for those committed to the ideals of the resistance/revolution.

Posted in Elements of National Power, History, Insurgency & Counterinsurgency, Leadership | 1 Comment

Ken Burns’s Vietnam, Part 2

Part 2 could well be titled “A Tale of 5 Leaders” as Burns compares the effects of the different styles of leadership on the combatants. Uncle Ho and John Paul Vann as usual get a pass, while Kennedy and General Paul D. Harkins get the post-revisionism treatment. Burns’s telling of South Vietnamese president Diem and the command climate he created reminded me of Hamid Karzai and his American advisors – absolutely determined to lose a sure thing, and loot the American treasury along the way.

The best way to describe Diem was he was Uncle Ho’s less able philosophical twin. Like Uncle Ho, Diem never married, and marked his interpersonal relationships with a toxic combination of suspicion, gaslighting, and contempt for the Vietnamese. The effects of this created a command climate that destroyed the integrity and competence of the South Vietnamese government and army.

While Uncle Ho carefully crafted his public persona to be a kindly, very wise patriarch, Diem was in charge by Divine Right and went out of his way to make war on his own people. If Kennedy wanted to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese, Diem wanted their balls on his mantle.

Kennedy got the Camelot treatment much like Uncle Ho, but after the appropriation of Camelot by the Clintons, Kennedy received a vicious revision of his legacy. Honesty is the best policy, but Burns overlooked some larger questions to protect Kennedy.

What was Kennedy’s goal, or goals, and why did he change the American way of war in such as way as to disconnect command from control from combat?

Kennedy, like Giap, shifted the American way of war from what we consider “conventional” Desert Storm-like warfare to guerilla war coupled with sound societal measures. The Marine Corps AND the Peace Corps. Kennedy promoted the Special Forces, a practice revived by Donald Rumsfeld. The Peace Corps went in to assist the civilian population. The theory was sound and effective given the amount of resources expended by the communists to destroy the artifacts and effects of the Peace Corps in the countryside. Like Afghanistan, there wasn’t much coordination between the military and civilians fighting both Diem and Uncle Ho.

That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of General Paul D. Harkins, CG of Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). Harkins distinguished himself as Patton’s Ops genius, keeping Third Army moving, and as Commandant of Cadets during a major cheating scandal (90 cadets were dismissed). As CG of MACV, Harkins is presented as an ostrich dressed in a target thoroughly detached from reality and deceptive. What isn’t asked is ‘what is the mission of MACV?’ Was it to keep the South Vietnamese fighting the communists in such a way as to pull resources from Communist China and the USSR, or to develop a westernized conventional military? In both cases Harkins succeeded. If MACV’s mission was to win the war, Harkins failed.

Who never fails is Sam Cooke. Enjoy!

Posted in History, Leadership, Strategy | 4 Comments

Vietnam by Ken Burns: a Review of Part 1

There’s a saying: “[w]henever text taken out of context there is a pretext.” In Part I of Ken Burns’s documentary on Vietnam, the text – what was presented to you – left out context. So, what is the pretext? I’m still considering the presentation, the facts, and the editorial view of Burns and how these came together to form the story.

Ken Burns and his company made a technically excellent film. You won’t get any argument from me on that score. Speaking of scores, the music was perhaps the most honest aspect of Part I. A hard, hard rain coming down indeed! The use of parallels – to compare the combat between the Vietnamese and the French, then the Vietnamese and the Americans provide a text of brutality, hatred, and trauma. This comparison sets the pretext of tying Americans, and the larger questions of ‘what is good,’ ‘what is honor,’ and integrity in matching deed to words to intrinsic evils illustrated in 19th Century colonialism: racism, ethnocentrism, and the savagery of enforcing rule.

Burns does present the view that the Vietnamese were no angels when it came to savagery, but this doesn’t balance the scales. There is context missing. Uncle Ho carried out the early stages of the revolution straight out of Moscow’s textbook. He kept his public image above the fray, leaving his two lieutenants, General Giap and Le Duan, to ruthlessly purge the revolution of everyone less than 110% committed, and enact brutal strategies modeled on Russia, the Warsaw Pact countries and Russia’s client states, China, and North Korea.

Burns continues the old trope of “Uncle Ho is as American as Apple Pie” through repeated associations with Progressive idols Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and JFK. Uncle Ho’s inclusion of Jefferson’s words from the Declaration of Independence were hailed by Burns as proof of Ho Chi Minh’s benevolence. The absence of context is noted in questions:

1. If General Giap and Le Duan were as ruthless as claimed, how did Ho Chi Minh escape purging since he was 1) Americanized; 2) western (meaning European in philosophy); and, 3) not violent in and of himself?

2. If the Russians believed Ho Chi Minh was more nationalist than communist, why did they let him live?

Burns doesn’t ask that question in Part I. There are more questions left unasked. With that, I leave you with this review by Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Sang who asks:

To me, in order to determine who won and who lost the war, one needs to answer three fundamental questions: (1) what was the goals of the involved parties. (2) What price did they have to pay? (3) The overall assessment of the war.

Finally, some context. But not from Ken Burns.

Posted in History, Strategy | 1 Comment

Friday Techday: a Game of Clouds

Most of you have heard about the latest outrageous computer hack – this time of Equifax. There is no database system that can’t be hacked, either from the inside or the outside. Information Security is a misnomer since no data can be secure once it is joined to a network. This, and the increasing trend of “Cloud” which is paying someone you don’t know to hold onto your data in some place that may or may not be in the US of A, creates a velvet revolution against your liberty.

One aspect is the increase in access by implacable actors. If your data and information is stored on a system with an antenna, it can be hacked. How? Using the fairly benign capabilities that you use to update your system, receive and send messages and phone calls – you can do it, and the vendors do it without your knowing.

Under the cloak of being good, evil occurs. Tesla responded to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma by remotely extending the life of the battery, and therefore driving range so folk could escape the zones of destruction.

If they can do that, what else can they do?

If they can do it, who else can?

But remote updates are Good, therefore DoD is going forward with remote updates to the F-35. If DoD can send an update, what’s to stop a malevolent force?

Then there’s the capture of 66% of America’s defenses. First the Intelligence Community, now DoD. Only State escaped, but not to worry, since Hillary’s felonious efforts to escape American scrutiny delivered State into Putin’s hands. Given Manning, now a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Snowden of Moscow we are the most transparent government in history. That your data was exposed and then sold is of no matter to them since you lack their virtue and superior ethics.

Jeff Bezos now possesses capabilities far beyond Trump. He owns the shooting part of our defenses, if not the nukes yet. He’s got the spies. And a world class logistics operation that reaches to all levels of our own and the globe’s economies. And his own communications medium (the WaPo is one giant advert for Amazon), and his own NASA. His personal wealth is greater than most states, and most countries. We’ve reached a stage last seen before America existed – individuals who are nations unto themselves. Can they be trusted to be Stark or Lannister? Is it worth your liberty?

Posted in Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Aviation, Cyberwar | 2 Comments

Change in 16 Years

Lt. Col. P requested status on America on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The status is not good. Opportunism and Evil became a virtue while Patriotism became the worst vice.

The hippies and draft dodgers of the Vietnam era sang paeans of hallelujah to the Muslim jihadists, seeing in them the Viet Cong, and Osama bin Laden as Uncle Ho. The hippies-Jihadists control the Academy, and indoctrinate instead of educate. We patriots can probably walk along the sidewalks of VMI without being accosted for being The Other, but for how long?

The “News” has become thoroughly divorced from reality. And people are tuning out in record numbers. The situation is becoming one where policy makers and law enforcers listen to information that is carefully filtered, altered, and biased while citizens and others exist in reality that nowhere approximates what Journalists are reporting. This is being extended to shoring up aspects of culture that have long been excluded.

And we have long recognized that our government is at war with both the citizens and itself. I’m no fan of the CIA. I know they play the long game. I know they have to do things and let things happen as part of the game. And I know that when one is too long into the game, one becomes a devil to the point where even James Jesus Angleton is a saint. Soon after 9/11, the majority of the hijackers were discovered to be Saudi Arabians. And soon after 9/11, the American government knew the Saudi government provided significant operational assistance.

Each of these areas: learning, reporting, governing form part of the structure of society in America. Joined with economy and finance, and self-restraint and you’ve got society. Learning is controlled by America’s enemies. Reporting is done by Alice’s friend the Mad Hatter. Governing is being a shark in a chum pool. The economy is in effect socialist (try taking away government funds from any business, and that business immediately prostrates itself and accepts every rule from government workers who couldn’t fry a french fry) with no upward mobility for non-Ivy Leaguers and Trustafarians . Self-restraint? In the era of posting your deepest feelings on your supper on social media and dating-by-exposing-yourself?

Science has been replaced with faith, reinforced with large-scale purges of actual scientists. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have been blamed on man-made global warming, and deniers are to be treated as murderers. Having followed the reporting on the hurricanes, the models were way off. The anti-human Global Warmist Faithful are assured we will all die if a bug farts in the Amazon, but can’t tell which way the wind is blowing. Consider this: the Pope is actively discussing a change to Catholic doctrine on including Catholics who were divorced — not annulled — and remarried into the sacrament of the Eucharist, But to deny the tenets of faith in Global Warming is to be treated as a murderer. A faith so strong no neuron is sacrificed in thought. God may well wish He were so loved.

So, 16 years on, America is ignorant, fantasist, preyed upon from within and without, economically stagnant, and largely unconstrained unless one is not to the left of Black Lives Matter. Then it’s die Motherf*cker die as battalions of antifa attack everyone and cops just stand idly by. But one can still post nudes. Not here though, Mrs. Townie will get upset. That’s the status Colonel. That’s the world VMI will draw its future alumni from.

Posted in Chaos, Insurgency & Counterinsurgency | 1 Comment

RTD: “VMI leaders say military college will keep Confederate statues”

That stalwart, DRM89, sent in this fine piece of defiant good news:

“Leaders of Virginia Military Institute said Tuesday that the school will keep its Confederate statues and consider adding more historical context in the aftermath of last month’s violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.”

You need to read past the politically correct blah-blah-blah-Ginger fluff to get the facts. But the facts are there.

Posted in History, VMI | 1 Comment

9/11 2017

16 years on. Where do we stand?

Never forget.

And never forget Benghazi, either.


(Help received: UK Daily Express.)

Posted in History, The Long War | 10 Comments