The Myths of Vietnam

analytical Essay
5545 words
5545 words

Contending versions of the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement began to develop even before the war ended. The hawks' version, then and now, holds that the war was winnable, but the press, micromanaging civilian game theorists in the Pentagon, and antiwar hippies lost it. . . . The doves' version, contrarily, remains that the war was unwise and unwinnable no matter what strategy was employed or how much firepower was used. . . Both of these versions of the war and the antiwar movement as they have come down to us are better termed myths than versions of history because they function less as explanations of reality than as new justifications of old positions and the emotional investments that attended them (Garfinkle, 7).

Pro-war or Anti- war. In the generation alive during the 1960s and 1970s, few, if any, Americans could avoid taking a position on the United States' role in Southeast Asia. As the above quotation from Adam Garfinkle suggests, positions taken in the 1990s, over twenty years after hostilities ended, serve both as an explanation for the U.S. defeat and justification for the positions taken during the war. The hawks' view justifies those who served in Vietnam and appears to give meaning to the deaths of the 58,000 Americans who died there. Those who protested the war or evaded the draft can tell themselves that their actions were justified because the war was immoral, unwinnable and just plain stupid.

American combat involvement ended in 1973. Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975. Even though the U.S. military forces pulled out of Vietnam 25 years ago, the United States continues to be haunted by the specter of Vietnam. Even the most cursory review of the 1980s and 1990s reveals shadows of Vietnam. A ...

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...Robert S with Brian VanDeMark. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. Vintage Books Edition published by Vintage Books, New York, 1996. Original hardcover edition published by Times Books, New York, 1995.

Wilcox, Fred A. Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange. Cabin John, MD: Seven Locks Press, 1989.

Zumwalt, E. R., Jr. "Report to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs on the Association Between Adverse Health Effects and Exposure to Agent Orange." May 5, 1990. The edition used for this paper was published as an addendum to Admiral Zumwalt's testimony before the House Science Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, December, 13, 1995. Statement and addendum published by the Federal Information Systems Corporation Federal News Service and accessed through the LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe computer database.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that the military leadership in vietnam was equally incompetent and ignorant of the history and true nature of their situation.
  • Analyzes how garfinkle argues that the war was lost because the american ship of state had lost its bearings.
  • Analyzes the third myth concerning the fate of the mia/pows in vietnam.
  • Argues that richard nixon changed the definition of "missing in action" and the rules of war to generate domestic support for his war policy.
  • Argues that government intransigence in the agent orange issue breeds a distrust of authority.
  • Opines that the answer to the agent orange and gulf war controversies lies in the mechanism that allows the myths to grow, an open society.
  • Explains garfinkle, adam's telltale hearts: the origins and impact of the vietnam antiwar movement.
  • Opines that myths must contain a kernel of truth, especially in the first myth, that of the micromanaging, meddling civilians from the pentagon.
  • Explains that the vietnam war and the antiwar movement are better termed myths than versions of history because they function less as explanations of reality than as new justifications for old positions.
  • Analyzes the four "myths" of the post-war controversy over vietnam, including the "rambo" myth, which claims that american prisoners of war were kept in captivity in southeast asia.
  • Analyzes how mcnamara's argument for civilian control of the military is based on the failure of coordination between diplomacy and military action in 1968.
  • Argues that the anti-war movement was a fringe hysteria with no real political power.
  • Analyzes how the anti-war movement divided the american people over the nature of government. the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s is still influencing american society and politics as the u.s. closes out the 1990s.
  • Analyzes how nixon used the pows as hostages to convince the american people to back continued escalation of hostilities.
  • Analyzes how fred wilcox's book, waiting for an army to die, discusses the fate of those who thought they survived 'nam only to come home and suffer bizarre health problems.
  • Analyzes the myths that focus on americans and ignore the vietnamese. the first myth dealt with the american management of the war, ignoring the vietnam governments and military forces.
  • Explains how the edition used for this paper was published as an addendum to admiral zumwalt's testimony before the house science committee

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