About Ivan W. Parkins

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Text Box: Vol.5,Issue 11
Text Box: June 1, 2012

American Political Commentary

Veritas Veneratio Virtus


I. W. Parkins

Front Page





¨ A BETTER WAR– by Lewis Sorley


¨ NIXON-republish

 Links to Articles and Items of Interest

· Mike Brownfield on “How Radical Were Wisconsin’s Reforms”

· WSJ’s James Taranto on “What’s at Stake in Wisconsin”

· Ann Coulter on “GOP whistling Past the End of America”

· WSJ Review and Outlook on “Holder’s Racial Incite”

· Dan McLaughlin on “The Harassment of Patterico”

· Brian Darling on “Law of Sea Treaty Backdoor for Cap and Trade”


Reminiscing on the 50th. Anniversary

of  the Viet Nam War 



By Ivan W. Parkins

             The fiftieth anniversary of our Vietnam commitment held, for me, a terrible and depressing irony. I welcome the belated recognition of the service and sacrifices that so many Americans had given, but I remain deeply troubled by the severely censored history of our military success and political failure in Southeast Asia.  Without honest appraisal of that failure, we are likely to continue failing—politically.

             Fifty years ago I was an active Democrat, contributing small amounts of money and work to that party, as well as my votes.  Our main international adversary was the Soviet Union.  The main threat was atomic war.  But, the Communists were not limited to that approach.  President Kennedy, soon after his inauguration had made a dramatic effort to call public attention to Communist peripheral threats in the Third World.  He took us into Vietnam and created the Green Berets as part of an effort to deal with that confrontation.

             Meanwhile, and critical to our Vietnam experience, there was in this country an emergence of rapidly growing news and higher education elites that saw traditional military elements as a competitor for the attention and resources of this nation.  Especially the less inquiring of Americans, relied upon the burgeoning and intellectually elitist social elements for a very large part of information on Vietnam.

             Early in 1968, at the time of the Vietnamese Holiday Tet, our communist enemy launched their greatest, and largely decisive, offensive.  Tet was decisive mainly in the psychological sense.  Even a major enemy commander admitted that their first reactions to the results were depressing.  But, then they read accounts published in America, and most of those described Tet as an American and South Vietnamese disaster. Leading American “Intellectuals” predicted that the end of the war was near.  General Westmoreland was pilloried for the “defeat” and soon replaced by General Abrams.  The Pentagon Papers, classified government documents relating to the war, were stolen and published by the N.Y. Times and other leading journals. And the war, in the eyes of many Americans became a hopeless quagmire.

             In fact, as careful American observers could see, and as Lewis Sorley has since set forth in his A BETTER WAR, the Abrams/Nixon approach of preparing South Vietnamese to fight for themselves instead of, mainly, trying to do the job for them succeeded in about four years at making the war mainly one between Vietnamese, with great powers outside offering instruction, weapons and finance.  By the election of 1972 some of this, especially the paucity of American casualties, was getting through to the American public.  President Nixon won reelection by what is still the largest plurality in American history.

             Unfortunately for this nation, even that popular margin did not breach the Democrat’s long lock on Congress. And, the media, including academics and other intellectuals, were heavily Democrat.  They could not afford huge victories for Nixon, Republican leadership, and South Vietnam.  Impeachment threats based upon relatively superficial, but heavily publicized, grounds soon drove President Nixon from office.  The aide that had been promised to South Vietnam was terminated by our Democrat Congress, and the Soviet Union plus China increased greatly their aid to their North Viet clients.  It took a couple of more bloody years, but our former allies were destroyed.  And, future enemies of the United States took note.  We are now trying to prove that this nation is not vulnerable, i.e. not a short-winded fighter. 

             Why can't we just forget Vietnam and pursue peace?  One reason is that the great ocean barriers to major foreign threats have shrunk with advances in travel and other technologies. Also, we now lead the world in our capacity to promote progress and orderIn the more recent past, WW I and  WW II, we did rely upon the oceans, and enter late.  Even then our poorly prepared forces paid in blood, at first, for our lack of readiness. We are now mankind's best hope for progress in the quest of freedom and security.   "Insanity" may be the least derogatory label that describes our national spending trends.


By Ivan W. Parkins

A discussion of Lewis Sorley’s book

The unexamined victories and final tragedy of America’s Last years in Viet Nam

             Lewis Sorley’s book is mainly on the Vietnam War following the 1968 Tet Offensive.

But, even that offensive was instructive to those who understood it.  Most Americans got a very slanted interpretation.  At least one high communist commander was published later commenting “we were disheartened at first,” but adding that they were much heartened by the reports in American media.  The communist expectation of help from  large defections of the city dwellers in the South did not materialize.  A major portion of the Viet Cong, who spearheaded the attacks were slaughtered by American and ARVN defenses.  The Viet Cong were never much of a factor after that.

             Sorley is a graduate of West Point and of extensive military service.  He also holds a doctorate from Johns Hopkins and is an honored military historian.  He writes from extensive access to classified files, especially the voluminous recordings of General Abrams’ papers.

             The war got better, quite steadily, as the Abrams command studied enemy tactics, including their codes, disrupted their preparations, bombed their supply lines, and ambushed their probes. Meanwhile, much attention was given to preparing villagers as self defense forces, and training increasing numbers of ARVN as a professional military.  A substantial majority of those efforts had satisfactory to excellent outcomes.

             By the early 1970s most villagers lived in peace, bridges were rebuilt, travel was safe in nearly all of South Vietnam, and rice harvests were setting new records. Meanwhile the numbers of American troops were declining rapidly.  Both General Abrams and the experienced British expert Robert Thompson thought that the war was essentially won by late 1972 or early 1973.

              The accords reached in Paris in during January 1973, but never endorsed by South Vietnam, provided for release of American prisoners, and complete removal of our ground forces.  We were to continue supplying money, major weaponry, air and naval support to the South.  Some North Vietnamese forces actually remained in the South.

             Watergate heated up shortly after the war seemed to be ending. And Congress, dominated by a Democrat majority, ignored our various pledges to the South Vietnamese with increasing haste.  Meanwhile the Soviets and Chinese ratcheted up their aide to the North.  The South Vietnamese fought valiantly and with some success at first, but in two very bloody years, they ran out of nearly everything including ammunition.

             My conclusion:

It was a great victory for Communism and, in America, for the New Democrats.  Southeast Asians would soon suffer massacres that probably equaled, and may have exceeded, the human cost of the war.

             Our military had adapted well to a different style of warfare.  Our politics provided others hostile to us, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, with new confidence.

 President Nixon

We know what happened, but do we know why?

By Ivan W. Parkins

     Nixon resigned rather than risk a bitter and nationally divisive impeachment fight, which it appeared that he would lose.  Chief among the charges pending against him was abuse of power.  And, one of the most substantial items in that charge was that he had impounded, i.e. refused to spend, about half of the funds which Congress had appropriated for Senator Muskie’s Clean Water Act.  Even the Supreme Court held against the President in that matter.

      Years later, it occurred to me that there should be new evidence re that charge.  I checked THE STATISTICAL ABSTRACT for what we actually did spend.  With Nixon out of the way, we spent just about what he had recommended. I.W.Parkins 020809







Link to the New York Times articles

By Ivan W. Parkins

Who cares!  Isn’t that episode, along with Nixon’s Presidency and the rest of the Vietnam War, dead and buried?  I think not, for two reasons.

First: I believed that the war was being mishandled and misreported by the media long before THE NEW YORK TIMES printed the papers, and those papers relate only to the war before Nixon took office.  If the unauthorized publication of those classified documents disclosed anything about America’s party politics, it related to division among Democrats.

My opening statement in a public discussion, by six faculty members, Asheville-Biltmore College (now a campus of UNC), May 30, 1967:

“Good morning!  I am happy to be here fighting the most necessary and most vital battle of the Vietnam War.


Yes, you hear me correctly, this is the vital battle.  …The real issue is whether or not Americans are politically capable of waging a cool fight, a limited war.


In Vietnam we will either prove our capacity for limited war, or we will reinforce what many people already believe to be the greatest American weakness.”

Second:  The Pentagon Papers end with the war as it was in the summer of 1968.  That was while we were doing nearly all of the fighting for the South Vietnamese, the most inept and costly part of our effort.  After President Nixon took over, and we changed our strategy to one of preparing the South Vietnamese to defend themselves, our efforts became both less costly and more promising.  That is a story well told by Lewis Sorley in his book, A BETTER WAR.

(See article to left

It appears likely to me that a major reason President Nixon won reelection in 1972, by what is still the largest popular plurality in our history, was our progress in the war.  Also, that so soon after those major military and Republican triumphs, the relatively petty Watergate issue was magnified mainly as the defense that a seriously discredited media and Democrat cabal raised against the likelihood of further major Republican successes.