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Volume 7, Issue 5

April 8, 2014

Note: The following series of articles are a re-post from 2008.  They are still relevant to current issues and are being  re-posted here.– Editor

Lewis Sorely is an Army officer who spent much time with our top general in Vietnam and has a doctorate from Johns Hopkins and has done history of Vietnam after the Tet Offensive. I have written about this in recent years and I think this might be a good time to show the American public the fantasies of highly educated Democrats (re. our late years in Vietnam). April 2014-I.W. Parkins


Politics and Military Power “Part One”

The following series of articles are my commentaries over the last forty years regarding the political use of military power .


A key part of America’s culture war has been the attack of intellectuals upon the military establishment.  That attack climaxed in the 1970’s with Congress’ abandonment of our South Vietnamese allies, and resulted in our greatest national defeat.   

With the aid of an increasingly centralized and intellectually influenced mass media, an articulate minority of Americans was able to reduce popular support for our military in Vietnam, and in the Cold War.  The historical facts that major communist regimes had killed several times more of the people under their jurisdiction than they had killed of their foreign enemies did not prevent America’s new elite from suggesting that we would be better off “Red” than dead.  Inconvenient books, i.e. those difficult to reconcile with the elitist viewpoint (THE NEW AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH, AMERICA IN VIETNAM, THE BIG STORY, AFTER LONG SILENCE, THE HAUNTED WOOD, and others), often got the silent treatment.  Few journalists, academics, or librarians helped American to discover them.

Regarding statistical facts that have recently come to light, most Americans remain unaware that Cambodian records of the enemy’s use of that country, North Vietnamese reports of their own losses in combat with us, etc. demonstrate that our military erred on the side of caution rather than of excess in its reports of such figures.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union has come plentiful evidence that the threat, which it had posed to us, had rarely, if ever, been exaggerated.  I.W. Parkins 2005



Or How Communists used Politics to Trump Military Power

By Ivan W. Parkins


    Most descriptions of America’s recent foreign wars as being “imperialist” are better indications of the emotional state of those who make them than they are either informative or logical accounts of our actions.

    The basic pattern for our Cold War effort was George Kennan’s proposed containment of Soviet/Communist expansion.  It was our, mainly peaceful, response to a very dangerous threat, hence Cold war. The NATO Treaty was our commitment to defend the democracies of Western Europe. It was our most explicit, but not our only, such pledge. For instance, to Southeast Asians we promised less specific support for freedom, SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization) .  But, what did that mean?

     The Soviets, having lost nearly 75 times as many people as we did in WWII, were not really anxious for another blood-letting.  However, aiding communist movements, often in the guise of anti-colonialism or other self government, was an acceptable alternative.  There was Korea.  And I remember well, in 1962, buying heavy plywood, ready to eat foods, and making other preparations of our small home near Jacksonville for a possible missile strike on that city.

     Upon entering the Presidency, John Kennedy had made a second state of the nation address soon after some warnings in the first.  In it he emphasized the multiple threats from communist movements in the Third World.  He created the Green Berets and strengthened our small mission in South Vietnam.

     The Vietnam War remains, in many respects, a key to understanding domestic dissention regarding our military role since WWII, at least until 9/11.  It is too easy today to forget how severe the communist threat was in the Third World prior to the Soviet Union’s collapse.  Too easy, also, to forget that we had a SEATO agreement and John Kennedy’s initiative to guide us.  Unfortunately, critics of our Vietnam effort, powerful in the media, have done little to make such factors parts of public memory.

     In 1972, President Nixon was reelected by the largest popular plurality in American history, partly because he seemed to be fulfilling his promise to bring the Vietnam War to an honorable conclusion.  And, in spite of extensive media propaganda to the contrary, he seemed to be doing just that.  Our ground forces were mostly withdrawn, our financial outlays were declining, and the enemy was making little if any gain against the South Vietnamese.

      Then, Congress halted our air support, cut our financial aide to the South Vietnamese in half on three successive years (i.e. to one-eighth of what it had been) and forced President Nixon from office.

     We were not defeated in Vietnam!  We were defeated in Washington, New York, and on university campuses.  The communists proved one of their favorite points; politics trumps military power. I.W.Parkins 113008


By Ivan W. Parkins


     I have borrowed (above) the title of Gary J. Bass’ book; the subtitle is ”The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention.”  Bass contends “All of the major themes of today’s heated debates about humanitarian intervention—about sovereignty or supporting universal human rights. . . or veiled imperialistic motivations—were voiced loud and clear throughout the nineteenth century.”  And, he cites examples that make much of our recent comment sound old.


      Even in the 1800s, Bass says, the press played a large part in public attention, and the extent or absence of press notice made a major difference in what atrocities led to great power interferences or remained virtual secretes.  Rulers and their top aides were often moved by popular protests.


     One item that may surprise most readers today is that during the Greek Revolution (1820s) some Christians, as well as some Muslims, sold their captives into slavery.


      Among things new to me were details of a major and decisive naval battle, a key to Greek independence that I cannot recall hearing about previously.  Many critics described Navarino at the time as a massacre, even though the Turkish and Egyptian forces included more ships, more guns, and more men than the British, French, and Russian squadrons.  Furthermore, the Ottoman’s had chosen the place of battle.


     Throughout, Bass offers a detailed and documented account of personal roles and events without excessive judgmental comments.  His major conclusions are:


          “First, humanitarianism and imperialism should not be casually blurred

            together. . . .

          “Second, humanitarian intervention is possible even in a world where U.S.                                                                          and European security are not absolutely assured. . . .

          “Third, and finally, humanitarian intervention can be part of a wider grand   strategy of free republics.”


      The goal, Bass says “should be the gradual spread of human rights—not for domination, but for a better kind of self-governance.”  I.W.Parkins 120108


Letter to the Editor, Detroit Free Press, 06/29/69, Detroit, Michigan


             Two key dovish contentions are difficult to reconcile with the President’s hopeful plan of withdrawal.  The first is that we are in Vietnam to satisfy some irrational anti-communist tendency, which afflicts the more provincial of American leaders and public.  The second is that the South Vietnamese consist of Vietcong sympathizers on the one side and apathetic peasants led by greedy incompetents on the other.

             From the perspective of official statements on the purpose and progress of the war, President Nixon’s hopes of withdrawal seem reasonable.  This presumes that we are in Vietnam to help the South Vietnamese choose their own future and that the present government of South Vietnam, for all of its imperfections, is more popular and effective than predecessors and alternatives. It also suggests that, militarily, the war is going well for us.  The doves, because of the positions, which they have taken on American motivation and South Vietnamese competence, cannot conceive of withdrawal unless there is a coalition government or some other American defeat.

             An American success, i.e. withdrawal leaving a viable and friendly regime in South Vietnam, would seriously damage the intellectual and moral standings of American doves.



This is a reprint of a Column, in The Ridgerunner, Asheville, North Carolina, 2/14/66

By Ivan W. Parkins

             Most explanations of the war in Vietnam seem unconvincing.  Our Government’s policies there are assailed by spokesmen of both the Left and the Right.  On the Left are those who cannot believe that the Communists are reluctant to negotiate a settlement.  They seem to doubt that the Communists have sufficient reason for continuing such a bloody and awkward struggle.  On the right are those who cannot accept President Johnson’s limitation of the war and his willingness to see it end on nearly any terms, which will leave South Vietnam free of communist domination.  Why are the Communists reluctant to settle?  What would we gain from a negotiated peace at this time?  I suggest that the answer to these questions lies not in any obtuseness on the part of either the communist governments or our own.  The answer lays in the obscure, but vital interest, which major powers have at stake in Vietnam.

Placed in the context of the entire Cold War, and examined carefully, the struggle in Vietnam becomes meaningful.  It is, in fact, a crucial test of what may be the Communists’ best instrument of power.  Hence, it is also a test of our ability to stem the main force of communist expansion.  It is entirely possible that this limited war in Vietnam may some day be regarded as the climactic confrontation of the Cold War.

The communist drive for predominance in the world has been characterized by reliance upon four major instruments of power: the ability of communism to persuade and subvert, the capacity of the Soviet Union to arm for a major war, and the development of communist technology are three instruments which have been carefully tried, and found to be useful, but inadequate.  Only the fourth instrument remains as a likely source of communist advantage.  And it is that fourth instrument which is being tested in Vietnam.

Guerrilla warfare, carried on as part of national revolutionary movements, provides the chief hope for the communists.  It is the means by which most communist regimes have come to power.  It is the means by which France was humbled in Vietnam and the United States harassed in Cuba.  Even allowing for failures in the Philippines, Malaya and the Congo, it is not difficult to see why the Communists would pin their hopes on guerrilla warfare.

Communism’s greatest living figure, Mae Tze Tung, is an authority on guerrilla methods.  Because the methods include a certain ideological outlook, we “imperialists” cannot adopt them.  Because the methods of fighting hit and run, our conventional forces cannot defeat them.  With a little care in preparation and timing, guerrilla warfare can be used to defeat us in nearly every corner of the globe.  Such is the communist belief.  And this belief is what is being tested in Vietnam.  This is why the Communists are so reluctant to negotiate a settlement, and why we can afford to make one on terms which do nothing more than to preserve South Vietnam.

If communist supported guerrillas should now fail, on the site of one of their greatest victories, and on the doorstep of China, who could be persuaded to relay upon communist help again?  In a world where the United States had numerous successful veterans of guerrilla war, on what instrument could Communists pin their hopes?