I'm still reading Richard Nixon's No More Vietnams, but I have made it through the chapter on how we became involved in the war. I find a few of his points interesting.
President Nixon believes that, had we committed a small number of troops to help the French at Dien Bien Phu we could have defeated the Viet Minh. President Eisenhower was unwilling to commit troops to the effort without a coalition of European forces, specifically looking to the British. Churchill, however, was unwilling to commit forces to preseve French colonialism at a time they were busily dismantling their own. President Eisenhower, likewise, did not wish to appear to be a supporter of colonialism. President Nixon, however, believes that, while our support would have propped up French colonialism for the short-term, Indochinese independence was inevitable, and that our support would have given us leverage to press the French towards that goal.
He says our primary military failure in the war was failing to treat it as an invasion, rather than an insurgency. He believes that, had we extended the DMZ to the Mekong River, we could have stopped the flow of men and supplies from the North.
He faults President Kennedy for his support of the coup against, and assassination of, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. He faults the complicity of the U.S. press in flooding the press with anti-Diem propaganda, which led to President Kennedy's withdrawal of support, and eventual betrayal of, President Diem. He does not accuse Kennedy of actually ordering the assassination, but he does point out that Diem was killed with U.S. Weapons, in the back of a U.S. armored personnel carrier, after being offered security by the U.S. forces to which he surrendered. Pretty damning, IMHO. The leadership vacuum left by Diem's demise hampered our efforts to unify the South Vietnamese. Ho Chi Minh was reported to have said, regarding assassination of Diem, that the United States had accomplished something they had tried and failed to do for nine years. Diem may have been a flawed leader, but he was a strong nationalist and a unifying presence.
President Kennedy was assassinated shortly after Diem, thrusting President Johnson into leadership. President Johnson, as we all know, sought to ease us gradually into the war, fighting the war, as President Nixon puts it, not to win, bur merely not to lose. He was concerned that he couldn't defeat communism and win support for his 'Great Society' legislation, and his priorty was the with the legislation.
I was not familiar with the events prior to President Johnson's involvement. Most history's of the Vietnam war begin with the Johnson administration. Some link the events of the French War, referring to them as the 'first Vietnam war'. President Nixon regards it as a single conflict, beginning with the end of Japanese occupation during World War II, and ending with the fall of Saigon after the Congress (for whom he has no kind words) forced him to abandon our support for our long-time allies in the struggle against the spread of Communism.
Quod scripsi, scripsi.