Vietnam: Weighing the Perspectives
According to Taylor, the view of the Vietnam War was greatly impacted by the Anti-War movement and its politics. There were "three axioms" that were popular -- namely, that there was no real Communist threat, that the U.S. had no reason or business being there or getting involved, and that the war could never have been won in the first place because of the conditions of the situation and the character of the Vietnamese who were determined to oppose an outside force at any and all costs. For Taylor, real understanding of the war did not come for him until he stepped free of these axioms and assessed the war in a way that was more personal -- after all, he had fought in it.
Tayler describes how he weighed his options about the war and eventually decided that it was in his interest to not try to avoid it but to embrace it. He moved to Vietnam and re-examined the fight for democracy in the South and finally remembered that the war on their behalf was a noble one. He once again believed that America had been on the good side and that the disaffected and disheartened, those who protested and viewed the war from the Anti-war perspective failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation -- that America was attempting to stop a real Communist threat from spreading.
According to Buzzanco, this view of the war is incorrect because it portrays America as the good guys when in reality the U.S. was the threat: it represented imperialistic ambitions and pretensions and it was about exercising its influence in parts of the world where it had no legitimate business being. Buzzanco notes that most scholars view Kennedy as a dove when it came to Vietnam and that, had he not been murdered, he would have pulled troops out of Indochina rather than escalated the situation as Johnson did when he came to office. Buzzanco's view is that Kennedy was not ignorant about Vietnam but that he was sensitive to America's image in the light of Cuba. He did not want to escalate situations. His view of Taylor is that Taylor is viewing the Vietnam War from an...
would not have been "weak" for not trying to undermine these efforts but would rather have been respectful and intelligent. Buzzanco notes that the U.S. has a history of acting like a bully and thug in a other countries where it tries to exert influence and ends up supporting murderous regimes around the world all the time. This is not a sign of moral strength according to Buzzanco but rather of moral weakness and sickness.
Each author's politics influences their understanding of the U.S. role in Vietnam to a large degree. Taylor's politics are pro-U.S. and steeped in patriotism and nationalism. He wants to view the U.S. as a liberator, fighting the good fight on the behalf of weaker individuals around the world -- except that liberals and anti-war people get in the way and make the U.S. feel bad about doing what is right because people lose their lives in the course of defending others. Buzzanco's politics inform him to the degree that he views Taylor as being naive: Buzzanco does not see the U.S. as the defender of liberty and democracy but rather as its foe: he sees the U.S. intervening in other countries and choosing sides (choosing the side that will benefit itself ultimately) to the detriment of real persons in the country it is invading, who oppose outside intervention. For Buzzanco, Taylor buys into the propaganda that the U.S. is the good guy. Buzzanco views the U.S. as an instigator and an imperial threat to others.
The only way to disentangle the political view from the arguments is to be as objective as possible about the history and the facts of the case. When the facts are assessed and the history understood, it becomes very complicated in terms of defining "good…
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