Monday, December 06, 2010

Thoughts after class today, in no particular order:

The lecture I attended today focused on how America and Americans dealt with the Vietnam conflict.  A vast topic that unfortunately was limited by time to one lecture.  I'm going to attempt to put down some thoughts (hopefully I can write a more cohesive article soon for HYR).

  • I was born in 1977 and in a certain respect grew up during the time period when America was trying to come to grips with Vietnam; politically, socially, and culturally.  What's interesting is being able to look back and recognize moments in my early years that, at the time, I had no idea what was going on or if I did I was too young to understand the significance of events.  Some of the important series of events for me were 
    • The bring 'em home movies of the early/mid 1980s - Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Missing in Action (1984), 
    • Vietnam vets are nutcases movies, Lethal Weapon (1987), Blind Fury (1989), 
    • Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy
    • the building of the Vietnam Memorial (1982)
    • POW/MIA bumper stickers and flags
    • Tour of Duty (1987-1990)
    • an Uncle telling me about his experiences in Vietnam
    • the first time I saw Apocalypse Now
    • Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    • Stanley Karnow's PBS Vietnam series
    • 'Nam - the comic book
    • The CIA is evil movies
    • Air America (1990)
    • growing up with Dad and Grandpa being military history nuts and movie nuts
    • the collapse of the Soviet Union
  • I realize that most of those influences are from Hollywood or TV but then again I think that's the way it was for a lot of my generation (and the generations that follow and maybe Americans in general).  However, Vietnam is shifting into ancient history.  Hell it seems to me that people think anything pre-9/11 is ancient history.
  • In the last decade I have read a fair amount and watched more than a fair amount of documentaries about the Vietnam conflict, Vietnamese culture, and want to learn more about the country's history of invasion and how it dealt with invaders.  That might be key to helping me understand the nature of the conflict and why America was doomed from the start in Indochina.
    • The armchair historian that I will forever be strongly believes that if the United States had supported Ho Chi Minh in 1945 (hell another example of the US training and supplying insurgent forces - in this case by the OSS to combat the Japanese and Vichy in Indochina - and then discarding them  when they were no longer useful and then suffering the consequences) and been able to keep Charles de Gaulle's lunacy in check then the United States could have - in theory - created a bastion of pro-US support in the region.  Thus doing so could have prevented decades of needless chaos and bloodshed (not only in Vietnam but Laos, Cambodia, and Burma).  
      • In January 1944, in a memo to Sec. of State Cordell Hull, FDR wrote "The case of Indo-China is perfectly clear,  France has milked it for one hundred years.  The people of Indo-China are entitled to something better than that."  The Vietnam Declaration of Independence written by Ho Chi Minh (September 1945) cites and extols the virtues of our own United States Constitution.  How different things could have been.
  • Conspiracy theory time!
    • Did JFK step up American involvement in Vietnam because he was Catholic...as was Ngo Dinh Diem?!?  Dun dun dun!  Where's Glenn Beck and his chalk board when we need them?
I think that there might be some coherent points in there some where, though as to which and where I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll just write a massive tome about the history of Quang Ngai province or if I wanted to be a real egghead - the historiography of the Indochina conflicts...but that's probably been done.

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