Am reading this book at the moment, as you can see from the sidebar, about the Vietnam War. The basic premise is simple – get a load of the old protagonists together, those responsible for the war rather than the foot soldiers, and get them to chinwag like that should have done 50 years ago and find out if they missed any opportunities to not have a war.
When I started reading this book I thought this was a fascinating premise and got into the book, but on reflection I think they are, to a greater or lesser extent, a bunch of fools. It’s easy not to have a war, you just don’t fight. When you’ve started you just say stop. I don’t know if I’m being too simplistic here, though I think I probably am, but surely it is easier not to have a war than it is to have one, especially if the two protagonists are separated by 5000 miles of ocean.
However the main current of the book is that the knowledge of each side about the other was, essentially, non-existent, and their ability to communicate with each other wasn’t a great deal better. If they’re going to talk about missing opportunities I feel it would be better to do it with wars that are yet possibly not to happen, such as the bellicose rantings of the US against, for example, Iran, rather than an opportunity that has been missed already, as in Vietnam. But perhaps that’s the point and that we should learn from our mistakes – if so I hope someone gives George Bush a copy of this book before it’s all too late.
Interestingly, in the Vietnam War, so the book says, the ‘intelligence’ community apparently were the ones to get it right, by basically saying, from a very early point, that the US was never going to win the war, not even close, their military strategies were doomed to failure and that they were fighting a completely different war than they thought they were. But the military were blind and deaf to this and kept shouting at various presidents to increase troop numbers until they had enough materiel to defeat the ‘enemy’ (though even knowing who the enemy was was quite tricky). I’m not sure about you, but this does sound suspiciously like what has happened for the last few years since 9/11 to me i.e. intelligence being twisted to be ‘fit for a purpose’ then the military going in, doing a job and then being totally unprepared for the aftermath, and then just shouting at everyone to provide more troops for a war that is increasingly unpopular at home. But, and this is big but, Iraq is not the new Vietnam, right...?