Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Worst and the Dimmest

How did a party that in 1960 inspired the "Best and the Brightest" of this nation's talent to join the administration of John F. Kennedy become the party that instead promoted the Worst and the Dimmest to the national political stage?


Blogger Oroborous said...

From the "Best & Brightest" link, re: Vietnam:

"Some war games showed that a gradual escalation by the United States could be evenly matched by North Vietnam: every year 200,000 North Vietnamese came of drafting age and potentially could be sent down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to replace any losses against the US: the US would be 'fighting the birthrate'."

And in fact, we possibly were successful in killing all of those 200K draftees sent down every year.

Here are some estimates:

3 million North Vietnamese Dead
300,000 Vietnamese Missing
100,000 Cambodians Killed
750,000 Laotians Killed
13 Russian Advisors Killed

A statistics office of the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff totaled all of the Communist losses reported on Saigon newspapers from 1959 to 1973, came up with around 1.5 million Communist soldiers killed.

In 1969, General Vo Nguyen Giap admitted in an interview with Oriana Fallaci, an Italian reporter, that his Vietnamese Communist forces had lost half million men. But in 1995, Hanoi unexpectedly admitted that it had lost 1,100,000 soldiers.

Vietnam War-era Secretary of State Dean Rusk once calculated that North Vietnamese losses in the war, when measured as a proportion of population, were the equivalent of the United States losing about 10 million lives. American losses in Vietnam, by that same measure, were 175 times smaller.

January 28, 2007 12:42 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Carter has become somewhat Stassenized in old age, but as president he very nearly pulled off something no other man has ever even thought of trying: serving an entire term without getting anybody killed in military misadventures.

He blotted his copy with the harebrained raid into Iran, which was exacerbated by the loss of nerve (at least) of the commander.

It is far from obvious that, as a result, the United States was in a worse position in 1980 than it had been in 1975 or would be in 1988 following the glorious conquest of Grenada.

Looking back, we can see that he ought to have asked for a declaration of war against Iran. I doubt he would have got it, and the blustering carpet knights of today's White House would not have been with him.

At the time, I was prepared to try either way -- war or diplomacy. I was not sure diplomacy could not work.

Well, live and learn.

The political class has drawn endless lessons from the Carter presidency, all of them wrong, except perhaps that one that says Reader's Digest militarism wins elections even if it doesn't win wars. They got that part.

January 28, 2007 3:40 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

What's an example of a widely held "lesson learned" from the Carter era that's wrong ?

January 28, 2007 6:31 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Multilateralism is a snare and a delusion

Carter weakened the military; Reagan rebuilt it

You catch more flies with vinegar than with honey

January 28, 2007 7:39 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

As to your first comment, I would have said that there are no statistics I would trust less than statistics from the 1960s-'70s Pentagon, but upon reflection, that's wrong. Statistics from South Vietnamese newspapers are even less persuasive.

However, the numbers don't matter. Read your Clauswitz.

By the end one army had high morale and the other was on the brink of mutiny. Ours was the one on the brink of mutiny.

The real number that counts is the number of ARVN casualties. The lower the number, the less reason for the Americans to keep fighting.

The ARVN number was always low.

I just finished writing a review of a memoir by a local guy of his service in the 1st Battalion, 18th Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in 1965-66, when the pickin's were easy. Only VC, untrained and poorly armed.

According to him, after a full year of constant sweeps, the 1st had 173 confirmed kills. (For 21 KIA of its own.)

Now, I don't believe his numbers, but I don't have any other numbers for the 1st.

However, at the maximum there were a little over 200 field battalions of ours in Vietnam. 200 times 173 gives 34,600.

January 29, 2007 8:47 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Do you have any objection to the 1995 Vietnamese statement of 1.1 million KIA ?

What would they gain by inflating that figure ?

I don't know if Carter starved the military, but Reagan surely increased the number of people in uniform.

January 29, 2007 10:01 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Carter weakened the military; Reagan rebuilt it.

I can't say for certain that Carter weakened the military, but he sure didn't strengthen it.

I happened to be in the military for the last couple years of the Carter presidency.

The base I was at had a whole row of airplanes without engines. Their cockpits were devoid of instruments. We had to schedule five night hops to get one off, due to lack of parts. Maintenance was required to work twice as hard as they should, because of all the wasted effor involved in cannibalizing parts

Not long after Reagans election, all that became a thing of the past.

January 29, 2007 8:06 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I forgot.

With regard to the dimmest, John Kerry (whose convoluted sentence structure, and a fondness for using a great many words where a few would do make Bush a model of expository clarity in comparison), lamented Bush's abandonment of Kyoto.

Could someone refresh my memory? What was Kerry's vote on the Kyoto treaty, and when did it happen?

January 29, 2007 8:09 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

John Kerry voted in favor of the non-binding Byrd-Hagel resolution, which registered views on the Kyoto protocol negotiations, prior to the conclusion of the Kyoto agreement.

Since the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution, and the resolution was somewhat negative towards the protocols, the Clinton admin. never bothered to submit Kyoto to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

So, on the one chance that he had to support the Kyoto agreement, Kerry VOTED AGAINST IT.

Now, there were legitimate reasons to support both Kyoto and the Byrd-Hagel resolution, but Kerry seems especially prone to these "I'm both for it and against it" positions of nuance.

January 30, 2007 11:40 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

This might require more than short posts can manage.

Carter occupied Diego Garcia, which in the long run was more valuable to national security than the Conquest of Grenada.

He bought beans and bullets, not shiny hardware. Reagan went for the hardware and ended up with the most powerful useless army in the world.

Recall that in Gulf I, Bush I had 7 mighty armored divisions but no infantry, which he had to rent from backward nations.

There's plenty to criticize in Carter's war department but on the Hippocratic Oath principle (first do no harm), he was probably less damaging on balance than Reagan, the Lion of Beirut.

We may wish -- I do in retrospect -- that Carter had just declared war on Iran and been done with it, but he didn't.

While not helpful, that was not nearly as damaging to our interests as Reagan's cowardly withdrawal from Beirut and his even more cowardly non-response to Libya's attack on our airlines after his pinprick El Dorado Canyon provocation.

From Muslim points of view, those were the signals that the U.S. was a paper tiger. Carter's signal was more ambiguous and would have, had there been any of the alleged Muslim moderates that Brit is so fond of, brought them over to our side, saving much trouble for us and even more for them.

El Dorado Canyon: 16 F-111s dispatched, 15 failed to attack target.

January 30, 2007 1:16 PM  

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