I’m ten years older than Lex was, and Vietnam to me is still on my mind.

I remember something he said in one of his posts, about a time he was playing golf at Miramar with a retired Naval Aviator who served in Vietnam .

His partner  said that around the beginning of the war in Vietnam everyone was gung-ho (which is I believe a military expression Claire Chenault and his pilots brought back from China)

Towards the end of the war with so many targets determined off limits those who flew through some of the heaviest and most dangerous AAA just wanted to finish their tour and go home. Many of them died doing this. Dying from targets that could have been destroyed.

Our military has always had some form of Rules of Engagement but it seems since WW2 it has been overly restrictive. The civilians control the political side while the military controls, obviously, the battlefield side.

Truman was right in that the civilians – and President in particular – are in charge. But was MacArthur right in wanting to take  the war to the Chinese? Truman was worried, obviously, about starting WW3.

Should Truman have given MacArthur more freedom?

After all, 60 some years later there has never been a truce signed and we are still worried about the North Koreans. Now we are worried about them having nukes. Would we be doing this today if MacArthur had captured Prongyang and secured Korea from the Yalu River?

(For that matter let’s speculate how the Cold War would have been different had Patton gone to Berlin. On the positive side I have read that some historians consider one of the reasons Truman dropped the Bomb on Japan was to keep the Russians out of Japan. Imagine a partitioned Japan, like Germany,  for 60 years.)

What made me think of this was just seeing a movie on Netflix, Hyena Road. It is  a Canadian film from a Canadian perspective on the war in Afghanistan, but I doubt that it was much different from American units.

Two of the main characters are an intelligence officer who is back at Begram and a sniper team. The sniper is constantly radioing back to headquarters asking for permission to shoot a target. The intelligence officer sees “the bigger picture” and the sniper wants to shoot an obvious belligerent.

Where’s the balance?

It’s an open question.




Filed under Perspective, Politics, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Vietnam

4 responses to “ROE

  1. Brad Knickerbocker

    Well said. As a Navy attack pilot in Vietnam (1968-69), I’ve been living with that question for a long time.

  2. SteveC73

    “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” – Pogo by Walt Kelly.
    This has been unfortunately accurate for quite some time. I don’t know if it began with Korea, but LBJ and Robert, both named with a sneer, certainly brought it to prominence in Vietnam. Many factors cause it to be accurate: Political expediency and backstabbing which results in a lack of long-term will to properly finish what we start is primary; a too-negative press oftentimes; the use of lawyers, God forbid, in planning strategy . . . it goes on and on. And we watch opportunities to make decent changes to help people who really need help, disappear. Lex would have a simple way of closing to express the disgust and helplessness that our self-created situation leaves me with. I just don’t have the words.

    • Bill Brandt

      I remember something interesting about the original Iraq War, Desert Storm. After the carnage of the “Highway of Death” in Kuwait, where our air forces decimated the retreating Iraqi Army, George Bush Sr was listening to 2 generals about what to do next.

      Colin Powell wanted him to stop the war, and on his side was the fact that we had no UN mandate to topple Saddam.

      Norman Schwartzkopf wanted to go into Baghdad and make sure Saddam was toppled.

      On the Powell side was an obvious concern that “if we break it, we own it”. And I believe that the powers in Washington felt that with the situation in Iraq after Desert Storm, Saddam would certainly have been toppled with nothing on our hands.

      Think of what that cost us in the 2nd Gulf War by not insuring Saddam was toppled. We ended up having to “own it” regardless.

      Historical Hindsight is of course 20-20, but it seems that out leaders are usually myopic in viewing the geopolitical situation.

      I would even add that to WW2 – who can begin to estimate the effect the cold war had on our country – but in Roosevelt’s defense it was a very real concern of his and Churchill that the Russians not make a separate peace with the Nazis.

      The Russians were fighting 2/3rds of the Wehrmacht while the West had the other 3rd (according to the historian Max Hastings).

      And they already occupied Eastern Europe. But we could have stayed in parts of Czechoslovakia and taken Berlin (where, I suspect, the Germans wouldn’t have fought us nearly as viciously as they did with the Russians, who, considering the way the Nazis treated them in Russia, considered it just payback).

      Things aren’t usually back and white, but we have paid terrible prices in many instances by not giving the military more leeway.

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