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.