Can we please dispense at long, merciful last with the myth that the United States could possibly have won “had we not cut off aid to South Vietnam in 1974-5,” as the boundlessly ahistorical Victor Davis Hanson has once again insisted? Almost as bad is Hanson’s assertion that had the American War in Vietnam not turned out so badly — with the continuation of the civil war in Vietnam and the genocide in Cambodia and the refugees from nearly every country in the region — the “wartime leadership” of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon would not today be viewed with such universal disdain.
As they say in 9th grade algebra, “please show your work, Victor.” How, pray tell, would an American “victory” in Vietnam have altered the uncontroversial facts that Johnson and McNamara deceived Congress about the events in the Gulf of Tonkin; that Johnson oversaw what was (to that point) the most devastating and least productive bombing campaign in the 20th century; that within two years of escalating the American War, Johnson’s closest advisers were incapable of discovering any measure of “victory” outside of raw body counts; that by 1969 the Johnson administration displaced nearly half a million peasants whose “hearts and minds” the US was supposed to win; that Nixon released a ton of bombs for every minute he was in office, with no discernible change in the negotiating strength of the US; that Nixon authorized the illegal expansion of the air war into Cambodia and Laos; and that Nixon’s desperation to stop leaks from within his own administration led him down the dark path to what John Mitchell later described to Congress as the “White House Horrors?”
Does Hanson somehow imagine that an American victory — dispensed by magic pixie dust or some such paranormal means — would have done anything to nullify this sorry record? More importantly, does Hanson believe — as he apparently must — than none of this was relevant to the actual outcome of the war? In other words, does Hanson actually wake up each day confident that the United States might have “won” in Vietnam in spite of two decades of accumulated miscalculation and incompetence and deceit spanning four presidential administrations — if only the US Congress had not decided that twenty years of pointless delusion were enough?