Over at the National Interest, I take on Mark Moyar’s latest update to the “We could have won the Vietnam War” argument. After reading and reviewing (will be up on H-Net shortly) Moyar’s book on the history of special operations forces, I’ve developed a greater respect for his approach, but I still think he’s fundamentally wrong. Moyar lands some punches, primarily on the basis of long-standing misconceptions about the war. These include the idea that Communist victory was primarily based on the Viet Cong insurgency, that the Saigon government had no meaningful domestic support, and that the war was uniquely unpopular in the United States. The first two are quite untrue, while the third is not quite true, at least insofar as we commonly remember today. But that only gets Moyar so far, and doesn’t answer the most important objections to US intervention in the conflict.
Hanoi remains in control of all of Vietnam today. This government has proven the most receptive of any state in Southeast Asia to U.S. efforts to curb Chinese expansionism; the military relationship between Hanoi and Washington grows daily. This government was also at the forefront of the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership, an effort to bring U.S. economic rules to the Asia Pacific. The human tragedy of the destruction of the Republic of Vietnam should never be minimized, but the strategic significance of its loss was, in the long run, trivial. As U.S. policymakers eventually decided, the game was simply not worth the candle.