What I have to say won’t be as eloquent as the lives of hundreds of thousands of American men and women who returned from Vietnam and lived well. They didn’t fall into drug addiction, domestic violence, and raised families and held jobs and as they could they looked after their fellow veterans who faced harder times. They loved and still love America with an integrity their counterparts in the Me generation can never know.
Other writers have their take on Ken Burns and his catechism on Vietnam, and go into enough detail to convince anyone with two neurons firing in sequence that Burns performed an enormous disservice to History and those that lived through it. For myself, I stopped watching because it was the same old crap repackaged for a new audience: the grandchildren of Vietnam-era Americans. The message? America bad, Communism divine. Another generation indoctrinated with a slick brochure passed off as History.
I suppose Burns had to take that editorial view in order to pay his mortgage and ensure his kids could attend the appropriate schools set aside for those who wish to be Elite. I won’t be able to consider Burns as having integrity anymore. I did like his documentaries on our unCivil War and baseball, but now must consider that he’s undermined even those presentations.
There are several ways to view history. You can look at an event-in-the-moment. This is good for battle studies and understanding what happened when and where. It is devoid of context – the how the event came about and its effects. There is the view favored by Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI, which is to look at the decades and centuries before and after an event so as to understand the context and effects. The even is not an afterthought, but the who, why, when, where and how become understandable. Then there is the Ken Burns way: pick a target, freeze it, and never allow a moment of context that may lead to an unauthorized thought. Kind of Saul Alinsky meets a lazy son of a bitch. Nice soundtrack though.
Ho Chi Minh was not a nationalist. He was a communist and that meant he was an internationalist. In his early days Uncle Ho was part of the formation and building up of the Communist Party in France, and the US of A. Who knew? Burns won’t tell you why Uncle Ho’s travels were key to understanding him.
Before the American news media printed his name, Uncle Ho already had a solid bloc of support in the US of A. The efforts of Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Affairs Committee only temporarily loosened the communists’ control on the entertainment and civil service industries, and the communists aggressively purged and consolidated control in time to support Uncle Ho along with the USSR and Chinese Communists; and, ensuring we would not support Hungary’s and Czechoslovakia’s attempts to break free of communism.
There is a criticism to be made of the Domino Theory, in which communist victory in one country would then allow resources to be applied to taking over the next country. I’ve been told that the Domino Theory is garbage by The Smartest People. And then there’s Laos. And Cambodia. And Tibet. And near constant low-grade warfare in the Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, India, and Afghanistan. Uncle Ho was actively involved in Laos and Cambodia, France and the US of A which tied up resources that could not be used elsewhere.
What was Uncle Ho’s impact on those four countries? Two are communist, one is socialist, and under Obama, a former communist, we faced regular Constitutional crises as pens and control of law enforcement struck down rule of law. Our education system is run by the NEA, a communist-front organization. The news media crossed the line between comforting the afflicted, like those poor North Vietnamese, to telling us how things must be in the US of A – and having blurred the line between reporter, lawyer and civil servant at the highest levels. Every news report is now an indictment by Torquemada’s heirs, and we Americans are always the villain.
Burns could have spent his time studying Ho Chi Minh, his interactions with American communists and the effects on America, and Burns would have done History. Although, he likely would never have gotten air time on PBS or funding beyond bus fare to a suitable lake to be drowned in. Victor Davis Hanson, an Historian of the first rank, presents a very interesting take on World War II, looking at individual threads and the patterns they formed instead of the usual chronological impact.
When one examines the threads to compose World War II, there a many threads, and by weaving them together, you begin the understand the enormity of evil unleashed on the world. Using the elements of national power (Diplomacy, Industry/Technology, Military and Economy) as threads, one studies the thread and then weaves it into the pattern to see the unmistakable pattern.
In reviewing Germany’s diplomatic history from its foundations, perhaps 1800, until the reunification of Germany in 1990, one learns of how a nation goes about making friends and enemies and finds the space necessary to accomplish larger national aims. And then there’s 1933-1945. An anti-pattern, scissors to the whole cloth.
The thread of industry and technology is similar. German industry was formidable until 1933-1945. Then it was piffled away looking for the next cute toy, the next wonder weapon that would bring death and destruction on Germany’s enemies. Set aside was the principle that the bayonet kills more surely than the bomb, but the bomb terrorizes when it fails to kill, and the Nazis considered terror sublime.
The Navy is the strategic arm of war. The Air Force is the operational-level arm. The Army is the tactical arm – it is up close and eyeball to eyeball. Militarily, Germany was always seen as excellent on the land. The Nazis worked hard to ensure the war at sea was lost by failing to develop the logistics capabilities necessary to support its fleet. The Nazis perhaps grew bored with the airplane as a wonder weapon, and never maintained its investments in its air force, which was one of many tells that Hitler and the Nazis never, at any time, fought the war to win.
Economically, the Germans never consolidated their gains or geared the industries and agronomies of Europe to feeding the war effort and ensuring victory. There was food enough, but people, especially soldiers, starved. There was materiel enough, but the Germans were reduced to hard human labor to move anything. There was money enough, and laws and culture that would have maintained a 1,000-year reign, but the Nazis had only one imperative: to inflict death and terror on the world. Holland remained Dutch, France remained French, Poland was thoroughly Polish. Just millions upon millions of dead.
The pattern woven by Hitler and the Nazis is unmistakable: death for everyone – victory was a platitude for the gullible. What is the pattern, or patterns woven by Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon? By Diem and Theiu/Ky? By Ho Chi Minh-Mao Zedong-Krushchev/Brezhnev? We will never know from Ken Burns, who lazily continues the communist intellectual conceits, so, for the rest of us, back to studying History.