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A few comments on Carrington Ward's post. >Tom Nichols makes a compelling argument, but one that fails to note that it >was the North Vietnamese who paid the blood price to "liberate" or >subjugate their neighbor -- depending on your point of view. Soviet and >Chinese casualties in Vietnam were -- it seems pretty clear -- insignificant. First, the people of the South did not welcome communist domination. Those who could get out, did. While the southerners may not have been enamoured of their regime at the time, they were not exactly waving red flags in the streets and begging to be sent to reeducation camps. Second, while Chinese casualties were not large, China over time stationed hundreds of thousands of troops in the North, losing 1100 killed and approximately four times that many wounded. The Soviets, for their part, took a serious risk by stationing Soviet military personnel in combat areas, some of whom apparently shot down U.S. aircraft. (In happy H-DIPLO tradition, I will refer Mr Ward to chapter 4 of my book _Winning the World_ for more details.) >In short, these "murderous totalitarian regimes" did not see fit to murder >their own servicemen (at least wholesale) to support the efforts of their >ally. This is true, but irrelevant. They were hoping that at the end of the struggle, the world would contain one more regime like themselves. They put a great deal of money and weaponry into that effort--so much so that the Soviets were deeply worried about the drain on their own economy--and they got their wish. None of that has anything to do with my point that this was not simply a matter of the Vietnamese people sorting out their own destiny. After all, the Soviets gave the greenlight to the Korean War, but invested very few of their own men in it, preferring instead to hand that dirty business to the Chinese. But even before the Chinese intervention, would anyone really argue that a massive armored invasion, using Soviet weapons and supported by Soviet air cover, was somehow only a matter of Koreans finding their own common destiny? It is an image that defies common sense. >If, as Dr. Nichols would like to argue, North Vietnam was wholly a puppet, >then it is worth noting that these "murderous regimes" got a lot more bang >for their buck out of their puppet than the United States did out of its >ally. Nowhere did I argue that the North was a puppet. But without Soviet and Chinese support, the North's struggle would have been a lot more perilous. The North Vietnamese saw themselves as part of a larger struggle against a particular kind of socioeconomic system, and the idea that they were merely sorting out the future of their own people is plainly not supported by the evidence -- or, again, common sense. >In the context of the >Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union, how did we get into a >strategic situation where the Soviets were spending rubles and the >Americans lives? The same way the Soviets found themselves in the same situation four year later in Afghanistan. I think of it as the "home-court" advantage: the side about to lose a client or ally is the one that ends up having to invest the manpower to keep it. The United States had to intervene physically in order not to lose the South to superior Northern forces (as it did in Korea as well), and once engaged, became a target for Soviet and Chinese-supported Northern and VC forces. In Afghanistan, without intervention the Soviets would have lost their client in Kabul, and likewise became the target of U.S. supported rebels. Sometimes, the logic of the situation is inevitable. Mr. Ward's points, while interesting, miss the thrust of my original post: the Vietnam war was an aggression led by a state supported by two enemies of the United States, with the aim of communizing a good chunk of Southeast Asia. To characterize it as a kind of domestic dispute in which the Vietnamese were merely trying to figure out their own future is, to put it mildly, a fantastic mischaracterization. Tom Nichols Naval War College