Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gregory A. Daddis's "Withdrawal: Reassessing America's Final Years in Vietnam"

Gregory A. Daddis is an Associate Professor of History and Director of Chapman University’s MA Program in War and Society. He is author of Westmoreland's War: Reassessing American Strategy in Vietnam.

Daddis applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Withdrawal: Reassessing America's Final Years in Vietnam, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Just as important, the increasing role played by the ARVN meant a necessary decline in American influence. Though the “one war” approach envisioned an integrated allied effort, officers still saw deficiencies in the “sequential manner of attacking one critical phase or threat at a time.” If both pacification and Vietnamization relied on a secure environment in which to flourish, then it made sense to defeat the enemy’s military threat. Yet the combined campaign plans continued to place the primary responsibility for pacification on the ARVN’s shoulders. In large sense, the South Vietnamese armed forces were being pulled in two opposite directions….

Yet it seems hard to argue against the idea that South Vietnamese forces, despite all their flaws, indeed were best suited for pacification, always a process of negotiation between the host government, its army, and the people. Realizing the “population had to be provided with more than temporary security,” MACV had always intended the ARVN to work closely with local territorial forces. But with US forces withdrawing, Abrams and his staff grappled with whether the South Vietnamese army should focus on pacification or improving its ability to react to the more conventional NVA threat.
For many Americans who fought in the Vietnam War, their relationship with the South Vietnamese army, popularly known as the ARVN, remained one fraught with tension. The friction seemed inevitable. With President Richard M. Nixon’s 1969 decision to withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam, American military leaders felt they were bestowing the war to an ally in which few had much faith. Generals like Creighton Abrams were far from optimistic about a policy that quickly became known as “Vietnamization.” Even after years of US aid and assistance, by the late 1960s, the ARVN was grappling with issues of corruption, low morale, and poor leadership.

True, South Vietnamese soldiers fought hard across much of their homeland. They were instrumental in helping pacify the countryside, defeating local insurgents, and building bridges between the Saigon government and its rural population. An excerpt from page 99, however, illustrates a key paradox that the American military assistance command (MACV) faced as it began to depart from a war not yet concluded. That paradox remains a controversial topic on the U.S. war in Vietnam to this very day.
Learn more about Withdrawal at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Westmoreland's War.

--Marshal Zeringue