Wednesday, January 9, 2013

More things discovered while looking for other things

Back in 1961, Kennedy decided to send 16,000 "trainers" to Vietnam.  At some point,  George Ball, Under Secretary of State approached Kennedy and, after reminding him of France’s devastating defeat in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, had this to say, "Mr. President, to commit American forces to South Vietnam would, in my opinion, be a tragic error.  Within five years we'll have three hundred thousand men in paddies and jungles, and we'll never find them again."  JFK reportedly laughed and replied, "Well, George, you're supposed one of the smartest guys in town, but you're crazier than hell. That will never happen."

Later, in 1965, again with amazing prescience, Ball wrote in a state department paper:

Politically, South Viet-Nam is a lost cause. The country is bled white from twenty years of war and the people are sick of it. The Viet Cong — as is shown by the Rand Corporation Motivation and Morale Study — are deeply committed. Hanoi has a Government and a purpose and a discipline. The “government” in Saigon is a travesty. In a very real sense, South Viet-Nam is a country with an army and no government. In my view, a deep commitment of United States forces in a land ‘war in South Viet-Nam would be a catastrophic error. If ever there was an occasion for a tactical withdrawal, this is it.

I remember reading a few articles by George Ball in Harper's magazine some years ago.  I always thought he was a pretty smart guy.  I never realized just how smart.

George Ball

1 comment:

James R said...

George Ball, indeed, must have been a smart man. But I also can't help thinking that (and hindsight is always 20/20) our leaders were, in some ways, quite stupid.

Perhaps that is the wrong word. Perhaps the word is consistent. We have such an inability to distinguish between what we should worry about, what we should not; what is important and what is not—at least not worth killing someone for.