a lot of people have asked me, saying Earl, you know, you've spent
eleven years in the Vietnam War in service in Vietnam and Laos
in a number of capacities, how
would you sum up the whole thing? And I think, and I've really done a
lot of soul-searching on this, I think our, our entry into Vietnam in
and in Laos
, was really motivated by a perception which
our government had, that it was the proving ground for a new Communist
technique, these wars of national liberation, that it was orchestrated
by the Russians and by
the Chinese to use indigenous
Communist groups to subvert a country from within, without ever having
to send their troops across the border.
I believe the information which we had at that time, uh, was correct.
That that was a technique they were employing. The problem being that we
went in with all the American material resources, with the American
drive and energy, and we were going to win this war either with these
people or in spite of them. If they didn't love their country enough, at
least we did and we were going to save it from the Communists.
But, we found, uh to our chagrin, that in our naiveté we believed that
we could compensate for the failings of some of the Vietnamese or Laotian government right down to
the hamlet chief. That our wherewithal could compensate for the lack of
proper administration and for the lack of caring, if you will.
this is not unique to Vietnam or Laos
. I mean every society in Asia
has this distinction between the ruling class and the
people who are ruled. They simply do not operate by Western European or
American standards. And we did not understand this.
thought all we had to do was point out to them the error of their ways.
Look, you've got to treat these people properly. You've got to send the
technicians in. they've got to do the things which only you can do...if
you want to save your country, because, if not, they are going to
succumb to the Communist influence.
But, generally, they were more interested in their own maintaining
their own position and their own ambitions uh in maintaining their
family's role. They were not willing to sacrifice themselves for the
benefit of their country. Uh, so, we failed.
as history may show, uh, we simply were never defeated on a battlefield.
I mean no, no major American unit was ever defeated as the French were at Dien Bien Phu. But
it was simply that finally, I think President Nixon realized that – and he had made two trips
to Vietnam – I had accompanied him on two trips as his guide when he
came to Vietnam – he really could see down at the hamlet level, that all
the things we were doing simply were not compensating for the lack of
local, indigenous government effort on behalf of the population.
no American military unit, no amount of American...economic assistance
would change that. And so uh in the end uh the Vietnamese were, were
overtaken uh finally by mass inundation from the North and the Laotians
succumbed to some fifty thousand Vietnamese troops in the North and, and
their own indigenous Pathet
I think the results of that you have only to look today. Uh no one is
flocking to get into South Vietnam. No one is flocking to get back
across the Mekong
. Where has everyone gone?
These people have, have tried to escape. What, half a million refugees
from Vietnam have tried to get away? And those were not government
supporters who were afraid of a Communist purge. I mean that that may
have happened in the first six months after the Communists took over.
But these are people who may have supported the Viet Cong or the Pathet Lao and they now see that the society, that
the system which these people imposed upon them, isn't working. And
they're quite unhappy with it. So we, we at least we had the right idea,
even if we didn't have the technique to accomplish it.