Kerry and Kennedy missed key facts about Vietnam, some of them long obvious, others newly emerged from historical studies. The New York Times and NBC News and CNN and so on missed them, too, because they chose to rely on outdated historians or their own prejudices. The insurgency in Vietnam was dead by 1971, thanks to South Vietnam's armed forces, America's forces, and a South Vietnamese civilian population that overwhelmingly viewed the South Vietnamese government as legitimate. During 1972, after all American combat units had departed, South Vietnamese forces defeated a massive North Vietnamese invasion with the help of American air power. The so-called Christmas bombing of 1972 bombed North Vietnam into submission, resulting in a peace treaty. Had the antiwar Congress not slashed aid to South Vietnam and prohibited the use of American aircraft over
Vietnamese skies, the South Vietnamese probably could have repulsed the NorthVietnamese when they violated the peace treaty in 1975.
It is also a mistake to assert, as many have asserted in recent days, that the United States never should have intervened in Vietnam in the first place because Vietnam was predestined to become capitalist. In my research, I found that American intervention in Vietnam saved Indonesia from going Communist in 1965. It probably also prevented countries such as Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia from becoming Communist or pro-Communist. Furthermore, American intervention fractured the Sino-North Vietnamese alliance and tamed China. In the absence of these developments, socialism might well have persisted in Vietnam and other Asian countries to this day.
President Bush has shown that he is up to speed on the latest historical discoveries on Vietnam. Those who are inclined to disagree should first get up to speed themselves.
Mark Moyar is the author of two books on the Vietnam War.