Veith: Well, two answers to this question. First, even though they are commonly called the “anti-war movement,” I prefer to call them the “pro-Hanoi,-anti-GVM movement,” since that’s exactly what they were. After the Paris Accords, many of the pro-Hanoi groups gathered in Germantown, OH in October 1973 to plot their strategy. At that time, they decided to continue to press the Congress to stop aid, to cut off funds for the police, etc., even though the American troops and prisoners had come home They did so by claiming the Thieu government was jailing 200,000 political prisoners, which was an absurd figure, and that the GVN was responsible for continuing the war. So Congress, which was looking for an excuse to get out, fell easily for the pro-Hanoi propaganda line. So, they had an indirect responsibility for the loss of South Vietnam. The direct responsibility, of course, lies with the Communists, who violated virtually every clause in the Paris Accords.
FP: Overall, America could have won the war if it really wanted to, correct?
Veith: If one defines “win” as the continuation of a non-communist, free South Vietnam, then yes. It would have required changes in military strategy–physically cutting the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S troops, for example–and closing off the port of Sihanoukville. But once the Communist logistics had been severed, winning the war on the ground in South Vietnam would eventually have occurred.
FP: What were the consequences of the fall of South Vietnam?
Veith: I think two consequences happened, but they played out over ten years. One, the Russians were emboldened to increase their efforts around the globe to supply arms and aid to covert Communist movements, and hence over-extended themselves, with Afghanistan the ultimate debacle. Second, it forced the U.S. to re-evaluate its position in the world, and it wasn’t until Ronald Reagan came along that America managed to re-assert itself internationally. The other point that people should always remember is that we took in hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees. Those people today are prosperous, and their children are graduating from our finest colleges. That uniquely American impulse, to help the helpless, should always be a source of pride to us. And let me tell you, you will have to look far and wide to find a group of non-native people who are as pro-American as the former South Vietnamese. They truly appreciate this country and its freedoms. Attending one of their ceremonies is a refreshing course in patriotism.
FP: What are the lessons of the fall of South Vietnam?
Veith: Too often, commentators try to draw an evaluation regarding the tenacity of the American people to prosecute a war far from home and not readily apparent to our national interests. It was one of the longest wars in American history, yet the American people sustained an interest in the conflict despite enormous sacrifices in men and money. If anything, I think one lesson is that the American people will support, for the most part, a strategy that is clearly articulated and pursued with consistency. Lastly, despite the sneering contempt from academics and others, I believe intervening in South Vietnam in 1965 probably saved Indonesia and much of the rest of that part of the world. It is well to remember back then that the Communist bloc was viewed as a monolith, with victory inevitable. The fall of South Vietnam certainly helped spread that view, but the ten years gained helped strengthen the free world enough so that it eventually survived and overcame the challenge from this great evil.
FP: What is the overall message of your book?
Veith: That the South Vietnamese military did not just collapse like a house of cards in 1975, and that the image so prevalent in the U.S. of the South Vietnamese as a bunch of corrupt cowards is simply not true. Vietnamization had worked, and that if we had continued to support South Vietnam with economic and military aid, and helped defend her when attacked (or bombed the infiltration columns in February and March 1973 to show we were serious), the Republic of Vietnam would probably still be a viable entity today. Unfortunately, most of the Americans had left Vietnam by then, and so many of the advisors who had worked so hard to develop the South Vietnamese military weren’t around to see the fruits of their labor.
FP: George J. Veith, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Veith: My pleasure, always great talking to you.
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