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A theory about the Vietnam War

 
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Mighara Sovmadhi
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 1:39 am    Post subject: A theory about the Vietnam War Reply with quote

A rough listing of theories about this war might be divided into patriotic, moderate, and deconstructive categories, i.e. the theory either defends the war, is relatively neutral about it, or severely condemns it. In a certain respect, my theory falls into the third category. However, it does so by deconstructing not only the interior patriotic narrative of the war but the entire paradigm of interpreting it as a military event.

Besides, the patriotic explanation fails on account of the fact that there really was just too much violence unleashed in this conflict. It is one thing to need to use a lot of ammunition and ordnance over a long period of time; it is another thing to unleash 17,000,000 tons of bombing and artillery upon regions as small as the ones in question. The moderate explanation also is insufficient purely on this ground. And yet then what would seem the obvious strength of the deconstructivist picture is never realized because these as they traditionally stand (e.g. in Chomsky) do not explain this fantastic expenditure of firepower.

The reason they do not is because the patriotic axiom (that the US military was primarily targeting enemy military personnel) and the para-Chomskian deconstructivist paradigm (that the civilian population was the primary target) simultaneously fail to explain why so much energy was unleashed against neither target class. That is, the US neither fully annihilated the communist military (in any country under attack) nor erased the natives in utter genocide. Instead, the energy was often randomly volleyed into predictably deserted regions en masse.

* * * * *

One conclusion or suggestion (or w/e) in one of the US Strategic Bombing Survey analyses of the nuclear bombing of Japan, was that a particular subnuclear strike sequence, if conducted on an appropriate scale, could simulate atomic firepower. This was to use conventional explosives in tandem with napalm and cluster-bombs, a rather particular pattern. In 1961 an article in an Air Force magazine included an estimate that it would require 10,000,000 tons of bombs to destroy the USSR. Also around this time, right before the real war in Vietnam commenced, the Cuban Missile Crisis transpired.

Now it might seem obvious the global nuclear war would spell the end of life or humanity on Earth as we know it, or whatever, but in fact this question has been debated. In the pseudo-utilitarian positivistic/behavioristic atmosphere of the American government bureaucracy of the Vietnam era, deciding this question on empirical grounds, that is by experiment, could have easily arisen as a viable policy initiative. That the US had proven willing to kill defenseless civilians on a massive scale using such weapons only reinforces the image of a government willing to do terrible things in the service of its nuclear idealism, for this is often defended on a utilitarian sort of ground. Anyway, the thing is, if the gain were knowledge of survival chances in the event of thermonuclear apocalypse, what would have motivated the American government not to run the experiment? The only thing would be that it couldn't use actual nuclear bombs. But the USBSS said how to do something parallelwise, and with the unseemly Agent Orange thrown into the mixture, the consequences of those 10,000,000 tons of bombs (and 7,000,000 tons of artillery) wrought in Vietnam were a simulation of continental nuclear war, within a controlled area, so to speak. Postwar commentators have noted from to time that we can evaluate the effects of Agent Orange in such a "clinical" manner since the substance was inflicted on the South (that we were "defending from communism") and not the North.

Some or another pilots sometimes expressed a slight puzzlement over why they were scheduled to constantly drop bombs irrespective of any apparent or direct or indirect military explanation. Like, the bombing/H&I fire was transformed into a sort of artificial climate, a destructive rain. This wasn't necessarily killing people every single day (or it was, but not everywhere the "rain" fell), but it was a matter of "ecocide," as was rightly noted.

But so why? To prove a point. To justify its willingness to use nuclear weapons in general, the US government needed to show to itself that nuclear holocaust wouldn't be so terrible. On an almost plausible enough pretext it ignited a war of apocalypse to test this proof. Since Vietnam "survived," the US "justification" passed the "test."
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a very interesting post Mig. The prosecution of the Vietnam War has always puzzled me somewhat - of course it was part of a 'containment policy' deemed necessary at the time to stop the spread of communism, but it was so damaging, so against the American character, that I have always struggled to understand why they thought the 'candle worth the wick'. I've been to the country, seen the tunnel systems and the memorial museums, and know what levels of barbarity were drawn out of combatants on both sides. It was a conflict where we were shown exactly to what levels we all can sink, when the group madness overtakes us. Your theory is like an onion skin level higher of the same cold madness.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
... and know what levels of barbarity were drawn out of combatants on both sides...


This question is, I suppose, what led me to my analysis. When I was much younger, my argument for my pacifism turned on a theory I'd come up with, I called it "the theory of equalized killing." The idea was that, for some reason, during two-faction wars, each side would on average commit the same number of atrocities as the other. I never came up with a mechanism for this process, though. OTOH it did seem pretty well-supported, at least numerically---if, and only if, though, an atrocity-toll was attributed to the USSR, over the years 1941-1945, that was comparable (though not equal) to Germany's. Or, I mean, the TOEK applied to WW2 required such an attribution.

Before getting to that, though, a nifty example I came up with was WW1. Now, the Turkish government---the Ittihad, CUP, whatever they were called---at the time oversaw genocidal programs primarily re: Armenians but also re: several other ethnic groups. Overall, then, let's suppose the range were 600,000 to 2,000,000 for Armenian dead, and then that an ambiguous "hundreds of thousands" fall into the supplementary category. For ease of calculation we'll set the total to 1.5 million. Now, although the Kaiser's Germany did not commit atrocities during WW1 anywhere nearly as much as Hitler's would later, still, some were committed. The Austro-Hungarian Empire did such as well, perhaps, at least in the sense that some undisciplined troops, here and there, were allowed to get away with their weakness of will, so to speak. Or so it seems to me from what I remember on the topic. But so let's just set the total for Central Powers atrocities at 1.6 million.

You might think the Allies did nothing on such a scale back then, but it turns out that's probably not true. Russia, for instance, is strongly suspected of ethnic cleansing (of Cossacks I think) in which hundreds of thousands died. Moreover, Britain especially maintained a blockade on the Central Powers that induced famine conditions in those populations---the largest estimate for Germany, for instance, floating around 800,000 dead IIRC. So as it went, the Allies also perhaps killed well over a million civilians during WWI, so the Allies and the Central Powers are very near to each other, in this context, at least as per the order of magnitude for their atrocities.

Does the same hold for WW2? I used to think so. However, let's break it down according to my current understanding and for major cases:

    Democide by Japan: 10,000,000
    Democide by Nazi Germany: 20,000,000
    TOTAL for Axis: 30,000,000 (mostly between 1941 and 1945).

    ... Britain: 500,000 (city-bombing).
    US: 500,000 (city-bombing; includes Germany, Hungary, Taiwan, France, and Japan).
    China (Kuomintang/Chiang Kai-shek): 6,000,000 (government stole food from citizens during a famine; destruction of a dam that killed almost a million of their own citizens; concentration-camp conditions in the military recruitment drives).
    USSR: unknown, presumably millions*


*... but so probably not enough to add up to a number higher than the Axis total. That is, let's just arbitrary round Allied democide, during the war, to 10,000,000. By contrast, when I was younger, I followed a rather fanciful, if educated, line of reasoning to the conclusion that the USSR was responsible for well over 10,000,000 dead, here, so the TOEK came into play.

Meaning, of course, that one day, I stopped playing that game. My pacifism had not absolutely depended on it anyway, and the weight of analysis seemed to support a different concept of the problem.

In part, it became important to my judgment on these matters that things be qualitatively as well as quantitatively ranked. That is, although the Nazis overall might have killed less people than the Soviets, the rate of killing was immensely greater, and involved the extremely weird death-camp system. So who was worse? Maybe their actions are incommensurable... but, now, what of the Vietnam War?

The British Medical Journal had an article in it, a while back now, that postulated something like as many as 5,000,000 Vietnamese dead during the war. Now they stretch the image of the war from 1955 to 1975, so the massive accusations of killing, made by the American government, against North Vietnam, in in 1955-1956 (the land-reform saga), might find some cover in this range, but even so the most extensive figure would leave about three million Vietnamese civilian deaths unexplained as such, so that the obvious culprit would bear the remainder.

Typically, let us suppose, leftists/related would cite land-reform death estimates in the thousands-range, and rightwing/related citations would be of the hundreds-of-thousands-range. One might suppose the "moderate" order of magnitude of tens of thousands would therefore be the most likely, but this is naive in a way. It's like my TOEK but even more unmotivated, since it amounts to the postulate that history conforms to the "centrist" stance on such matters, a function for which we have no objective evidence of its existence. That is, just because a number of deaths would be "moderate" on some scale, does not make it likelier to be true all things considered. In some cases a smaller figure is likelier per the evidence, whereas in other cases the context strongly indicates more than an incident-by-incident tabulation would reckon. For example, it used to be said that 4,000,000 people died in Auschwitz, and the commander of the camp claimed 2,500,000 IIRC, but the consensus is that the true total is much closer to the lowest reliable figure, in the 1,100,000---1,600,000 range I believe. (Ironically or not, this has little to no effect on the figure for the Holocaust overall, because firstly there were many other camps like Auschwitz, together costing millions and millions of people their lives, and secondly not every Jew who died in the Holocaust, died in those camps.) ---So now, then, what about Vietnamese land reform again? I would concede at this point that the Vietnamese communist government actually did commit atrocities on a scale, not between the leftist and the rightwing estimates, but between the "centrist" and the rightwing ones nevertheless.

Over the entire duration of its existence, it has done much else besides, and when the Khmer Rouge are considered alongside them, it might seem as if the scales of historical injustice "balance" but, in a twist, this is not so. For the US is not to be juxtaposed alone against the Indochinese communist movements, but only with its contemporary involvements in Indonesia and Pakistan factored into the equation. And here, then, not only is it likely that the US itself killed, let's say, 3,000,000 civilians during the Vietnam War (not only in Vietnam, to be sure, but still), but its two major regional allies equaled this, and over a span of eight years the "Allied" faction in the war vastly exceeded what it has taken decades of terror for Vietnam to inflict (next to Cambodia).

The other thing, as to whether this was out-of-character for America, is a yes-and-no thing, I think. Technically, from the American Indians to the Philippines to Japan to Korea, the US government had proven entirely willing to exterminate helpless people en masse. OTOH the scale and centralization involved varied and there wasn't too much ideology behind any of it. By contrast the Vietnam scenario played out as it did in part because the US government was so fantastically (in a stupid way) analyzing it, e.g. via the RAND Corporation (I think was the name).

There's also the history of utilitarianism to consider, then, as well as the role of Protestantism in the capitalist metanarrative, but those are for another time Razz
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have clearly put a lot of thought into this Mig and if I might recommend a text on the subject (in Europe at least), Niall Ferguson's The War of the World, in which he considers the history leading up to and covering what he sees as one Great War, lasting from 1914 to 1945 with a half-time break, makes for a fascinating if uncomfortable read.
I find killing on this scale hard to absorb (I guess I'm not alone in this) - the 'factory' processes that states/governments/regimes will instigate in order to wipe out huge numbers of people as an instrument of policy (see David Gray's The Immortality Commission) and have never understood why people who presumably go home to their families at night can sit and scheme up such atrocity. Fascinating, malignant topic!
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS. I have more to say on the subject, but alas must get up for work so it must wait! Smile
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