Friday, August 28, 2020

The American Way of War, a Required Reading List — Matthew Hoh

The two books I tell people to read to understand not just the United States’ war in Vietnam, but also its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the current world war the US has created and sustained that stretches from western Africa to Pakistan, are David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest and Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie. Both men were New York Times reporters, with extensive experience in Vietnam, and both men reported not only critically on the war, but adversarially, something that any observer of major American media of the last twenty years will note is often missing in US media coverage of the current wars in the Muslim world.* What few examples we have in corporate media these last two decades of critical and adversarial reporting on the wars is fickle and frail when compared to the strength, integrity and depth of reporting and writing produced by Halberstam and Sheehan. Read these two books about the lies, the self-deceptions, the careerism, the group-think, the chauvinism, and the greed of the American Empire and its officers, and you will understand not just the American war in Vietnam, but the wars of this century, wars that continue to devastate and destroy so many.**
I read those two books when I was a junior officer in the Marine Corps in the late 1990s, not because I had some critical perception of the US military or possessed a rebellious intellect, but because those books, at the time, were required reading for Marine officers. So were the works of Mao, Che Gueverra, Bernard Fall, Alistair Horne, Alan Moorehead, Harry Summers and Sun Tzu; and not just one, but two books about General Giap, the Vietnamese military commander who defeated both the French and the US, appeared on the 1998 list, including Giap’s own work, How We Won the War. The commandant of the Marine Corps, James Jones, who became Barack Obama’s national security adviser and then cheer-led for and oversaw the escalation of the Afghan War in 2009, in a message to all Marines in 2000, said A Bright Shining Lie was one of his top 5 most important books. He said that before he had the choice of ...
I read most of the books on this list that were published at time when I was a US Naval Reserve officer on active duty in the Pacific fleet. For example, Bernard Fall wrote about the French experience in Vietnam that led to their ignominious defeat by a tenacious and clever indigenous people improvising guerrilla tactics suitable for conditions there.

It was clear from this that the US was making the same mistakes, unable to comprehend what was going actually on and always seeing victory around the corner by upping the ante (American soldiers lives).

This woke me up to the folly of the Vietnam War, which I actively opposed after my tour of active duty was up. And it was not just the senior military that was blindsided but also the senior civilian leadership, both political and administrative. And yet it goes on.

Please read this post.

Strategic Culture Foundation
The American Way of War, a Required Reading List
Matthew Hoh
Originally posted as Counterpunch


Nebris said...

We went totally isolationist after WW1. Didn't work out so well, to say the least. So we went completely over the top in the other direction after WW2.

Peter Pan said...

What would America have won if they had defeated the North Vietnamese?

A failed French colony.

Nebris said...

There's a lot of oil off the coast of Vietnam. And control of the RoVN would have given us control of the South China Sea. Cam Ranh Bay is probably the best deep water port in all of SE Asia. Just saying...

Peter Pan said...

Oil I can accept as a reason, but the Philippines are a base for American operations.

Nebris said...

We lost Subic Bay and Clarke Air Base to a volcanic eruption.

Peter Pan said...

Well, volcanoes don't give a damn about geopolitics, only geology.

What about other US bases in the region?

The US is on good terms with countries in SE Asia, including the so called 'Tigers'.
And then there's Vietnam. Having been held back by communist ideology, they are willing to do business. Even China has rubbed them the wrong way over the decades.

That being said, never underestimate the ability of empire builders to bungle a favourable situation.