“Ken Burns recently released a documentary entitled “The Vietnam War: An Intimate History.” The script concluded with these words, “The Vietnam War was a tragedy, immeasurable and irredeemable.”1 That damning hyperbole neatly summarized 18 hours of haunting, funereal music, doleful tales by lugubrious veterans, and an elegiac historical narration voiced over a collage of violent images and thunderous explosions. In this telling, the anti-war protestors in the States are morally equivalent to the American soldiers who fought the war. Indeed, while the grunts seem soiled by the violence, those who evaded the draft and spat upon those who fought had the added satisfaction of seeing Soviet tanks manned by North Vietnamese soldiers roll triumphantly into Saigon.
A veteran is quoted at the end of the film saying, “We have learned a lesson…that we just can’t impose our will on others.” While that daffy aphorism sums up the documentary, in real life the opposite is true. Alexander imposed his will upon the Persian empire. Rome indelibly imposed its will upon Carthage. After the Civil War, the Federal government imposed its will upon the Confederacy. Following World War II, we imposed our will upon Nazi Germany and bushido Japan. In 1975, the North Vietnamese Stalinist government imposed its will upon the South Vietnamese. Forty-two years later, that same octogenarian, corrupt communist regime continues to oppress the south, while the country as a whole has become the Cuba of East Asia, bereft of economic dynamism.”