Why the US Lost the Vietnam War

50 year anniversary of start of Vietnam War - Daily Press

A Skeptics View of American History

Episode 19 The Real Blunders of the Vietnam War

Mark Stoler PhD

Film Review

In one of his better lectures, Stoler debunks a number of myths about the Vietnam War.

He traces the history of the war to the reversal of Franklin Roosevelt’s policy opposing continued French colonization of Indochina. With Truman’s initiation of the Cold War, the US sought to strengthen France’s suppression of colonial independence movements as a defense against communist expansion into Eastern Europe. Truman also saw Western control of Indochina as essential to guaranteeing US-occupied Japan’s access Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s rubber, oil and mineral resources in Indonesia and Malaysia.

In 1954, a major defeat at Dien Bien Phu led the French military to withdraw from Vietnam. Under the 1954 Geneva Accord (which the US refused to sign), Laos and Cambodia were awarded independence, while Vietnam was temporarily split at 17th parallel (pending reunification elections in 1956). The southern Republic of Vietnam was ruled by a French puppet government under King Bao Dai, and the northern Democratic Republic of Vietnam by Ho Chi Minh.

According to Stoler, the US government made their first major blunder in 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson refused to meet with Ho Chi Minh (seeking US support for Vietnam’s independence struggle) during the Versailles treaty negotiations. So he met with the Soviets. However the biggest biggest blunder was misperceiving the independence struggle (supported by the majority of both North and South Vietnames) ar in Vietnam as a Cold War proxy war sponsored by the Soviet Union and China. Stoler blames this mistake on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and their successful purge of all major Asian experts from the US State Department.

Refusing to hold elections in 1956 (because they knew Ho Chi Minh would win), the Eisenhower administration replaced the king with a Vietnamese exile living in the US named Ngo Dinh Diem. They also massively ramped up military and economic aid to South Vietnam, emboldening Diem to begin a ruthless purge of Vietnam’s freedom fighters. Most went underground to join the Viet Minh (national independence cadres) Ho Chi Minh started in 1941. Calling themselves the National Liberation Front, they were known in the West as the Viet Cong.

Under Kennedy, the US responded to continuing Vietnamese unrest by sending in special forces (Green Berets) and allowing the CIA to assassinate Diem. The number of US “advisors” (to the South Vietnamese arm) in South Vietnam increased from 900 in 1961 to 17,000 in 1963.

By 1964, North Vietnam was on the verge of defeating the US puppet government in the South. Facing conservative hawk Barry Goldwater in the November election, President Lyndon Johnson (determined not to be blamed for losing Vietnam) increased troop numbers to 500,000.

This film can be viewed free on Kanopy.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/real-blunders-vietnam-war

Who was Marlon Brando?

Marlon Brando: An Actor Named Desire

Directed by Philippe Kohly (2014)

Film Review

This is a very troubling TV documentary one of my favorite actors. Brando was born in Omaha in 1924 to alcoholic parents. His dyslexia got him kicked out of high school at 17, and at 19, he moved to Greenwich Village with his two olderĀ  sisters and their families.

By some fluke, he enrolled in Stella Adler’s class in Stanislavsky Method Acting at the New School and began studying Dostoevsky, Freud and Hinduism, as well as allowing his agent to place him in a few small theater roles. He got his first big part when Tennessee Williams drafted him to play Stanley Kowalski in the 1947 Broadway production of Street Car Named Desire (directed by Elia Kazan).

Instantly courted by the film industry, he rejected a system where stars were still “owned” by their studios, In 1949, he moved to France, where he fell in love with a French (male) actor.

In 1950, he returned to the US and accepted his first starring role in The Men, a film about a paralyzed war veteran.

In 1951, he starred in the film version of Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan.

In 1952, he starred in Viva Zapata!, directed by Elia Kazan, about Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.

He would fall out with Kazan the same year after his mentor snitched on eight film industry friends to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Committee on Un-American Activities.

In 1953, he played Mark Anthony with John Gielgud and other renowned British actors in the film version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. He also starred in The Wild One as the head of a biker gang. Elvis Presley would emulate the leather jacket he wore in the film and James Dean, the tight tee shirts and jeans.

In 1955 at age 30, Brando won his first Oscar for On the Waterfront and became the most famous actor in the world.

In 1954, he starred in The Egyptian and Napoleon and in 1955, Guys and Dolls. Owing to growing conflict with the film studios, they became increasingly reluctant to cast him. For his next major film (Mutiny on the Bounty – 1962), he demanded total script control and fired three directors. Mutiny was followed by The Chase (1966) and 11 other really bad films in seven years.

During this period, Brando became really active in the civil rights movement and marched on Washington with Martin Luther King in 1963. He also married a French Polynesian actress named Tarita and between 1962 and 1972 Brando served as “king” of the small island of Tetiaroa near Tahiti.

Most critics viewed his film career as over until Francis Ford Coppola battled the studio bosses to have him play Don Vito Carleone in The Godfather (1972). Brando rejected the second Oscar he received for the film, sending a Native American activist in his place to speak about the abominable treatment of indigenous Americans in the US. After The Godfather, he made Last Tango in Paris in 1972 and Apocalypse Now in 1976.

He also made millions doing bit parts in various movies, including the father of Superman in Superman (1978).

The last 20 years of his life were extremely tragic. In 1990, his oldest son Christian shot and killed the boyfriend of his half sister Cheyenne. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and spent five years in prison. In 1995, Cheyenne committed suicide by hanging herself.

The full film can be seen on Kanopy.