Should the Vietnam War matter to us now?

Specifically, is the stance someone took on the Vietnam War (pro or con) during the 60’s and 70’s relevant to American voters now (particularly those born after 1975)?

I’ve noticed that during the whole debate regarding Bush’s and Kerry’s comparative service records during Vietnam, many conservatives have attacked Kerry’s public opposition to the war in an effort to devalue Kerry’s military record. This has made me wonder what’s the expiration date on this issue anyway? The Vietnam War ended in 1975. The Cold War (the central conflict from which it sprang) ended in 1989. The Soviet Union (America’s primary opponent in the Cold War) dissolved in 1991. Our current enemies are not in any way taken with doctrines of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Still, Vietnam has apparently become the “bloody shirt” of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Let’s discuss.

If for no other reason, this: that those who will not learn from history are doomed to make other people repeat it.

That, and if you’ve ever read All Quiet on the Western Front, you’ll notice the tendency for those who never experienced war to be more enthusiastic about it than those who did.
Disclaimer: the closest I ever came to war was on 9/11, first watching those buildings collapse right before my eyes, then having to see the smoke rise from those holes for months afterwards from my office window. That’s as close as I ever want to come, and as close as I want anyone else to come also, absent a truly urgent and unavoidable necessity.

Thus proving the old adage that those who fail to learn from past damn fool wars are doomed to repeat them.

Like those old peaceniks Mao and Hitler.

I doubt there is much truth in that statement in reality. Many ex soldiers have been incredibly gung-ho while many people who have never been to war never went precisely because they did object.
I got the impression form AQOTWF that the enthusiasm came more from those old men who were unable to fight than from those who had never been generally. The women especially were portrayed as universally hating war.

For those of us well into our middle age and approaching geezerhood, the war in Vietnam (1965-1973) is a sort of rite of passage. Some of us went because we thought we had a duty to go, just as our fathers had gone in 1943, and some of us suppressed convictions that the war was foolish and ill advised in doing so. Some of us answered when our government called us thinking we had a duty to do so, and some of us answerer that call because we lacked the moral courage to refuse to go. Some of us connived and string pulled to pretend that we going when in fact we were not going. Some of us refused to go, accepting exile or criminal prosecution as the better course. Lots of us took the course of pretense and many more would have gone that way if they could have. Regrettably our President took the course of pretense. Senator Kerry did not. Each had his own reasons.

For many of us of a certain age, Vietnam marks the time of a great winnowing. Those of us who lived through that time each have an idea of what choice marks the chaff and which the grain. It was a time of character testing. Each of us has an opinion of the character revealed by the choices made.

Some of us are saddened when we see men and women in the same uniform we once wore, wearing the unit insignia we once wore, serve in a strange place, separated from their families and communities, their lives put on hold, out of a sense of duty and responsibility in order to participate in what might be reasonably thought to be a foolish and ill advised national adventure instigated by middle aged men who made the choice of self preservation some 30 years ago.

That’s why Vietnam is important. That’s why it’s legitimate to ask an aspirant to a public office of honor and profit, what did you do in the war, Buck-o. It 's not the only question but it’s a legitimate question.

It’s important to know that there were no easy lines drawn. Those who protested the war still grieve for long dead friends.

It is important to know that even seemingly decent men tell cowardly lies that kill masses of human beings.

I don’t blame Bush for joining the Guard. The instinct toward self-preservation during this particular war is very understandable. And I certainly think that John Kerry has more than paid his dues to be able to speak his opinions fully.

As far as that goes, the Revolutionaries took care of that for all of us.

Damn, I knew there was a reason I liked you !
Blake: you are not a vet, huh?

To All.: You bet your ass the vietnam war is important. I wan’t make it clear that I have as much respect for those people who refused to join the military for reasons of principle, as I do for the brave men and women who served. The issue confronting us today is one of character. Did George Bush do his duty. Had he not made it an issue by strutting around on an Aircraft Carrier, and had he not tried to claim the moral high ground by claiming honorable military service then vietnam era service would not be an issue. The issue is that HE FUCKING LIED.

I view Bush in the same contemptous light that I do people who claim to be war heros and wear fake medals at vet conventions. People like Dubya must “create” an image in order to sell themselves to the American people because real courage and honor is a mystery to them. They want to live vicariously through those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives. It’s even more disgusting that he’s doing it for political reasons but that’s another topic really.

Reviving this thread because, now that the SBVT claim that Kerry obtained his medals through dubious means is collapsing when confronted by the facts, the Bush backers are now emphasizing Kerry’s vocal opposition to the Vietnam War during the 70’s in order to discredit him. This shift in rightwing tactics has me again wondering, aside from the question of whether a person served in the war or not, why one’s position on Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s should matter today. What relevance does a politician’s stance on a war that ended nearly 30 years ago have to a voter born after 1970?

(I hope I’m not being too insensitive in my phrasing of this issue.)

While the question of whether the Viet Nam war does or should have bearing on our thinking and actions today is a worthwhile one, I would like to suggest that it should not be confused with the current smear campaign being conducted by the compassionate conservative himself. Do not think for a moment that Bush/Rove is really concerned about the Truth about Viet Nam. It is simply a target of opportunity for smears, and if Kerry had a history noteworthy for service in the Peace Corps, we would be hearing about how he nailed some indiginous girls or pilfered the petty cash box.

I read a quote earlier today from someone in the Bush campaign from back in the end of 2003, saying that they would be targeting Kerry’s war record. Don’t believe this BS about how he brought it on himself.

Little, if any. I was born in '70, but if I was born in 1950 I might have dodged the draft, too. Who knows. I’m not going to vote for or against someone for something they did before I was born. Frankly, the slim chance I had of voting for Kerry expired when I saw he decided Vietnam was his best attribute. If he’s not impressed by his more recent efforts, why the hell should I be?

I’m amazed that the Kerry campaign didn’t see this coming; if nothing else they had to know that Kerry’s post-active-duty anti-war activities would be recounted, and that some vets would still be angry 30 years later. Whoever is in charge of “oppo research” ought to be fired.

Well I guess the first moment Bush might have thought of bringing up Kerry’ vietnam service was to reinforce the “flip flop” mantra… by claiming that Kerry wants to be a war hero and war protestor as well. Bush by reinforcing his “attachment” to the military with Aircraft Carrier gimmicks… speeches with neatly lined up soldiers behind him… etc… brought the whole military image to the forefront of the presidential race.

Clinton was a draft dodger too… but he wasn’t enthusiastic about War like Bush… that is the big difference. There is a perception that Bush is callous about casualties and more than a little high on being “war” president. Kerry by being a war hero in theory would be more careful about how the troops are exposed to danger.

In the end the issue isn't Vietnam but the perceived morals and honor of both candidates.

I wish. They fail to learn, and we are the ones doomed to repeat it.

Not particularly people born after the war , all you might see is the character or either of the two candidates, and judge from there.

Back room boys will use anything and everything to win. Winning is not everything , its the only thing. This time its Viet Nam , last time it was Willy Horton

2020 most likely, but then you might have politicians coming up who served in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom , so it passes like baton in a relay race.


"Georgie Tirebiter served with distinction in Grenada, helping to free a couple hundred people from the dreadful tyranny of Whats-his-face…

Georgie! Tirebiter! He’s Not Insane!…"

(with apologies to Firesign Theater…)

Wha? Both Mao and Hitler fought in wars - Mao as a guerilla commander against the Japanese and against the Nationalists, Hitler in the front lines during WW1.

elucidator beat me to it…

that’s all

I stared at the title of this thread with gaping jaw for an age before hitting the reply button.

Should the Vietnam War matter to us now? Are you kidding me? Is this a joke thread?

As far as I know, there is only 1 member of the Bush inner circle who served in Vietnam, and he is (according to Woodward’s book) the only member of that inner circle who urged caution and careful consideration about invading Iraq. Colin Powell saw first hand in Vietnam that overwhelming might doesn’t mean you automatically “win”. That’s the kind of wisdom I would like in my leadership.

We still apparently have no exit plan in Iraq. It is now becoming possible, 16 months after “winning”, to entertain serious thoughts that there may have been no exit plan contemplated in the first place.

A candidate who served in Vietnam, and who was aware and active in the political movements that surrounded that war, is armed with experience that is eminently relevant to the current world situation, which is in many ways analogous to the situation around the time of Vietnam.

I truly get the feeling from the American zeitgeist ever since 9/11 that a great portion of our electorate doesn’t remember just how threatening Communism seemed to us in the sixties. “Clear and present danger” and “imminent threat” (duck and cover, anyone?) was a cloud that hung over our heads just as ominously (I suggest more so) than terrorism or WMD from a tinpot dictator.

Reasons for applying military force in Vietnam were really quite similar to reasons for applying military force in Iraq (natural resources, indirect threats to us, ensuring markets for western business, humanitarian concerns, etc). Both situations also seemed like no brainer wins due to our overwhelming military advantage. Both situations turned out to be much more challenging than originally envisioned.

The OP suggests to me that much of the electorate thinks the debate over service in Vietnam is all about who was macho and who chickened out. I submit that the question of service in Vietnam is vastly deeper than that. Who has the life experience to evaluate possible outcomes to applications of military force? Who has lived through the repercussions of a plan-gone-wrong? These are very serious, and very relevant questions.

Should the War of 1812 matter?
Should we obsess about it every day, & weigh all of our Political, Diplomatic, Intelligence & Military decisions against it?

How about the War of Spanish Succession? Do we base or decisions on that?