EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG. A continuing Media Log series! Two op-eds about the Vietnam War this weekend have nothing in common except that they illustrate the dangers of believing the conventional wisdom.
On Saturday, Holy Cross professor Jerry Lembcke argued in the Boston Globe that the archetypal image of antiwar protesters spitting on soldiers as they were returning from Vietnam simply never happened. Lembcke, who has written a book on the subject, is utterly persuasive. At a minimum, the next time a journalist hears such a story, he or she should methodically ask questions about the timing, the place, and the circumstances. (I think they used to call that "who, what, when, where, why, and how.")
In today's New York Times, Stephen Morris, of Johns Hopkins University, writes that not only could the South Vietnamese government have been saved in 1975 with minimal US intervention - mainly air support - but that that's the outcome a majority of South Vietnamese citizens wanted. Morris's view strikes me as a selective reading of history, but it's thought-provoking nevertheless - especially with respect to his contention that the Soviets were less than thrilled with their Vietnamese allies.