Thomas E. Ricks on the Vietnam War
"From corporals to colonels, the men whose main job it is to train fighting soldiers and forge them into fighting units find themselves instead mere cogs in the vast machinery of the `system'; martyrs to the American devotion to the idea that the American businessman is the most efficient individual in the world and therefore all American institutions should be `run on business lines.'"
— George Fielding Eliot on the Korean War-era U.S. Army
"'We were beautifully managed and inadequately led,' O'Meara wrote."
"A popular myth, persisting even in today's military, is that senior civilians were too involved in the handling of the war. In fact, the problem was not that civilians participated too much in the decision making but that the senior military leaders participated too little. President Johnson, Maxwell Taylor, and Robert McNamara treated the Joint Chiefs of Staff not as military advisers but as a political impediment, a hurdle to be overcome, through deception if necessary."
"Unlike what happened in Hue City, the My Lai massacre has lived in in American memory — but only as an instance of a rogue platoon led by a dimwitted lieutenant. What has been forgotten is that the Army's subsequent investigations found that the chain of command up to the division commander was involved either in the atrocity or in the cover-up that followed."
That last bit exemplifies one of Ricks' main strengths as a writer. Ricks is a reporter, but his touches of color are light years beyond the typical hyperventilating to which most journalists resort when they follow the dreary rule that says they must humanize their stories by giving the reader more than just process. Ricks' description of Calley could be the sketch of a character in a neo-noir novel."They were led by Lt. Calley, a short, pudgy 1963 dropout from Palm Beach Junior College who had drifted into the Army while down on his luck in Albuquerque and has somehow been sleeked to be an officer."
(Here are my previous posts about The Generals. Click on the link, then scroll down.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2013