Posted by Brad @ 7:35 pm on April 28th 2007

The Vietnam Question

(this post is not about Iraq)

Finally. Every once in awhile you come across something that you’ve been meaning to write for ages, only to see that somebody else has, and you’re glad.

I go off now and then when people (including my co-bloggers!) trumpet the “America thinks Vietnam was a decent thing that could have been won had the Democrats not mucked it up” canard (or some variant) that gets pushed forward so often when matters of war and peace come up. It drives me nuts because it’s so clearly not true, but continues to be an operating precept of the people that currently rule the country, it continues to get trotted out.

Here is a 2004 study going to the Library of Congress for 30+ years worth of evidence and finding…

America is not — emphatically not — divided over Vietnam….

Public opinion on this question couldn’t be clearer. There is no great Vietnam divide. Americans are more divided over carbohydrates than they are over Vietnam.

And at TPMCafe, Todd Gitlin makes the correct synthesis.

There are a lot of reasons why the Democrats have not been trusted on national security and issues of war for awhile (though, again, they are MORE trusted at present than the Republicans), and Vietnam I’m sure has something to do with it. But the public doesn’t “blame” the loss in Vietnam on the anti-war crowd. There’s no evidence ever uncovered to that effect, and mountains and mountains of it to the contrary.

Like Iraq (I lied!), the VAST majority of America (in the Vietnamese case, by a three to one margin at least) think it was a mistake from the get-go (unjust). In fact, the MOST divisiveness on the Vietnamese question is whether it was “fundamentally wrong and immoral” or a “well-intentioned mistake” (And even that’s 52-43). Nobody, in retrospect (or AT THE TIME), seems to think the anti-war crowd was wrong.

It’s one of those cases of phantom polling, where more people believe that people believe in something, than there are people who actually believe in said something.


  1. I’ve never claimed that Vietnam was a winnable war that the commie-hugging Democrats lost. All I’ve ever done is point out that it’s a claim that some people believe.

    Comment by Adam — 4/28/2007 @ 8:31 pm

  2. Fair enough. And that’s true enough (our President and VP believe it, Reagan did, etc). But when I hear it, it tends to be invoked on behalf of a lot more people than it applies to. It’s well worth pointing out that the people who believe it represent a decided minority. Most of the rest of America by a huge margin thinks those people are nuts.

    Best guess is that the people who believe it represent from a third to a fifth of America (and, currently, the highest its ever been), which puts it at about the level of people who believe in vampires.

    Comment by Brad — 4/28/2007 @ 8:46 pm

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