Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: The Pentagon Papers


I have finally finished it. It has been years in the doing, but I finally made it to the end. I don't recommend it. You'll get little out of it that a professional historian hasn't already gleaned and reported in a much leaner and more informative format.

I didn't read it in book format, I read it online.

Anyway, I read the whole thing. I have only two comments that I don't believe I've seen discussed elsewhere.

The first is that, militarily, we knew what we needed to do. All through the papers they limited their options by what they thought the Chinese would let them get away with. The first time someone brought up the Chinese contingency, we should have been planning for that eventuality--if for no other reason than our estimates of what would provoke China to invade might be wrong.

The second is that we were trying to fight two armies with one army. If we consolidated our forces, the VC would hit us where we weren't. If we spread our forces, the NVA would overrun them. Meanwhile, we kept reorganizing our forces to meet this dual threat, and losing time and initiative with every reorganization.

Other than that, Vietnam was a sterling example of how to fight an insurgency badly.

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