The Vietnam War and President Reagan's Noble Remarks in Hindsight.
My name is Derek-Robert Cherven and I am a former United States Marine, and a retired Massachusetts State Trooper. I am also an honors student with a degree in political science and currently working toward my law degree. I am also a senior political campaign consultant for several well-known politicians (One of whom is a leading Presidential candidate). As part of my final thesis for “History of the Vietnam War 201”, I was posed with the following essay question:
“President Reagan remarked that the Vietnam War had been a “noble” effort to stop the dark forces of Communist aggression. His statement obviously generated much controversy arguing passionately from both sides. Within the context of what you have learned in this course, would you agree or disagree with this statement? Be specific and use the historical facts you have learned in this course to develop your arguments.”
Bear in mind that my professor is a distinguished Marine Corps officer who served in combat during the height of the Vietnam War. There is no better history teacher than a man who actually saw the events in person. My professors’ father was also a Marine Corps officer who worked as a liaison to the United States and the South Vietnamese AVRN. These two men both served in Vietnam at the same time, in two different capacities; one as a liaison, and the other as a combat Marine. Throughout the semester we heard from several officers and enlisted warriors who gave a first hand account of what really happened during the war. With that, please mind your comments and biases, and take what I have to say with an open heart and clear mind.
The “noble effort” to which President Reagan remarked can only be attributed to his likening our stance in the Cold War as, “fighting the good fight”. The speechwriters for the Reagan administration obviously never served in combat, nor stepped ashore in Vietnam. Although President Reagan is known for the successes of his “trickle down” economic policies, it is clear that he is unfamiliar with the “nobility of war”. With over 57,000 American soldiers killed in the line of duty, in what will go down in history as one of the most brutal wars on our planet, there were certainly acts of valor and courage. The men and women who gave their lives for our country are true heroes; so are the men and women who were lucky enough to make it home not inside the box of a C-130.
You can even go as far as saying, the American’s who stood up and spoke out against the government fought a “noble fight”. Yes, there was nobility in many of the actions of the military, and also of the protestors who spoke their mind; much like there was nobility in the actions of both the “doves” and the “hawks” who fought tirelessly to make their arguments either for or against the war; much like there was nobility in the actions of the men and women who stood up for their civil rights, especially in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. I could sit here and list thousands of noble actions that took place during this time period because there has never been a more revolutionary time in our country’s history (other than our fight for independence against the Red Coats). War is not noble, however, nobility can be a comfort when looking back on a mess that nearly tore our nation apart. The Gulf of Tonkin was certainly not “noble”; especially if our ships never came under attack; especially if the incident was fabricated simply to gain support from Congress. The Kent State shootings was not noble; the My Lai massacre was not noble…
I am just playing Devil’s advocate, and I can empathize with why they chose the word “noble”. It was a painful time in the history of our young nation. We lost a lot of good men and women for a seemingly senseless war with no objective. However, I do believe that they could have picked a less painful word because it’s obvious that the scar of Vietnam has yet to heal.