Turning points: Vietnam 1965, Ukraine 2023

History doesn’t repeat and historical analogies, in and of themselves, don’t prove anything. But history can provide food for thought.

The USA and its allies are at a turning point in the Ukraine conflict. We’re being told by Ukraine’s leaders that, yes, they’re still on the verge of victory, but nevertheless they may lose unless they get a major infusion of arms and money.

I’m reminded of General Westmoreland’s report on Vietnam in 1965.  He said the South Vietnamese government was not winning, as had been previously reported.  Instead it was on the verge of collapse, unless the USA sent 125,000 troops immediately.

Lyndon Johnson, a strong man who was unwilling to admit defeat, agreed.  In the end 500,000 Americans were sent to Vietnam to fight.  In the end, the USA lost anyway.

Ukraine has been a sinkhole for U.S.-supplied armaments.  They’ve burned through years of production of Javelin missiles and other weapons in a matter of months.  

The choice for the USA is to admit failure now, and give in.  Or to send American troops.  The decision is up to Joe Biden, a weak man who will find it hard to admit defeat.

Back in the 1960s, the United States was at the height of its power as a military and industrial power.  Now both military and industrial strength have been hollowed out.  It is not likely that the U.S. can do to Russia what it failed to do to North Vietnam.

Ukrainian forces have been trying to escalate the war in order to provoke a direct Russia-USA conflict.  This includes attacks on Russian territory, including a drone attack on a Russian Air Force base where nuclear weapons have been stored.  It includes assassination of a Russian media personality, Darya Dugina.  It includes bombardment of a nuclear power plant under Russian control, with risk of another Chernobyl disaster.

I do not blame Ukrainian leaders for seeking a larger war.  Their brave soldiers are being decimated.  Ursula van der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, recently said Ukraine’s armed forces have suffered 100,000 fatal casualties.

They have no obligation to the U.S. government, which led them to believe they could safely join the anti-Russian alliance and suppress the Russian-speaking minority.  Their only hope of victory is to cover their losses by raising the stakes.

But that’s no reason for me, as an American citizen, to support a war that is harming my own country, bringing disaster to Europe and devastating Ukraine.

There is little hope of a compromise peace.  The Russian government perceives the Ukrainian conflict, along with the global sanctions war, as a struggle for national survival.  It does not trust the U.S. government to keep agreements.  It intends to impose its peace terms by force.

I don’t think anybody in the U.S. government perceives it as a war for American national survival, but it is a war to maintain U.S. power.  Defeat in Ukraine will lead to a breakup of the NATO alliance.  The governments that signed up for NATO believed that it was a shield for them against Russian aggression.  They are finding they are the tip of a spear aimed at breaking up Russian power.

Jake Sullivan, Anthony Blinken, Victoria Nuland and the other U.S. war hawks have no reason not to keep the war going as long as possible.  Who knows?  Maybe the Russians will crack, or maybe something else will happen to turn things around.  

They have no reason to suffer any harm to their careers if Ukraine loses, any more than did the architects of the U.S. war policy in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.  The scapegoats for defeat will be those who warned against the war policy in the first place.

My guess is that the first to crack will be the Europeans.  The people of these nations are beginning to see how they’ve been harmed by a cutoff of Russian oil and gas imports, and how the Biden administration has used this to help U.S. manufacturing industry at the expense of Europe.


Ukraine Armistice: How the UDZ of 2023 Will Separate the Two Armies Like the Korean Armistice of 1953 by John Helmer for Dances With Bears.

Washington Is Prolonging Ukraine’s Suffering by Col. Douglas Macgregor for The American Conservative.

Is This Winning?  Western leaders can no longer hide the truth about Ukraine by George D. O’Neill Jr. for The American Conservative.

 Managing the Ukraine Denial Narrative by Alastair Crooke for the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Bloomberg Describes Europe’s Severe and Sustained Energy Crisis Due to Loss of Russian Gas by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

Why the Global South is Raising the Russian Flag by Mark Sleboda for The Real Politick with Mark Sleboda.

It’s War, Josip, But Not As We Know It by Aurelien for Trying to Understand the World.

Onward, Post-Christian Soldiers by Aurelien for Trying to Understand the World.

Politics by Other Means: Putin and Clausewitz by Big Serge for Big Serge Thoughts.

The Sanctions Weapon by Nicolas Mulder for The International Monetary Fund.

Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is ‘Collapsing’ by Nahfeez Ahmed for Canadian Dimension.

Why the War in Ukraine Is a True Act of Madness by Rajah Menon for TomDispatch and ScheerPost.

The Impact of the Ukraine War Will Last a Generation by Cliff Kupchan for The National Interest.

Getting Closer by Wolfgang Shreck for New Left Review.  About German politics.

The Devastating Effects of Nuclear Weapons by Richard Wolfson and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress for the MIT Press Reader.

I understand this is a longer list of articles than a normally busy person has time to go through.  I put them up anyway because I’ve learned something from each of them, but I don’t have time to write a separate blog post about each one.

I understand that I may seem like a mono-maniac on this one topic.  I also understand that you may wonder why I link to obscure web sites instead of respectable sources such as The Washington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio and the like.  

A minor reason is that many of the established authorities are behind pay walls.  The major reason is that I think the particular obscure web sites to which I link have better insights.

Of course I could be wrong.  I’m sure I’m not wrong about the established authorities giving me a propaganda version of reality, but wrong about the alternative authorities having the right perspective.  The proof will be in the pudding – that is, in the events of the next six to twelve months.

I am obsessed with this particular topic, for what I think are good reasons, but I do have other interests, to which I will try to do justice.

Tags: ,

9 Responses to “Turning points: Vietnam 1965, Ukraine 2023”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:


    Macgregor is full of hogwash. I could go down a point-by-point refutation, but it would be longer than the OP. He is so consistently wrong I can only believe it is by design. Playing for a particular audience.


  2. Patrick Berting Says:

    This seems like an unduly pessimistic take on the situation. I prefer to take a glass half full perspective. However, I do respect the number of sources you have
    mustered. For me, we cannot allow the forces of evil to win.


    • philebersole Says:

      Pattrick, what you are writing now about Ukraine is what I thought back in 1965 about Vietnam.

      I thought the USA and its allies were locked in a global struggle with totalitarian Communism, and a stand had to be taken against evil.

      Taking the stand cost the lives of some 58,300 American servicemen, 200,000 to 250,000 South Vietnamese troops, 1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters and as many as 2 million civilians on both sides.


      And none of this changed the final result.

      I was not wrong in being anti-Communist. I was wrong in not thinking things through.

      The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.


    • paintedjaguar Says:

      I think you’re confused about who the “forces of evil” actually are in this case. This conflict started years (or decades) before 2022, and thousands of people had already died in Ukraine before most of the current cheerleaders even started paying attention. Not that you’ll learn much by paying attention to official or “respected” sources anyway.


  3. philebersole Says:

    In 2022, Volodomyr Zelensky addressed the U.S. Congress to great acclaim.

    He was hailed as the Churchill of Ukraine.

    In 1957, Ngo Dinh Diem addressed the U.S. Congress to great acclaim.

    He was hailed as the Churchill of Vietnam.

    In 1963, he was killed in a U.S.-backed coup because of the failure of his government to prevail against the Vietnamese Communists.



  4. Eric Says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .


  5. Patrick Berting Says:

    With all due respect, Ukraine and Vietnam are two different kettles of dish. I like the Churchill quote, “An appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Let’s not appease Putin.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: