America Faces a Historical-Global Crossroad

By Dr. Earl Tilford

America Faces a Historical-Global Crossroad
The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA -( The Vietnam War provides lessons in how to lose. The United States never planned to defeat its opponents, the indigenous southern Viet Cong guerrillas and their northern supporters the Peoples’ Army of Vietnam.

Instead, from 1964 until 1969—during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration—we sought to compel our enemies to stop their aggression against the Saigon regime and negotiate an end to the conflict. To avoid “a wider war” and fearing Chinese or Soviet intervention, President Johnson limited the bombing of North Vietnam to a series of tactical half-measures. He failed to stem Hanoi’s source of weapons by not bombing railways and highways near the Chinese border and not mining Haiphong Harbor. Administration policy also forbade pursuing enemy forces into sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos from which they attacked South Vietnam.

The U.S. strategy of “containment” rendered a stalemate.

LOT 1807
President John F. Kennedy

Johnson inherited a losing proposition from President John F. Kennedy, whose advisors had no real military experience and less strategic acumen: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and a host of Washington East Coast establishment cronies. Consequently, JFK tried to preserve the Republic of Vietnam by containing—rather than defeating—aggression. That involved upping the number of advisors from a handful in 1961 to nearly 20,000 military personnel by November 22, 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated.

Kennedy employed a threefold approach. First, he used covert operations to keep the American people unaware of the extent of U.S. involvement, such as bombing in support of South Vietnamese forces using converted training aircraft with Air Force pilots supposedly flying “training” missions.

Second, while Kennedy admired Army Special Forces, he changed their mission from operating behind enemy lines to training South Vietnamese Army units and manning mud and barbed wire forts along the South Vietnamese side of the Cambodian and Laotian borders.

Third, Kennedy sought technological silver bullets like spraying defoliants along highways and waterways to prevent ambushes and on jungles to reduce foliage concealing enemy encampments.

The result applied too little force against an enemy determined to achieve its total war objectives of defeating the South Vietnamese military and destroying the Republic of Vietnam to unite all Vietnam under a communist regime.

Eight years ago, during the 2008 presidential election, candidate Barack Obama promised “change you can believe in.” That change drew eerily from the strategically inept playbooks of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. President Obama turned a winning strategy in Iraq into a disaster with Iran dominating part of the country and the Islamic State the other. A premature withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Obama’s declared site of the “real war,” now prompts a half-measure return of ground forces to forestall an election year disaster. Obama’s foreign policy allowed Russia to reassert influence in Ukraine and deploy military forces in Syria to establish hegemony at the world’s energy epicenter.

Further evidencing U.S. weakness were events at Benghazi on September 11, 2012 and the cover up story blaming the debacle on a video. And then there has been the kowtowing to the terrorist regime in Tehran to claim a diplomatic victory rivaling the “peace in our time” accomplishments of Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938 along with the shamefully woozy reaction after the Republican Guard captured two Navy vessels and humiliated their crews. These constitute a spectacle not experienced in American foreign affairs since Jimmy Carter’s administration.

America’s war in Vietnam ended when President Richard Nixon and Dr. Henry Kissinger made the best of a bad situation. In the 1968 election, candidate Nixon promised to have U.S. troops out of Vietnam by January 1973. Nixon’s goals focused on “peace with honor,” involved withdrawing troops and the return of American prisoners of war. It wasn’t victory but it was doable. In the aftermath, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the United States wallowed in a post-Vietnam malaise that compelled the rise of religious fanaticism in Iran and encouraged a more blusterous Soviet foreign policy.

Then came President Ronald Reagan who exploited Soviet economic and military weaknesses with the largest peacetime defense buildup in history.

The subsequent fall of Soviet communism gave the United States and the West nearly two decades of strategic pause, a new world frittered away since January 2009.

Today, the United States approaches a historical crossroad.

The current path in U.S. foreign policy will produce a succession of international disasters. Millions will experience the horrors being inflicted on the Syrians. The “Levant,” including Israel, will suffer potentially apocalyptic events.

The world needs clear, strong leadership only the United States can provide. Otherwise, a dark future waits.

Dr. Earl Tilford
Dr. Earl Tilford

About the Author:

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism.

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Clark, get our guys killed and have terrorist attacks for cheap gas from the Saudis? Your priorities are screwed. Israel is a destabilizer. I have read history and I remember the 50s 60s and 70s and 80s and 90s and 2000s. As for China and Russia, let them blow their natural resources, manpower and wealth on police work.
Maybe we can agree on electing someone besides Trump, otherwise it looks like we disagree.


5warvet, thank you for your service. But the part about head from interns sounds like a good thing, not bad.


The writer did not get into enough specifics for me to understand what he suggests. We do not need to be world police, we do not need to be engaged in tag your it Mid Eastern war. War should be the last resort ,but given no other choice like the Pearl Harbor attack we should fight to dispatch the enemy ASAP and have a clear victory not a truce, like Korea or Nam. The writer eludes to Israel, nonsense. We have no reason to be in the Mid East. Get our troops and emissaries out. Those crazy religious zealots have… Read more »

Clark Kent

JohnC: Unless you want to pay $10 for a gallon of gas, you had better re-think the involvement of the USA in the Middle East. And supporting Israel is the key to Middle East stability. Better hit the history books next time before you post. You want China or Russia to be the policeman of the world? Because some nation has to have that title. P.S. Who cares where we are welcome? We were not welcome in Nazi Germany either.


Politicians should never fight wars. Bunch of college boy pussies who would rather get head jobs from interns than do a real job.

Then there is bathouse Barry…. the twisted Muslim…


5 war Vet, Politicians NEVER fight wars! They ArmChair Quarterback usually behind the cover of a political General. Stopping MacArthur from kicking the Chinese all the way to the North Pole was a HUGE mistake and set the stage for the now accepted” How to get our best and brightest Killed and Maimed Strategy”. A while back our Military could go anywhere, anytime and win decisively and all it took was the CIC to give the word–Go Win this or that conflict–You have 30 day’s , Use any and all resources your need. Report success to my desk in 45… Read more »

Wild Bill

I agree completely, but why do we insist on calling our elected politicians leaders. None of them no anything about leadership. I would not follow any of them around the block much less on a real tasker.

Don Bailey

I completely understand the point that Dr. Tilford is making here, but it irritates me to no end when anyone indicates that we lost the war in Vietnam militarily, when we actually lost it politically because our political leadership caved in to the leftist- liberal anti-establishment movement. Liberal politicians, such as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, made sure that the rules of engagement that every battle would be compromised from then on. In this day and age, I don’t see how parents can encourage their children to fulfill their patriotic duty, when liberal politicians refuse to support the military.




WFA 10-X +1 more.