while my pal’s pilot was describing to the rest of us hisnsurprise, while in violent maneuvering against a division ofnMIG’s, to feel the unexpected impact of a blindside midair!n”No surprise, Boss,” interrupted the popular back seater,nsmiling and shaking his head in the spirit of sardonic fly-boynhumor. “I knew what to expect right after I heard yournbriefing in the ready room. The flight was briefed like anmidair, and it was flown like a midair.”nA joke (sort of), but it was no joke with the Vietnam Warnas a whole. It was planned like a midair, and flown like anmidair: a perfect disaster. But the planners didn’t have to gonto prison. They didn’t even have to fight. They didn’t evennknow how to fight. They just knew how to “thread thenneedle” — how to get an army out there that would satisfynour elders’ drive, The Establishment drive, people like DeannAcheson’s and John McCloy’s Wise Men’s drive — to meetnCold War verities, shackled sufficientiy to keep the allies ofnthe enemy below a high simmer, and our own generalnpublic in the dark and calm. No emotion, please. Early innthe war Robert McNamara said: “The greatest contributionnVietnam is making is that it is developing an ability in thenUnited States to fight a limited war, to go to war, without thennecessity of arousing the public ire.” Can you think of anynaction more inconsistent with the basic idea of a democracynthan the launching of the ultimate public endeavor, thencommitting of a generation of its young men to batfle, thenquintessential emotional experience, under the guise ofntheir merely acting out their parts in some new sort of sterilenhalf-speed surgical intrusion and thus well enough servednwithout the encouragement and support of the publicnsentiment?nOh, there was no doubt in the minds of the insiders, or ofnthose of us who were out there on the firing line beforen1965, that a “land batfle” was what was in the works. Younnotice that I said that the needle-threaders got an army outnthere and shackled it. Nobody who understood the problemnwanted the US Army out there trying to win hearts andnminds in the weeds — least of all the Joint Chiefs of Staff.nAfter two years of study and God knows how manynconfrontations with the President’s “defense intellectuals,”nour JCS’s final formal recommendation (made in Octobern1964, just before “the” war shaping decisions were renderednby the Executive Department) hung in with the LeMaynsolution — to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong, back to the StonenAge if necessary; to keep the US Army out of the fieldnexcept as a last resort; to “isolate” the battiefield and let thenSouth Vietnamese have at it with the Communists in a fairnfight. (There is data in the files that establish LeMay’snrationale as not to glorify the Air Force, but to save the USnArmy from ruin.) Their plan, the JCS believed, best utilizednAmerica’s military power, and best served her nationalnpurposes and well-being.nAnd take it from one who was there when the B-52’snfinally did bomb Hanoi for a few days eight years later: thatnwould have done it. “The walls came tumbling down” —nthe loss of life, American and Vietnamese, was miniscule inncomparison to the “land war” we bought into (at most, 1npercent of what was commonplace in World War IInbombardments—100 per day in Hanoi vs. 50,000 a day atnDresden being a not-illegitimate contrast). The noisy Hanoinstreets went absolutely silent. Their military officers werenfirst thunderstruck, then obsequious, setting our guards tonthe unprecedented task of making the rounds of thencellblocks with hot coffee at dawn before the daily barragenstarted. Within two weeks, their national authorities werenback at the negotiating table, and, in so many words, in thenprocess of surrendering.nThe Chiefs'”short war” recommendation of Octobern1964 was handed over to the young EstablishmentnIntellectual LBJ had asked to draft his strategy. His namenwas William Putnam Bundy, Dean Acheson’s son-in-law.n(Insecure Johnson had to have that old-boy Ivy Leaguenpreshge behind him.) And according to the “25 years after”nbooks coming out now, it was William Bundy who wasnarbiter of most things crucial during the “war shaping”nperiod. (It was he who in May 1964 had drafted a “fill in thenblanks” Congressional Resolution that became the TonkinnGulf Resolution after the events of early August of that year;nit was he who cooled the JCS idea of “keeping the pressurenon with follow-up raids” while the iron was hot after ournreprisal air strikes of August 5; he was a leader among thosenwho insisted on not bombing Hanoi and Haiphong, raisingnthe ludicrous flag of caution for fear of a China that wasntrying to get into America’s orbit during those very earlynVietnam War years — the start of China’s political turnaroundnthat took Nixon’s and Kissinger’s insight to recognizenand capitalize on a few years later; and according to a goodnbook entifled Four Stars, which came out this spring, it wasnthis same William Bundy who rejected the idea of a cleanndeclaration of war, something that public sentiment wouldnprobably have supported in that fall of 1964—a “bright linentest” that would have assured our deploying soldiers of thencongressional and public support they deserved in exchangenfor laying their lives on the line. Bundy rejected it (says thenbook) to save LBJ “an embarrassing pre-election politicalnheadache in his peace-oriented campaign against Goldwaternfor President.”nAdmiral Lloyd Mustin appeared before William Bundy’snwar strategy working group as advocate for the Chiefs’n”short war” plan in November 1964. His words terselyndescribed the distillation of JCS thinking: “Instead ofnworking to buttress the South Vietnamese government innorder to defend itself, the United States should take sternnactions against North Vietnam to make that defense needless.”n(Over the years, the Chiefs had collected lots of data,nincluding the horror stories of Lieutenant Colonel JohnnPaul Vann’s unsuccessful attempts in ’62 and ’63 tonmotivate or teach the South Vietnamese to fight “Westernnstyle.”) But the “short war” plan went down the tubes onnDecember 1, 1964, in a formal meeting with LBJ and hisnprincipal advisors: Rusk, McNamara, the Bundys, Rostow,nMcCone, Ball, and Ambassador Maxwell Taylor. A campaignnof reactive (tit for tat) gradualism won — the strategynof the game-theory advocates who claimed that if you tittednfor tat long enough, you could eventually convince yournadversary that his cause was hopeless. (The “Prisoners’nDilemma” game.) It seemed a “safer” theory—and by itsnimplicit restriction of options to almost none except thenstationing of our Army units right down there in the jungle,nit had the old “morality play” aspect of compassionatenpaternalism—our troops acting out the theme of thosennnAUGUST 1989/15n