Win or Losenby William R. HawkinsnSecrets of the Vietnam Warnby Lt. Gen. Phillip B. DavidsonnNovato, California: Presidio Press;n214 pp., $18.95nWhen Desert Storm commandernGeneral Norman Schwarzkopfnthanked President Bush for letting thenmilitary fight the Gulf war on its ownnterms, he was expressing an idea deeplynfelt in the Pentagon for over twentynyears: “No more Vietnams.” BothnSchwarzkopf and his boss, GeneralnColin Powell, chairman of the JointnChiefs of Staff, experienced combat innVietnam. Schwarzkopf did two tours,nadvising South Vietnamese paratroopersnand commanding a U.S. infantrynbattalion. Powell also served two toursnand won the Bronze Star for heroism.nWhen Schwarzkopf says “the VietnamnWar was a political defeat, but it was notna military defeat,” he is speaking for annentire generation.nBut if Desert Storm was a victorynbecause it was not fought as the VietnamnWar was fought, could the VietnamnWar have been a victory if it hadnbeen fought as Desert Storm was?nRetired Army Lt. Gen. Phillip B.nDavidson thinks so. Davidson was chiefnintelligence officer for generals WilliamnWestmoreland and Creighton Abrams,nthe top commanders in Vietnam. Beforenthat he had seen combat both innWorid War II and in Korea. AfternVietnam, he taught military history atnWest Point. His book Vietnam at Warn(Presidio Press, 1988) is the best onevolumenhistory of the conflict in itsnentirety, from 1946 to 1975.nHis new book, which was writtennbefore the Gulf crisis but publishednafter Iraq invaded Kuwait, was intendednas a memoir. It throws light onnseveral issues, including the Tet offensivenand Westmoreland’s batde withnCBS News. However, its final twonchapters, “How We Lost the War” andn”How We Could Have Won thenWar,” are likely to be the main attrac­nREVIEWSntion for most readers.nAccording to Davidson, there werentwo occasions when the United Statesncould have taken decisive action to winnthe war while a majority of the publicnstill supported armed intervention.nThe first was February 1965, when itnwas confirmed that North Vietnamnhad sent its first full combat divisionninto South Vietnam. The second wasnafter the Tet offensive had been repulsednwith heavy Communist lossesnin 1968. Both instances dramatized thenfact that the conflict was not a civil warnor an insurgency, but an invasion ofnthe South by the North. The Saigonnregime was able to handle the localnViet Cong; it was the regular army ofnNorth Vietnam, heavily equipped bynthe Soviet Union and China, thatnoffered the fatal threat. An effectivenAmerican strategy should have concentratednon defeating Hanoi by thenuse of America’s superior power, andnnot accepted battle on Hanoi’s terms,nchasing guerrillas around the jungles innthe South.nThe campaign outlined by Davidsonnis very similar to that of DesertnStorm. First, an all-out air warnaimed at North Vietnamese militaryntargets and supply lines: Hanoi’s portsnwould be closed by mines and bynblockade, and its few railroads, onnwhich supplies were being importednfrom China, would be cut. The U.S.ndid drop a lot of ordinance on NorthnVietnam, but for most of the warncritical targets were placed off limits tonAmerican pilots. For example, restrictionsnprevented attacks on enemy airfieldsnfrom which MIGs were taking offnor SAM sites that were under constructionn(this for fear of hurting Sovietnadvisors). The port of Haiphong wasnnot bombed and mined until 1972,nwhen Nixon, as Johnson had done,nstopped the bombing in exchange forndeceptive peace talks. Against Iraq, thenU.S. waged Davidson’s kind of campaignnfrom the start without “bombingnpauses” and achieved devastating results.nIn the end, of course, the war wouldnhave had to have been won on thennnground. “Existing units of the UnitednStates Army and Marine Corps shouldnhave been sent to South Vietnam asnsoon as available,” says Davidson. “Selectednreserves of all forces should havenbeen mobilized and prepared for earlyndeployment. . . . When the buildupnof the ground forces permitted, ancorps-sized force would move intonLaos, cut the Ho Chi Minh trail andnstay there.” (For a more detailed studynof the importance of such a move seenThe Key to Failure: Laos & the VietnamnWar, by Norman B. Hannah.) Itnmight also have been necessary toninvade North Vietnam itself, though,nas in Iraq, the aim would have been tondestroy the North Vietnamese Army,nnot occupy cities or to take responsibilitynfor running the country. “In short,nthe American leaders should have acceptednthe undeniable reality theynwere at war—a real war.”nIt was the failure of President Johnsonnto take the war seriously thatnDavidson blames for America’s ultimatendefeat. “The brutal truth is thatnJohnson fought the Vietnam War as ansecondary adjunct to his domestic politicalnaims.” Davidson is not alone innhis opinion. Doris Kearns, who servednon Johnson’s White House staff, wrotenin her book Lyndon Johnson and thenAmerican Dream that when advised inn1965 that a plan similar to Davidson’snwould be needed to win, “Johnsonnrecoiled from this dramatic display ofnpresidential action . . . letting thencountry know that this was a majornwar . . . which would demand sacrificesnon their part. … In decidingnagainst his advisors . . . Johnson hadnasserted his intention to control thendecision-making process.”nDavidson charges LB J “didn’t wantnto get the American people into anpatriotic furor over the war. If he didnthis, the people and Congress wouldninsist that he do something to win thenwar, and there would go the GreatnSociety.” LBJ wished merely to preservenSouth Vietnam at the minimumnshort-term cost so as not to divertnattention from his domestic programs.nThat is something to remember whennJULY 1991/37n