When I tell friends that I am reading A Patriot’s History of the United States, they often ask how a patriot’s history is different from a non-patriot’s history. Until recently, I have responded that, although the differences are minor, I have noticed a few instances where the two authors put a more positive spin on America’s conduct. But those minor differences have disappeared now that I have progressed to reading about the Vietnam War. All of a sudden, the differences have become dramatic.
According to the authors, incompetent LBJ regularly rejected recommendations on Vietnam from his Joint Chiefs and required the military to fight the war with its hands cuffed behind its back – e.g., severely limited bombing, gradual escalation, and tolerance of cross-border sanctuaries. Despite these handcuffs, the U.S. military won every major engagement in Vietnam, including the watershed Tet offensive in early 1968, during which enemy forces were decimated. But victory on the ground and in the air was not enough and gradually public support began to erode.
The erosion of public support started on radicalized campuses. According to the authors, the baby boomers inundating America’s colleges were coming from “a background of abundance, self-centeredness, and permissiveness, combined with instability and lack of direction,” and they were greeted at the college gates by a radical, post-McCarthy faculty. That is quite an unsubstantiated generalization.
The authors state that the agenda of the radicals was nothing short of the overthrow of America as we know it – capitalism, foreign affairs, and morality (drugs, sex). The radicals failed because Americans ultimately became disgusted with the radicals and responded to a call for “law and order.”
The authors portray the media as either co-conspirators or duped accomplices of the campus radicals:
A symbiotic relationship, which developed between the Chicago protestors and the news media, accelerated. But the journalists also failed to see the adroit manipulation by the demonstrators. Witnesses reported an absence of violence until the mobs saw television cameras, at which point they began their act…. demonstrators stepped up their activities when reporters and photographers appeared, and, worse, camera crews “on at least two occasions did stage violence and fake injuries.”
The next indication of the authors’ political bent is their description of the Vietnam War being handed over in 1969 from incompetent LBJ to Richard Nixon – “he was a remarkable man.” According to the authors, Nixon delivered on his promise of “peace with honor” by freeing up the military to defeat the northern invaders and then Vietnamizing the war (handing over the fighting to South Vietnamese soldiers). But the war was ultimately lost (“snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”) when Congress failed, post-Nixon, to continue providing South Vietnam with financial and air support. Five months after Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, North Vietnam invaded and conquered South Vietnam. Despite Nixon’s resignation in disgrace, the authors noted that he made one last comeback as a “valuable resource for world leaders…. It was high irony indeed that by the time of his death, Richard Nixon had achieved broad-based respect that he had never enjoyed in life – and that he had lived long enough to make sure that five living American presidents attended his funeral and, even if unwillingly, paid homage to him.”
I am an unrepentant fan of Richard Nixon, but I certainly don’t think such praise to be appropriate to a history book, even a patriotic one.
Did the authors have a personal stake in their story? According to their joint website, Schweikart went to college during the Vietnam War and following graduation, became a drummer in a rock band for a few years before obtaining a graduate degree and becoming a college professor and author. Allen served in Vietnam as a Marine before obtaining a BA, MA, and PhD and becoming a college professor and author. These men obviously lived this part of their History first-hand.