It is not a war fought for territory, nor for pieces of land that will be won and held.It is not a war fought to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese nationals, not in the wake of contempt drawn on our faces and on theirs, not in the wake of a burning village, a trampled rice patty, a battered detainee.If land is not won and if hearts are at best left indifferent; if the only obvious criterion of military success is body count and if the enemy absorbs losses as he has, still able to lure us amid his crop of mines; if soldiers are being withdrawn, with more to go late and later and later;….if any of this is truth, a soldier can only do his walking, laughing along the way and taking a funny, crooked step.”
“We weren’t the old soldiers of World War II. No valor to squander for things like country or honor or military objectives.All the courage in August was the kind you dredge up when you awaken in the morning, knowing it will be a bad day.Horace’s old do-or die aphorism, ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ (It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country)–was just an epitaph for the insane.”
–Tim O’Brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone
In your study of US History you’ve encountered many stories of soldiers in many settings.Vietnam has always been described as different than any of the other American wars that preceded it.Using O’Brien’s book and your textbook and lectures, discuss the character of the Vietnam War.Describe the conflicts within the army itself, from the common soldiers (racial difficulties, officers vs. enlisted men, etc) to the differences between civilian and military leadership.Also discuss the treatment of noncombatants. Make an argument as to whether this war was different from all other American wars. In addition, answer and defend this question.Was this war winnable?Why or why not?
Make sure you include specific quotes from If I Die in a Combat Zone as well as your lectures or textbook to back up your assertions.