On Body Counts, Dead Zones, and an Empire of Stupidity
Tom Engelhardt writes in TomDispatch:
For Americans of the Vietnam era, a centuries-old “victory culture” — in which triumph on some distant frontier against evil enemies was considered an American birthright — still held sway. In Vietnam, when it nonetheless became clear that the promised frontier victory was, for the second time in little more than a decade, nowhere in sight, American military and civilian officials tried to compensate.
One problem they faced was that the very definition of victory in war — the taking of terrain, the advance into hostile territory that signaled the crushing of enemy resistance — had ceased to mean anything in Vietnam. In a guerrilla war in which, as American grunts regularly complained, you couldn’t tell friends from enemies, no less hold a hostile countryside, something else had to substitute for the landing at D-Day, the advance on Berlin, the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. And so the “whiz kids” of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s Pentagon and the military high command developed a substitute numerology of victory.