Vietnam: The Final Reckoning
AT LAST, the final reckoning in Vietnam is at hand. Barring some unforeseen and unexpected reversal, the last act in what has seemed a never-ending drama has begun. How should we behave in the concluding phase of a conflict whose outcome we have for so long sought to influence? How should we act toward those we chose to support and whose destiny we presumed to guide? However one answers these questions, their importance is apparent. For what we ultimately learn, if anything, from this our first defeat in war will depend in large measure upon our collective memory of Vietnam. In turn, this memory will surely be affected by how we behave in the moment of defeat.
It may be argued that these are questions which should have been asked long ago, that at the very least they should have been asked in January 1973 when American military forces withdrew from Vietnam in accordance with the cease-fire agreements. In fact, they were only seldom raised. To be sure, many have asked how the war, and continued American support of South Vietnam, might be ended. But few have permitted themselves the assumption that these questions would one day have to be raised and answered in the circumstances we now face. The unwelcome truth is that most of us have been loath to confront the issues we have now been forced to confront. The sudden and dramatic turn in the course of the war has brought us to the full accounting we have so long sought to avoid making and one we have been encouraged to avoid making by those bearing official responsibility for American policy. If there is a pervasive air of unease over Vietnam today, it must be largely attributed to the realization that this dreaded accounting can no longer be put off.
About the Author