The essay below was written by Vietnam veteran Colonel Robert O. Wray, Sr., USAF (ret.) as he looks back on the Paris Peace Accords of 1973.
January 27th marks the 44th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords which officially ended the Vietnam War. Nixon was President and as an incentive for them to sign, had secretly promised the South Vietnamese protection by U.S. airpower to safeguard them from the North. However, five months later, in June of that same year, 1973, Congress approved the Case-Church amendment which prohibited U.S. military actions unless Congress approved. The North, probably encouraged by the reluctance of America to further involve itself in the conflict, continued a military build-up and, ignoring the Peace Accords, began a final offensive in early 1975. Congress, noting “popular” resistance to the war, and disgruntled by the South’s loss of equipment to advancing North Vietnamese forces, refused to appropriate any further military assistance to the South. The promise of protective air power was forgotten. Saigon fell on 30 April 1975.
Carl von Clausewitz, Prussian general and military theorist from the early 19th century, believed that war was politics by other means. The Vietnamese War is a prime example supporting his contention. The politicians, secure in their protected enclaves, played games with the lives of their military (and for the North and South Vietnamese, the lives of their civilians) in efforts to achieve political goals. Our own politicians entered us in the conflict, most likely with the hopes they could pull off another Korean-type resolution to the Viet Nam split, but they did not have the resolve, even after spending 50,000 American lives, to win that war. The political solution of the Paris Peace Accords was no solution after all.
So I cannot celebrate this anniversary, nor can I forgive our politicians who entered a war without the spine to win it. Our citizens and especially our military deserve better from those we elect to serve us. If we do anything with this date in history, let us use it to remind ourselves that the Founding Fathers did not envision a government of professional politicians.
Robert O. Wray, Sr.
Colonel USAF (retired)