Parker LiaBraaten- Post 6

After reading several letters to the editor of The New York Times, it appears that the end of the Vietnam War came as a relief to most Americans. One writer expressed that the fall of Vietnam was not a surprise to anyone, but the surprise was in the fact that it took so long. Like President Ford pleaded the people, many Americans were wanting to move on and worry about other issues. Evidently, people felt that the risk of war in the Middle East and the troubled economy were more urgent than figuring out what went wrong in Indochina; there were plenty of people willing to move forward.

Even though the collapse of Vietnam was not a surprise, the quickness of the end did surprise a lot of people. One letter reminded people that five years prior, Washington talked about how a sudden withdraw would result in a loss of American prestige. This letter continued on to question the leadership that got the US involved and continued to increase involvement until the quick end. This caused the writer to believe that this truly showed the government’s “failure to understand the reality of Vietnam.” The photograph of the evacuation truly captured and reminded people of the hurried withdraw the government was so opposed to earlier.

In regards to the photograph showing the hopelessness of many South Vietnamese, many people were concerned about Ford’s lack in relief and reconstruction programs. One writer stressed that the war would not be over until the refugees were helped adequately. This writer believed that the next step was to help the thousands of refugees find homes and jobs. Other Americans felt like this was not even enough as another letter stated the obligation the US had to help rebuild Indochina, in addition to helping the refugees. The US needed to help the Vietnamese who fled their homes and villages because of the napalm and bombings. It was mentioned that even the Germans and Japanese gave aid to the countries they overran and damaged. The writer concludes the letter by saying that this aid to Vietnam might help “assuage the troubled American conscience.”

One letter expressed a concern that the US was the only country willing to take in the refugees. This writer’s idea was that the US should not make provisions to take in more Vietnamese than the nation’s quota which, in turn, would put pressure on other countries to take in the refugees forcing them to show how humanitarian-minded they are. This letter did not give the impression that the writer was opposed to accepting all the Vietnamese, but was showing concern about the social and economic impact on the US if they were the only country involved.

A main concern of one letter was how much the government had distorted the war even from the beginning. Calling soldiers “advisors” and invasions “incursions” and so on violated the honesty needed for successful policy. In regards to the collapse of Vietnam, this writer believed that the government was still distorting the truth when President Ford said things like “failure to achieve objectives” and “chapter in the American experience” when the US was just plainly defeated. Americans felt like they were never told the truth of the nature of US involvement. This transitions to another letter which explained that the bright side of the horrible disaster in Vietnam was the loss of American innocence. Before Americans had blind faith in the government, but now there exists the needed skepticism to maintain a “healthy democracy.”

It appears that the evacuation from Saigon, which signalized the final end to Vietnam, relieved Americans who wanted to move on to what they thought were more urgent issues. Many Americans were wanting to point blame, and even more were frustrated by the government’s leadership and the distortion of the war. However, as all of these emotions would have surfaced from the “Saigon Evacuation” photograph and the articles about it, I was pleased to find that quite a few Americans were concerned about the refugees that escaped as well as those who were left behind. It appears the hopelessness seen in the photo from of the end of US help and aid, struck a chord of compassion in Americans’ hearts.

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One thought on “Parker LiaBraaten- Post 6

  1. Parker,

    Excellent post. I think it’s a fair interpretation to connect the “Embassy” photo with the refugee crisis. I’m very surprised that there was not more of an inward look at the US’s exit – as symbolized by that photo – as a sign of America’s defeat. Honestly if I had money to bet before seeing these letters I would have been sure that would have been the central theme. That said, there’s the editors’ role, which for the purposes of this paper, we won’t truly know, but it is also very instructive that they saw the refugee issue as salient. I will tell you that after years of reading the Times that one can accurately discern the political thinking of the editors by looking at the letters they print. For instance, these days if a conservative pens an op-ed, you can be sure that the letters will nearly uniformly attack the thinking behind that piece. My point is that the editors will probably publish 80/20 percent letters they agree/disagree with politically.

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