Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Destroying Hue in order to save it

By Donald Sensing

During the Vietnam War (the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, IIRC), the Marines attacked the city of Hue to wrest it away from the North Vietnamese Army. One of the very rare urban campaigns of the war, fighting was very fierce. With no precision weapons (had not been invented yet), the nature of the fighting was not much different from urban combat of World War II. The city took a pounding from both sides, but especially from the Americans, who shelled and bombed enemy positions with ruthless efficiencies. Vast sections of Hue were leveled, which appeared to some reporters to be somewhat contrary to the point. Hue was an important city of South Vietnam, and the Marines were basically destroying it.

A reporter asked why such intense destruction was necessary. A marine commander answered, "It was necessary to destroy the city in order to save it."

Perhaps this illuminates what George W. Bush was thinking here: "Bush says [he] sacrificed free-market principles to save economy."

As in, you know, "We had to destroy the economy in order to save it." Yeah, I get that.

Meanwhile: meet the New New Deal, same as the old New Deal.

1 comment:

Sigivald said...

Just a few Vietnam nitpicks (the points about modern economics and the President being unaffected):

Isn't the "destroy in order to save" quote dubious and nigh urban legend?

Indeed, a refresher web search suggests that Peter Arnett is the source; he didn't name the alleged speaker, but Wynn Goldsmith claims it was USAF Major Chet Brown - speaking, however, of Ben Tre, not Hue. (Not that it matters for the context of your post, since Ben Tre was also an important provician capital.)

Mona Charen alleges the entire quote is fabricated, claiming the actual utterance the soldier "most likely quoted" (that being the problem with anonymous quotes) remembers saying was "It was a shame the town was destroyed"; an utterance both completely blameless and uninteresting.

Arnett's version sells better, undoubtedly. It's too good to check, especially at the time it was reported.

(Also, the Walleye camera-bomb was in regular use by 1967.

[The Paveway laser-guided bomb was just entering testing in 1968, so not in normal use.]

It's not so much that precision munitions hadn't been invented - they had been during World War 2 - as that they were expensive and reserved for high value targets like bridges and power plants.)