March 04, 2005

The Vietnam War: Troop Levels, Victory, and Poll Opposition

The Vietnam vs. Iraq comparison came up yesterday in our law-and-econ lunch. My recollection was that U.S. political support for the Vietnam War was extremely high up till around 1967 and that by the 1972 North Vietnamese offensive the U.S. troops had pretty much withdrawn, except for the air force, and the South Vietnamese beat North Vietnam on their own. (Their eventual defeat in 1975 occurred long after U.S. troops had left, and when the U.S. would no longer even supply weapons to South Vietnam.) I'd call the 1972 situation victory, as far as the U.S. objective was concerned. Others were skeptical (these are all contrary to the general impression the media gives us of the war), so I decided to pin them down.

(1) When did public opinion in the U.S. turn against the Vietnam War?

IU doesn't have the Gallup Brain database, which is what I'd need to check this out.

There was, by the way, substantial support for a stronger war effort, especially early in the war. For instance, in a poll conducted in February 1968, 25 per cent wanted to "gradually broaden and intensify our military operations", and 28 per cent wanted to "start an all-out crash effort in the hope of winning the war quickly even at the risk of China or Russia entering the war". Just 24 per cent wanted to "discontinue the struggle and begin to pull out of Vietnam gradually in the near future", and 10 per cent wanted to "continue the war at the present level of military effort".

That webpage has other interesting data:

There is just one question that was asked, with the same wording, throughout the war. Gallup asked the following question frequently: "In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U. S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?" If some one answers no, then we can assume that they supported the war. ...

Almost every time the question was asked, people under 30 were more likely to say no than people 30-49, who in turn were more likely to say no than people 50 and older. ...

Educated people were more likely to support the war, not less. There is not as much data on the subject, but draft status did not seem to affect opinions on the war.

Some common beliefs about the war are correct. Women were more dovish than men, and blacks more dovish than whites. All the patterns that I have mentioned were also found in public opinion during the Korean War and World War II.

The page has a good table (except that it would be nice to know how many said "yes", since apparently quite a few (though 20% or less) had no opinion. Peak support was in November 1965, when 75% of people under 30 and 57% over 49 thought the war was not a mistake. By March 1968 50% of the young and 35% of the old thought the war was not a mistake. At the end of the data, in May 1971, 34% of the young and 23% of the old thought the war was not a mistake.

By the way, if you come across the paper, "Interpreting White House Public Opinion Mail and Polling: Vietnam Hawks and Lyndon Johnson", be wary about its conclusion that polls expressing dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war in the early years meant people were opposed to the war. Recall from the Gallup data that more people were dissatisfied because Johnson was too timid than because he was too vigorous in his war plan.

(2) Were U.S. troops gone by 1972?

As this table of troop levels shows, the peak year for American troops was 1968, when there were 536,000 of them in Vietnam. In 1971 there were only 156,000, and in 1972 only 24,000. Thus, the South Vietnamese were indeed able to defeat an all-out North Vietnamese offensive without U.S. ground troops (though the U.S. air force did play a big role in that victory).

(3) Did the U.S. lose the Vietnam War?

I haven't been able to find a web source, but I think that during the entire Vietnam War, the Communists failed to conquer and keep (for more than three months, let us say) even one of the 44 provincial capitals until 1974, when Phuoc Binh fell. They had attacked many (all?) of them, and seized some of them temporarily (Quang Tri in the 1972 offensive, for example), but in terms of territorial control, the Communists were never anywhere near winning the war until its very last year.

I'd say that when the U.S. pulled out its troops in 1972 it had achieved victory-- in the sense of achieving its objective. It had stopped the Communists from taking over South Vietnam. It had not, to be sure, driven the Communists from North Vietnam, or even driven their troops from all of South Vietnamese territory. But those were not the war's objectives.

The Korean War worked out much the same way. The U.S. went into the war merely intending to restore the status quo of restricting the Communists to North Korea. At the end of the war, they had succeeded in that-- though the Communists still retained a little South Korean territory, and the Allies had conquered a little North Korean territory.

Of course, the Communists did win in Vietnam. But that was in a separate war, that started two years after our ground troops had left, a war in which the United States refused to take part. The same thing would have happened in Korea if we'd decided to withdraw not 90% but 100% of our troops and to stop helping South Korea in any way.

Phuoc Binh, the capital of Phuoc Long Province, about 60 miles north of Saigon, falls to the North Vietnamese. Phuoc Binh was the first provincial capital taken by the communists since the fall of Quang Tri on May 1, 1972.

Permalink: 08:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 10, 2005

Winston Churchill Was Not an Indian, It Seems

Like so many people, I find Winston Churchill fascinating. Like Margaret Thatcher, he was a Tory leader whose individualism, bravery, and high principle puzzled his timid Wet fellow party leaders, made them suspicious and treacherous, and made him stand out among them. He liked to flaunt, and they liked to whisper, his half-American and part-Indian ancestry ("What else can you expect from a Wild Indian like Winston?"). I googled this, thinking it would be a nice connection to the Ward Churchill affair, but it turns out that actually, despite family tradition, Churchill did not have Indian ancestors.

The fact remains true, however, that many people who look mainly white or black, are part-Indian, despite having no official records and not having the privileges of being an official member of a tribe. This is one of the good things about America. Just as I can be Scottish when I want, pointing to great-great-grandpa Andrew Brodie, or Welsh if that is more convenient, pointing to great-great-grandma Margaret Jones, or a descendant of one of the first settlers of New Haven, Connecticut, pointing to great-great... great-grandpa Thomas Monson, so many people can legitimately lay claim to a few drops of Indian blood.

Permalink: 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2005

Martin Luther King's Habitual Plagiarism

It's Martin Luther King Day, and time to remind everyone of how inappropriate it is for a university to have a holiday in honor of someone who plagiarized his doctoral thesis (as well as other academic work). Details can be found in a collection of articles in the The Journal of American History of which the following is one:

"King's Plagiarism: Imitation, Insecurity, and Transformation" (in Becoming Martin Luther King, Jr.-Plagriarism and Originality: A Round Table), David J. Garrow, The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 1. (June 1991), pp. 86-92.

Webpages are less reliable, but here is one book review/A> that sounds accurate:

The news has been out since the late 1980s that Martin Luther King Jr., the American Civil Rights icon, was a serial plagiarist. Not only did he plagiarize at least half of his doctoral thesis; many of his speeches, including the most famous, were plagiarized too. Nor was this a recent development in his career - he had been plagiarizing material since he was a teenager....

The plagiarism did not begin or end with the doctoral thesis, so much so that the Collected Papers of Luther King Jr. apparently devotes at least as much time to "uncited sources" as it does to his own work, if that is the correct description. Even the much celebrated "I have a dream" speech of 1963 was plagiarized. By a peculiar turn of events, the source King raided for this was a speech given to the Republican National convention of 1952, by a black preacher named Archibald Carey.

The trail leads all the way back through Luther King Jr.'s undergraduate days to his teenage years - the earliest known instance is apparently an essay written at age 15. It seems to be harder to find something that that was incontestably original and not plagiarized....

Pappas was instrumental in breaking the story in the US, as the editor of the periodical Chronicles, which published the first details in late 1990, closely followed by The Wall Street Journal (though one should note that the first reports emerged in early 1990 from a handful of conservative organizations). This remarkable scoop for Pappas was due to courage only, since most other papers (including at least Dan Balz at the Washington Post, the editor of the New York Times book review section, and the Atlanta Journal/Constitution) and newsmagazines had already known of the story for months. Later, The New Republic would publish a mea culpa, bemoaning their own decision to kill the story, but others were not as forthcoming.

King's sexual immorality is also a count against him, as this article says:
A few years later, with the publication in 1989 of Ralph Abernathy's autobiography, "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down," those rumors were substantiated by one of King's closest friends and political allies. ...

In the course of the Senate debate on the King holiday, the East office received a letter from a retired FBI official, Charles D. Brennan. Mr. Brennan, who had served as Assistant Director of the FBI, stated that he had personally been involved in the FBI surveillance of King and knew from first-hand observation the truth about King's sexual conduct --- conduct that Mr. Brennan characterized as "orgiastic and adulterous escapades, some of which indicated that King could be bestial in his sexual abuse of women."

He also stated that "King frequently drank to excess and at times exhibited extreme emotional instability as when he once threatened to jump from his hotel room window." In a study that he prepared, Mr. Brennan described King's "sexual activities and his excessive drinking" that FBI surveillance discovered. It was this kind of conduct, he wrote, that led FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to describe King as "a tomcat with obsessive degenerate sexual urges" and President Lyndon Johnson to call King a "hypocrite preacher." ...

It is precisely this material that is sealed under court order until the year 2027 and to which the Senate was denied access prior to the vote on the King holiday.

The last sentence refers to the Senate's refusal to unseal the relevant records so they could be read before voting on making Martin Luther King Day a federal holiday.

Permalink: 09:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 04, 2004

2000 Bush-Gore County Election Map

I've found this County Election map for 2000: Bush vs. Gore, but not for 2004 yet.

Permalink: 07:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 09, 2004

What Would Have Happened if there Had Been No Revolutionary War?

What Would Have Happened if there Had Been No Revolutionary War? Tyler Cowen discusses the very interesting question of what would have happened had America not become independent in 1776. I think he, Brad DeLong, and Eugene Volokh all are on the wrong track, because they are thinking about what would have happened had the 13 Colonies merged with Great Britain. If that happened, there would have been one government, which might have been more like the USA's or might have been more like Britain's; Britain would have had more strength in European wars, etcetera. Brad DeLong says

Certainly World Wars I and II would have been a lot shorter had Britain been able to draw on the resources of the Dominion of North America from their beginning. They might not have ever happened at all: Wilhelmine and Nazi generals would have had to have been seriously cookoo to ever engage in a two- front war, one front of which was against a Britain whose strength included the Dominion of North America. (They were, of course, cookoo: but there are limits to cookooness, even for the pre-1945 German General Staff.) American slavery would, in all probability, have come to an earlier and much more peaceful end. These are big minuses to lay at the door of the American Revolution--in addition to the terror and death of the two revolutionary wars themselves.

I, however, firmly endorse and support the American Revolution, in the sense that it looked like the right thing to do at the time. Remember that the political evolution of Britain toward democracy was not foreordained as of 1775. (Indeed, the pressure exerted by the example of the United States was a powerful democratizing force in Britain throughout the whole of the nineteenth century.) Britain in 1775 was a corrupt monarchical oligarchy--albeit one with much softer rule, a much more effective state, and a much broader and more open system of political competition within the oligarchy than has been standard in human empires. It is quite likely that--absent the American Revolution and the Great Democratic Example across the seas, and absent the long reign of Victoria--the political evolution of nineteenth-century Britain would have stuck where it was at the accession of George III, or even moved backward away from democracy to some degree.

Eugene Volokh says

Tyler's post below reminded me of an observation I once heard when talking about something similar: At some point, a British Empire that included America would have become majority American. After all, the U.S. now has five times the population of the U.K., and while the immigration patterns would have been different had America remained British, I suspect that there still would have been plenty of immigration.

And unlike with India, this would have been a part of the Empire that would have been populated by people who, one way or another, would have ended up being seen as Englishmen (even if many were of other ethnic extraction). I suspect the Americans' complaints about lack of political representation would have been resolved somehow, so the extra population would have meant extra political power. It surely would have meant extra economic power; the economic and cultural center of gravity of the Empire might not have shifted as quickly to the Western Hemisphere, but such a shift would likely have happened eventually.

Moreover, the extra volume of immigration -- which would have been inevitable given America's size, the economic opportunity it represented, and the value of immigration as a means to resist encroachments from the French and the Spanish -- would likely have changed the culture of the aggregate British Empire.

But that is not the right counterfactual. It is crucial to remember that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution-- indeed,"revolution" is not a good name for it. For 150 years, the colonies had been pretty much self- governed. They paid their own way, and they made their own laws. Britain controlled their foreign policy, but that was about it. What provoked the Revolutionary War was that King and Parliament decided to try taxing the Colonies, a novelty. This could have come out either of two ways if war had not broken out:
1. The Colonies might have acquiesced in the idea of Parliamentary supremacy, as opposed to the idea that they were self-governing units under the King but with their colonial assemblies taking the place of Parliament. They would then have become mere dependencies, like Gibraltar or Minorca. 2. The Colonies might have successfully fought off the innovation of Parliamentary supremacy-- which, indeed, was Lord North's tardy peace proposal around 1779 (a proposal which would have deflected the war if he'd made it in 1775).
In neither case would the Colonies and Britain have become one country. Recall that Scotland, Ireland, and England were three separate countries in 1700, united only by having a single king in common, but with separate parliaments, tax systems, tariffs, peerages, and so forth. Being colored the same way on the map is not the same as being one country. The Union of Scotland and England in 1707 was a big deal, as was the less successful Union of Great Britan with Ireland a hundred years later. Blackstone, chapter 4, book 1 has a good description of this, though colored by Blackstone's belief in parliamentary supremacy. He discusses not only England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, but also such non-English dominions of the king as Berwick on Tweed, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and the American Colonies, of which he says:

OUR American plantations are principally of this latter sort, being obtained in the last century either by right of conquest and driving out the natives (with what natural justice I fhall not at present enquire) or by treaties. And therefore the common law of England, as fuch, has no allowance or authority there ; they being no part of the mother country, but distinct (though dependent) dominions. They are fubject however to the control of the parliament ; though (like Ireland, Man, and the rest ) not bound by any acts of parliament, unless particularly named. The form of government in moft of them is borrowed from that of England. They have a governor named by the king, (or in fome proprietary colonies by the proprietor) who is his reprefentative or deputy. They have courts of juftice of their own, from whofe decifions an appeal lies to the king in council here in England. Their general affemblies which are their house of commons, together with their council of ftate being their upper houfe, with the concurrence of the king or his reprefentative the governor, make laws fuited to their own emergencies. But it is particularly declared by ftatute 7 & 8 W. III. c. 22. That all laws, by-laws, usages, and cuftoms, which fhall be in practice in any of the plantations, repugnant to any law, made or to be made in this kingdom relative to the said plantations shall be utterly void and of none effect. (I changed f's to s's here and there)

At any rate, despite Blackstone, Result (1), return to the status quo ante bellum, was the more likely of the two, I think. In that case, even a growing America would not much have affected English politics or power. The Thirteen Colonies would have remained happily disunited and isolationist, grumbling about trade barriers (and perhaps going to war over them later) and paying for their own internal government but not forwarding any taxes or troops on to London. Note, however, that this would have prevented the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Thus, the Revolution was a good thing.

Permalink: 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack