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The Netherlands and the oil crisis

I have a dim memory of a TV news report on how the 1973 oil crisis was affecting Holland. I can’t remember the specifics but it was something along the lines that the crisis was much worse in Holland than elsewhere. At some later date I got the idea that the Dutch had been selling arms to the Israelis and the Arab oil embargo introduced after the Yom Kippur War was much more strictly enforced on Holland than elsewhere.

As I got older (I was very young in 1973) this made less and less sense. How, I thought, do you control what happens to oil you’ve sold once it has been put on a ship?

For some reason this week I was reminded of this dim and distant memory and decided to do some duckduckgoing. I discovered that someone has written a book on the subject. This is what the rubric says:

The Netherlands played a remarkable role during the October War and the oil crisis of 1973. In secret, the Dutch government sent a substantial amount of ammunition and spare parts to Israel. The Dutch supported Israel also politically. Within the EC they vetoed a more pro-Arab policy. The Arab oil producing countries punished The Netherlands by imposing an oil embargo. The embargo against the Netherlands was intimidating. The Netherlands was dependent on Arab oil. The embargo seemed to threaten the Dutch position in the international oil sector. The government introduced several measures to reduce oil consumption. However, within two months it became clear that oil continued to arrive in Rotterdam. There was in fact no oil shortage in the Netherlands.


Some hippies on a road on a “car-free” Sunday in Holland, made “car-free” because the government was worried about oil supplies.

33 comments to The Netherlands and the oil crisis

  • Very interesting. But: “duckduckgoing”? Is duckduckgo a rival of Google?

  • And to answer my question:


    “The search engine that doesn’t track you.”

    Also interesting.

  • llamas

    I woz there. I remember the ‘auto-loze Zondagen’ very well, we played street games all day for all that it was cold. I remember mass bicycle rides on the freeways and similar shenanigans.

    But even then, I think that the news coverage quickly made it clear that there would not be any serious shortages. Petrol prices did not rise inordinately and there were none of the problems seen eg in the US and the UK, where WW2 petrol coupons were pulled out of storage and there was serious talk of state-enforced rationing. The car-free Sundays were seen more as a precaution, I think, than as a vital measure to avoid shortages.



  • Petrol prices did not rise inordinately and there were none of the problems seen eg in the US and the UK, where WW2 petrol coupons were pulled out of storage and there was serious talk of state-enforced rationing.

    As I recall the petrol coupons were issued (or at least made available), my dad kept a set in his private drawer as a reminder of how shit the 70’s were.

    1970’s Petrol Coupons

    You can even get them on eBay, if you are of a mind…


  • Paul Marks

    Good post Patrick – of course one only (normally) has a shortage of a product if there are PRICE CONTROLS. The terrible mistake that President Nixon made.

    Indeed Richard Nixon introduced general price controls in 1971 and Edward Heath (the demented former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) introduced them in 1972 – the idea that the oil crises came first and general price controls came afterwards is an error that people often make.

    The leaders of “free market” political parties are, sadly, often people with not even a basic understanding of freedom – as we can see from our present First Lord of the Treasury (“Christians have freedom in the United Kingdom” of course – unless people actually try to argue for Christianity which would be “Islamophoblic”, or practice Christianity which would be “discriminatory” in relation to wedding cakes and so on) and Chancellor of the Exchequer – who wants to hand the European Union endless billions of taxpayer Pounds, and obey all their regulations (including any new regulations the European Union may think up).

  • Laird

    I remember well the Arab oil embargo; I was in college at the time. It was exacerbated not by Nixon (although he did, indeed, impose some general wage and price controls in 1971*) but rather by that idiot Jimmy Carter. We were treated to odd-and-even day purchases, purchase quantity limitations, tremendous shortages (gas stations flying red or green flags to show whether they had any supply), etc. And it was entirely because of Carter’s impositions which utterly distorted the markets, which otherwise would have sorted things out in short order. And it also spawned the disastrous “windfall profits tax” with which we were saddled for a decade or more thereafter. Carter may have been, by some measures, an intelligent man (he was a nuclear engineer after all), and certainly was well-meaning, but he was utterly clueless when it came to economics. He did more damage to the US economy than any other President until Obama.

    * That is one of the truly bad things for which Nixon is responsible, the other being to abolish the vestiges of the gold standard. Watergate, for which he is most remembered, was an utter irrelevancy.

  • the other rob

    I’m pretty sure that I can see a car, in the photo of the car free road.

  • Jacob

    “I’m pretty sure that I can see a car”

    That was a government car. Government cars are always exempted…

  • Jacob

    “that idiot Jimmy Carter” started the windmills.
    A pity you cannot dump dumb ideas along with dumb Presidents.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Laird: gas debacle, Carter, etc. — You got it! (Ditto in re utterly unacceptable Windfall Profits Tax.)


    I don’t see that Jimmy Carter was a “nuclear engineer” within the usual usage of the term. It’s not as if he had any serious study of nuclear (or any other field of) engineering that I know of, let alone an engineering (or physics) degree with a concentration in applied nuclear physics. It’s arguable whether he even was employed de facto as an engineer. The Great Foot writes,

    “In 1952, Carter began an association with the US Navy’s fledgling nuclear submarine program….

    [SNIP] [In 1952] an accident with the experimental NRX reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories caused a partial meltdown resulting in millions of liters of radioactive water flooding the reactor building’s basement and leaving the reactor’s core ruined.[11] Carter was ordered to Chalk River to lead a U.S. maintenance crew that joined other American and Canadian service personnel to assist in the shutdown of the reactor….

    [SNIP] In March 1953 he began nuclear power school, a six-month non-credit course covering nuclear power plant operation at Union College in Schenectady.”

    But instead of pursuing a career in nuclear-powered submarines, he went on home to grow peanuts.

    The Great Foot does add this:

    “Carter used his nuclear training when evaluating the Three Mile Island accident as president.”


    I suppose one could get by with saying that he had (at least some) “nuclear training,” but I don’t see any justification at all for calling him a “nuclear engineer.”

    (See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_engineering , if sufficiently motivated.)

    However, Pres. Carter did join André Sakharov in his call for an international boycott of the Russian Olympics; Canada also joined the boycott. *Applause* (USSR needed all the boycotting it could get, on general principle!) See, again, the Great Foot: Article ‘ 1980_Summer_Olympics_boycott ‘


    At least Rajendra Pachauri really is (was?) a “railroad engineer,” because he is an engineer (degrees in Industrial Engineering) who works or worked for a railroad. But at least Near Chicago, a “railway engineer” is a fancier name for the guy who drives a locomotive, which is what I take the term to mean. (And I suspect Lord Christopher used it with that in mind too. *g* Still, accuracy is all.)



    – Mao.
    – Abandonment of South V-N to the tender mercies of Ho et cie. Not sure how much blame he carries for this, but IMO if saving S. V-N had cost him his Presidential career/legacy, it would have at least made him welcome at St. Peter’s Gate. Instead, his Presidency crashed and burned due to the Watergate, and his Legacy is its still-smouldering remains.
    – Wage-&-Price controls.
    – EPA. Although it was, I think, Pres. Reagan who let Ruckelshaus talk him into resuscitating it when, I’m told, it was already halfway into the hearse.
    (And not to say that further laws to discourage pollution were unnecessary at the time. Dunno; very suspicious of all such laws, truth to tell. But an “Executive Agency”?) Source: e.g., WikiFootia article ‘ United_States_Environmental_Protection_Agency ‘

  • Stephen Munslow

    How attitudes to Israel have changed. In 1967 I was nearing the end of my apprenticeship as a compositor (hot metal printing). When the news came out that Israel had destroyed the arabs’ air forces on the ground, a cheer went round the factory. I worked with blokes who had been in Israel in the 1940’s who described with admiration how the Jews had made the ground blossom where the Arabs had let it stay barren.
    I also remember how, in 1973, at the time of the oil crisis there was a general sense of increased goodwill from car drivers so that holding up your thumb for a lift got you one almost immediately compared to the usual

  • Julie near Chicago

    Completely O/T, but for the record:

    See a medium-length report from the World Nuclear Organization, at


    We’re skipping the reliably ain’t-it-awful crowd, such as earthsfriends.com, but there is this little teensy mention of The Disaster from NPR, reporting on Exelon’s decision to shut down TMI in 2019:

    On March 28, 1979, the core of one of Three Mile Island’s nuclear reactors partially melted down. As NPR’s Joel Rose reported, a problem with one of the valves was compounded by slow reaction from the operators at the time.

    “When the crisis ended five days later, relatively small amounts of radiation had escaped from the plant. No one had been injured,” Joel said. “But the accident had a huge impact on the industry.”


    (Per the article, Exelon says TMI is a net financial loss and wants Papa Pa. to step to the plate and pony up to keep it open.)

  • Laird

    Julie, I stand corrected about Carter being a “nuclear engineer”. My only excuse is that I was going from memory and somehow that particular error had found a roost in my cranium. It has now been evicted.

    I don’t blame Nixon for “abandoning” South Viet Nam. The US populace had already abandoned it; Nixon merely extricated us from the place on the best terms available. My standard formulation is that Kennedy got us into that war (bailing out the French); Johnson escalated it; and Nixon got us out. I view that as one of his, if not actual successes, at least better actions. (I express no opinion as to its effect on St. Peter’s gate, but it was what the country needed at the time.)

    And as to Mao, that was an unqualified success. We needed to establish some sort of relationship with China, and only Nixon could have done it.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes the hysterical response by President Carter to the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 did terrible harm – although the “health and safety” regulations were already so extreme as to be horribly counter productive. One old story is that no one could see the red light flashing because of a safety notice tacked in front of it.

    Government “health and safety” regulations do not really improve things – quite the opposite, they crush innovation and stifle progress. By this time we should have cheap and plentiful nuclear power – but government regulations have strangled it.

  • Paul Marks

    Laird – like American entry into World War One, it would be better if you did not type stuff about the Vietnam War as you do not know anything about it.

    For example President Kennedy did not “bail out the French” in Vietnam. As for President Johnson – I would suggest that you read Admiral Sharp’s “Strategy for Defeat” (or re-read the work if you have already read it), which will give you some indication of what the wretched “limited war” Johnson crowd actually did in relation to Vietnam. Although things were actually much worse than Admiral Sharp writes – and he was far from blameless himself (the duty of an officer given dishonourable orders is to resign – Admiral Sharp did not resign in the face of orders that deliberately crippled his use of air power).

    I mean no offence – there are many things I know nothing about it. It is very hard for a man not to express an opinion on everything, but we must try and confine ourselves to things we know about (I freely admit that I sometimes FAIL to do that – I sometimes very badly FAIL to keep to that rule).

    As for what you say about President Nixon going to crawl to Mao – the largest scale mass murderer in human history.

    I fully accept Laird that you meant no harm by what you wrote. So I will confine myself to pointing out that Mao continued to support Marxist forces in IndoChina – just as his rivals the Soviets were doing, so the idea that President Nixon achieved something by his policy of national humiliation and moral betrayal (roughly the same as organising a friendly meeting with the late Mr Hitler in the middle of the holocaust) is not correct.

    As for “the best terms available” – that is an irrelevant statement as the word of a Marxist (like that of an Islamist) is worthless, so no agreement with them is worth the paper it is written on. The Paris Peace Accords were violated by the Marxist side – as anyone with the slightest knowledge of Marxism should have been able to predict they would be.

    Militarily victory was perfectly possible in the time of President Nixon – but like President Johnson, President Nixon had no interest in victory.

    On one point I AGREE with you – if a government is not interested in victory (and the American government was not interested in victory in Indochina – it was not their policy aim at any point) it is better not to fight at all.

    A more interesting case is Korea – where we are expected to believe the official view that a power that represented half the economic output of the world at the time (the United States) had trouble with a largely pre industrial society (China) that had just emerged from many years of chaos, occupation by Japan, and Civil War.

    As far as I know no proper history of the Korean War (the real Korean War between anti and pro [or at least not actually anti] Communist factions in Washington D.C.) has ever been written. General MacArthur did not really know enough about faction fighting in Washington D.C. in the relevant period to write a proper history of the war (the real war – the one in Washington). If I am WRONG about no proper book being written about this specific matter I would be eager to be corrected.

    The first things to explain would be why intelligence of Chinese infiltration into Korea was withheld from General MacArthur and why even after the Chinese offensive was launched General MacArthur was forbidden to blow up the Chinese supply bridges over the river on the border of China and Korea.

    Formally speaking the explanation might NOT be formal treason – there was a very powerful faction in the West (and still is) that is NOT Marxist but did not wish to DEFEAT the Marxists, they wish to create an “international order” and “limit American power” (indeed they have been working to weaken, at least relatively, the United States for the last 70 years or so – again without being actual Marxists).

    How many Americans involved in such decisions as the order (sorry “advice”) to Chang to call off the Manchurian Offensive in 1946 (which was defeating the Marxists in China) were formal traitors, and how many of them were “international order” types who seriously wanted to reach an “agreement” with the Marxists, is very hard to work out.

    I suspect I will never know – as so many of the people involved are now dead and thus not available for a proper interrogation.

    The brutal fact remains that many Americans (and many allied people) died in fighting the Marxists in Korea in a conflict that was made vastly more difficult ON PURPOSE by their own government (or, at least, factions of it). Whether the officials responsible for that were Marxists or “International Order”types (non Marxists who, nevertheless, did not want the United States to become “too powerful” and wanted it “balanced” by such powers as Mao’s China) is beside the point to the dead soldiers and dead marines.

    My belief is that BOTH the Marxists (and electronic intelligence shows that there many Marxist officials in the American government) and the “international order” (non Marxists) in the American government responsible for such decisions, should have been hanged by the neck till they were dead. And I sincerely hope they will burn in Hell for all eternity – both for the Americans whose lives their policy of avoiding victory cost, and for the TENS OF MILLIONS of Chinese lives their policy cost.

    Still half of Korea was saved – the faction fight in Washington D.C. was not a total defeat. Unlike Indochina – where the faction fight in Washington D.C. was a total defeat – and almost 60 Americans were killed, some 250 000 ARVN were killed, and millions of civilians were left to be murdered by the various factions of Marxist in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

    I repeat – victory would actually have been straightforward, but at no time during the Vietnam War was victory the objective of Washington D.C.

    One can argue about the legal definition of treason (and, I fully admit, you are far better equipped to understand that legal definition Laird), but I would hold that anyone who sends men to war without intending them to win, indeed making sure that they CAN NOT win – deliberately making sure they CAN NOT win what should be a straightforward military campaign, should be executed. Or if you dispute my use of the word “executed” I will amend that to “should be killed”.

  • Laird

    Paul, I’m not going to express an opinion on the Korean War because I don’t know enough about it. But I certainly do know something about Viet Nam; I was in the US Army during the height of it (1970-73). If you want to learn something about how the French utterly screwed it up, starting almost immediately after the end of WW2, and how Kennedy dragged the US into that mess, I would suggest Robert Taber’s War of the Flea (which technically is about guerrilla warfare but contains an extended discussion of the Viet Nam debacle, as well as some fascinating stuff about the Cuban revolution).

    Kennedy did indeed attempt to “bail out the French” (first with advisors, then with troops); Johnson escalated our involvement (while attempting to micromanage it and simultaneously tying his generals’ hands); and after a fairly brief, and failing, attempt to salvage something Nixon gave up and extricated us from it. Public opinion had turned strongly against continuing hostilities at that point; that’s the very reason Johnson decided not to run again in 1968 (even Walter Cronkite had turned against him). You didn’t live through the widespread demonstrations of the late 60’s, but I did, and Viet Nam was a central part of that (civil rights being the other part, but the two elements had significant overlap). That war was tearing this country apart; Nixon had no real choice. Even many of those who had initially supported the war had by then turned against it; we were tired of seeing our young men coming home in body bags to no apparent purpose. Yes, the manner of our withdrawal lead to some unfortunate consequences for the locals we abandoned there, but Nixon’s responsibility was to the people of the United States, not Viet Nam.

    And as to Mao, I’m not going to attempt to defend him, or pretend that he was anything other than an evil, murdering monster. But China was the largest power in the East, and it would have been utterly idiotic to continue pretending otherwise or to extend our policy of refusing to “recognize” Mao’s government. Furthermore, at that time China wasn’t on the best of terms with the Soviet Union, so moving closer to Mao carried the possibility of driving a wedge between our two major rivals. Nixon’s reaching out to Mao, and travelling to China to meet him, was an exercise in realpolitik (on a number of levels). It made perfect sense. Furthermore, Nixon was the only man who could have done so, given his reputation as a staunch anti-communist. It surprised and angered many Republicans, but in my opinion it was one of the high points of his presidency.

    I stand by my remarks.

  • Edward

    I post only to say that Laird is absolutely correct. It was a dumbass war, started by a dumbass and escalated by another dumbass. Bailing on that damn mess was one of the few smart things Tricky Dick did.

    Don’t fight wars to bail out the French; they never appreciate it… 🙂

  • John K


    I feel I must side with Paul in respect of the Vietnam War.

    President Kennedy certainly did not start American involvement. This began under President Truman and continued under President Eisenhower, formally known as the Military Assistance Advisory Group. By the time of the Dien Bien Phu debacle the USA was bankrolling the French, and serious consideration was given to using atomic bombs to save them in that battle.

    After Dien Bien Phu the USA backed the creation of South Vietnam at the Paris peace conference, and continued to give military assistance to them for the rest of the 1950s.

    It is true that under President Kennedy the number of American advisers was increased, but JFK was not convinced about the possibility of winning a limited war with North Vietnam. He was one of the very few American politicians who had actually visited Indochina when it was still under French rule, and he had argued strongly in Congress against supporting their futile defence of their Empire.

    As the war between the VC and South Vietnam hotted up in the early 1960s. JFK decided that it was a conflict that the USA should not get deeply involved in. In the summer of 1963 he sent Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, and Maxwell Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to South Vietnam on a fact finding mission. On landing at Honolulu, they were surprised to be presented with “their” report, already written and bound. President Kennedy had already taken the decision not to enter the Vietnam War, their mission was merely the figleaf.

    Accordingly, in October 1963, President Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum 263, which would have led 1000 US advisers to leave SVN by the end of 1963, and all to have left by 1965. However, President Johnson signed a new NSAM, No. 273, four days after JFK’s assassination, reversing NSAM 263.

    We now know that the US sought out a confrontation in the Tonkin Gulf by supporting SVN commando missions into NVN. When the North Vietnamese finally launched a torpedo boat attack on US Navy destroyers supporting these missions, LBJ got the Tonkin Gulf Resolution through Congress, and had his mandate to start full US involvement in the Vietnam War, though like the weasel he was, he left it until March 1965, after the Presidential Election, to do so.

    I agree with Paul that there were two honourable courses open to America in Vietnam. Either fight the war to win it, or else, as President Kennedy decided, do not fight it at all. The policy of fighting a “limited war” against an enemy which was fighting a total war, was doomed to fail, as indeed it did.

    President Nixon must be blamed for prolonging the war before the Presidential Election in 1968. Johnson had been trying to negotiate a peace accord in Paris, which would have possibly given the 1968 election to the Democrats. Using Madame Chennault as a back channel, Nixon persuaded South Vietnam to veto this, with the promise that he would go all in to support them. This was of course a lie, and the de facto surrender (“Peace with Honor”) which Nixon and Kissinger agreed in 1973 was no better than that which could have been had in 1968, only with several hundred thousand more deaths.

    South Vietnam could have been saved in 1975 by massive US air power, but by then America had moved on, and Vietnam was no longer a war, but an embarrassment, which is a sad epitaph to all who died.

  • Laird

    John K, you make good points and I respect your opinion. Important political events rarely begin in a vacuum, and the seeds of US involvement in Indochina were certainly planted prior to Kennedy’s presidency. And if he truly was planning to throw in the towel and leave in 1963, that’s just one more reason why his assassination was so detrimental to the country.* But the fact remains that he never did so, and it is indisputable that he escalated our involvement by drastically increasing the number of “advisers” there, and that Johnson massively escalated it still further.

    But none of that is particularly germane to my original point, which was that Nixon was right to withdraw in 1973. In his first term he thought the war could still be won, and he tried to do so, but by then the damage had been done: the Viet Kong and NVN regular army had grown more powerful and competent (with Chinese backing, of course) and the political atmosphere here at home was irreparably poisoned. Nixon’s historic victory (sweeping 49 of the 50 states) against the stridently anti-war McGovern disguised the depth of opposition to that war even among Nixon’s own supporters, but it gave him the political legitimacy to pursue withdrawal (as well as rapprochement with China). It was the right thing to do, and I place it among Nixon’s most significant achievements.

    As to your last sentence, the first clause might be correct (although I’m not convinced), but the rest is clearly is true.

    * And, I would add, it adds a degree if credibility to the conspiracy theorists’ claim that Johnson was behind that event, since he was very much a hard-liner on Viet Nam and would have strongly opposed withdrawal in 1963. How much better off would this country be today if that megalomaniac had never served as President?

  • Paul Marks

    The discussion on the Vietnam war neglects the fact (and it is a fact) that American and allied victory could have been achieved at any time – as was shown (for example) under President Nixon when he allowed the “Easter Invasion” by the Marxist North Vietnamese Army to be defeated. The “Linebacker” air operations (although they were directed at such things as pumping stations – rather than the actual North Vietnamese DAMS – had the dams and other strategic targets been destroyed, and they could have been at any time, North Vietnam would have crippled) also show what even a moderate and temporary relaxation of air power regulations (controls) could achieve. Of course in Laos troops-on-the-ground would have been needed to cut the enemy supply lines to Cambodia and South Vietnam known as the Ho Chi Minh trial. A reconstituted 10th Mountain Division would have been ideal for the task – as was well known in military circles (it was common knowledge) but FORBIDDEN by Washington D.C. (who sent in a handful of CIA officers to back local hill tribes – a policy that was clearly never intended to cut the Ho Chi Minh.

    The Vietnam War was morally and strategically correct and could have been won at any time – but Washington D.C. FORBAD victory- victory was never their policy. It is like debating American entry into the First World War with people who deny that the German government had, repeatedly, attacked Americans (both on the high seas and in the United States) and pretend that President Wilson was some sort of warmonger (rather than the weakling he actually was) and that American counter attack was somehow optional.

    Another interesting case is the “Bay of Pigs” in 1961 – morally overthrowing a Marxist regime is correct, and removing the enemy from a base only a few miles from Florida (and with active plans for subversion in both Latin America and in the United States itself) was clearly strategically the correct move – HOWEVER, the Marxists were told the Exiles were coming in advance, the place of landing was changed to the “Bay of Pigs” in order to UNDERMINE the prospects of victory, and the promised air support never turned up – because the Commander in Chief (President Kennedy) personally ordered that it not turn up.

    Laird thank you for your service from 1970 to 1973 – but even if you were repeatedly wounded in Vietnam you clearly in error about the war, for example your claim that President Kennedy intervened to bailout the French – which is JUST NOT TRUE.

    The other things you say about the American campaign are JUST NOT TRUE either. I am not saying that you are lying – you may sincerely believe that President Kennedy intervened to bail out the French army (not true – as they had gone) or that the campaign was fought with victory as the objective (again SIMPLY NOT TRUE), but you are just wrong.

    As for the French military campaign (I trust you did not serve in Indochina in the early 1950s – if you did you SHOULD already know the following).

    The French were defeated by massed heavy artillery at Dien Bien Phu – essentially by the Chinese Communists with Soviet support (the Sino-Soviet split had not yet occurred). Although the guns were taken to the engagement by local (Vietnamese) people whom the Marxists (local and non local) were using as slave labour.

    That does not sound like a “flea”. Although the French certainly did “screw up” by not understanding that tanks would not be effective in the area, and by keeping their own three artillery bases tor far apart (so they could not mutually support) and MOST OF ALL by not understanding that the “guerrilla war” was essential a deception – with the true enemy being the Chinese regular army and its Soviet backers, with local Marxists certainly existing (indeed in very great numbers), but being of essentially secondary importance (the break down in relations between China and local Vietnamese Communists that led to the border war of 1978 was far in the future in the early 1950s).

    Real guerrilla war is actually quite different – the enemy has no massed artillery or large scale regular army. The enemy is essentially “civilians with guns” and one wins a real guerrilla war by killing or capturing (and placing in guarded camps or guarded reservations) all civilians in an area – the United States Army had extensive with real guerrilla wars in the 19th and early 20th century – and knew how to win them (as the Apache and others found out – just as the Boer civilians found out at the hands of the British Army in the Boer War – although their deaths were caused by their own guerrillas blowing up railway lines which meant that FOOD and MEDICINE could not be got to the Boer civilians in the camps), but in Vietnam the guerrilla war was only an aspect of a much larger war. Even the supply of the Viet Cong (or NLF – not a major military force after the failure of the Tet Offensive in 1968) and NVA in South Vietnam was via the unprotected left flank.

    As I trust you know Laird – Korea is guarded on both flanks by the sea. The left flank of Vietnam is open to enemy supply from Cambodia (via Laos) to hold Vietnam one must hold Laos – as the United States Army knew even when Eisenhower was President. It would have taken at least a full and specialised division (with full air support) to hold the hill country in Laos (as Colonel Summers makes clear in his “On Strategy”).

    I would also remind you of the practice in many armies (including the Marxists in Vietnam) of execution for any person, officer or enlisted man, who expresses doubt about the objective of victory. I am NOT saying that such a policy is morally correct Laird – but it is militarily effective in preventing dissent and indiscipline spreading.

    I am told that General Lee (of the Confederate Army) favoured hanging rather than shooting for disloyal soldiers – as the spectacle had a salutary effect upon the army. However, I would argue that he was unjust – as his army really was horribly out gunned (so it was only natural for soldiers to come to the conclusion that the war was hopeless). No such excuse covers the United States armed forces in the early 1970s – the American military had the firepower for victory, what the United States lacked was a government that WANTED victory. Victory was never the objective.

    If an ordinary soldier who does not believe in victory should be executed (and I am not sure they should be – after all they may carry on fighting to the best of their ability even if they believe the just cause is hopeless) it is a thousand times more true that a political leadership that sends men to war whilst DELIBERATELY making it impossible for them to win, should be executed.

    As for talks with the Marxists and deals with the Marxists – that subject is too absurd to warrant further consideration. As I have said before – the sworn word of a Marxist, like the sworn word of an Islamist, is worthless.

  • John K


    Thank you for your response.

    I share your low opinion of LBJ. By persuing a war at the same time as establishing his “Great Society” he put the USA on a downward spiral it might never escape. The 1965 Immigration Act passed on his watch too, and that might just seal America’s fate.

    If the Deep State did not assassinate JFK, the timing was very fortuitous. Presidential NSAMs are not just drawn up on a whim, and the fact that within four days of JFK’s death his Vietnam policy had been reversed cannot be ignored.

    Richard Nixon certainly broke the Logan Act by sabotaging the Paris Peace Conference, and LBJ knew he had, because the South Vietnamese delegation was being bugged, but he did not use the information against Nixon.

    I do not know if Nixon sincerely believed that he could turn the tide in South Vietnam. Things were no better in 1973 than in 1968, and the war could have ended on equally bad terms five years earlier. The only way to win in South Vietnam was to destroy North Vietnam, and since that risked bringing China into the war (as had happened in Korea), no US President was willing to do it.

    Defeat was baked into the cake for America. No democratic nation is going to accept 15,000 dead every year fighting for a country no-one had heard of. At least JFK had the sense to realise that before it happened. LBJ did not.

  • Paul Marks

    Defeat was not “baked into the cake” for America in Vietnam – and there were “15000 dead each year” because VICTORY WAS NEVER THE OBJECTIVE. As for President Kennedy – the idea that he was going to pull American “advisers” out of Vietnam is not true.

    As for China – the Chinese Marxists has been backing Marxist military activity in IndoChina from the start, just as they backed it in Korea from the start. THEY WERE ALWAYS THERE – even against the French.

    Nor was it necessary to invade North Vietnam – IF the vulnerable left flank of South Vietnam was secured by cutting enemy supply lines by securing Laos with regular forces (this was known as far back as the 1950s).

    But I am clearly talking to myself – fair enough.

    However, my apologies, I did not give my interpretation of the “Bay of Pigs”.

    I think “Ockham’s Razor” comes into play here.

    If the enemy know of the operation of the Exiles in advance (and they did), and the site of the landing is deliberately changed to favour the enemy (which it was), and air support is deliberately cut off (not a matter of bad weather – an actual order by President Kennedy) then Ockham’s Razor indicates that the simplest interpretation is likely (likely – not automatically) the correct one.

    In this case the simplest interpretation would be that the INTENTION of the American political leadership was for the operation (the “Bay of Pigs”) to fail. The men were sent to their deaths deliberately – it was betrayal.

    One of so many betrayals over the years and decades. Vietnam was one of these betrayals – by an American political leadership that whilst it was (mostly) NOT Marxist, mostly did NOT want victory against the Marxists.

  • Paul Marks

    Ironically two years after he saved the Cuban Marxist regime (without being a Marxist himself – he was just serving all sorts of “international order” ideas as he did in relation to policy regarding other countries, such as Canada where American assets gave the election to the Liberals who destroyed the old patriotic Red Ensign Canada) President Kennedy was killed – with the prior knowledge of the Cuban regime.

    It used to be just a few men (such as Brian Latell – part of the ANTI Marxist faction in the CIA, not being part of the ANTI faction does not make someone PRO Marxist – most are just “international order” university types) that pointed out that Marxists in Cuba knew in advance where and when President Kennedy would be killed – but with the declassification of documents this year everyone should know that.

    Ironic – he was killed by the regime he saved (before he changed his mind about the Castro regime). But then the drug abuser was dying of Addison’s Disease anyway.

  • John K


    I don’t think we are actually arguing against each other.

    American defeat in Vietnam was “baked into the cake” because of the way the war was fought. Either do not fight it, or fight it properly. The middle way America ended up with was bound to fail. President Johnson seemed to think Ho Chi Minh was like some Senator after pork for his home state; he thought if he offered enough American aid to North Vietnam they would end the war. He never understood his enemy.

    President Kennedy most certainly did plan to pull American advisers out of South Vietnam. That is why he signed NSAM 263, based on the findings of the McNamara/Taylor Report which in reality he had drafted in their names. He came to his conclusion and signed his Presidential order. Then he was assassinated, and his decision was overturned.

    With regard to the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy inherited that plan from the Eisenhower administration, and he allowed it to go ahead on the understanding that there would be no overt US involvement. When the invasion went wrong, he stood by that.

    It is my belief that the CIA never sincerely believed the Bay of Pigs invasion would succeed; rather, that its failure would bounce the President into committing US forces to rescue it. When JFK did not do that, but instead fired Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence, they were stunned.

    President Kennedy did not sabotage the Bay of Pigs. It was destined to fail. What he did was to keep to his word, and not commit American troops. The CIA never forgave him. The fact that President Johnson appointed Allen Dulles, a man whom Kennedy had sacked, to the Warren Commission to “investigate” Kennedy’s assassination, was surely Johnson’s little private joke, and tells you all you need to know about that particular “investigation”.

  • Paul Marks

    I am not a fan of President Donald Trump – but at least he does not serve the “international order” of the university crowd. He is interested in American power (not serving the “international community” in a “balance of power” – by aiding the ENEMIES of the United States as so many American officials and politicians have done for so many decades). And whilst he would never fight himself, he would not order other men to fight in a war that he intended NOT to win.

  • Paul Marks

    John K.

    Perhaps it would be better if I did not reply to you, as I am rather irritated by your comment. However, I will make a few observations.

    No President Kennedy did not intend to pull American “advisers” out of Vietnam – at least as far as one can work out the intentions of this drug addled (and very ill) person.

    Yes President Kennedy did sabotage the Bay of Pigs operation – indeed it was he who ordered them to land at the Bay of Pigs (that was not the original landing site chosen) and (as you sort-of admit) he did not send in American air support – which any responsible Commander would have done. Any commander who did not want the operation to overthrow the Marxist regime to fail.

    President Kennedy was certainly not a Marxist – but he was a typical university type of his era (and so were his advisers) filled with ideas of an “international order” and a “balance of power” – there-is-no-substitute-for-victory (that the only real alternative to victory is DEFEAT) is alien to this sort of mind (even when sober – and not totally clouded by every drug under the sun, legal and illegal).

    As for the murder of President Kennedy – he was killed by a Marxist on the orders of other Marxists. That is not even a secret any more (Johnson and co covered it up) – there is no excuse for anyone not to know this now.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course in many ways Richard Nixon was just as much of a Progressive university type as Jack Kennedy was – indeed he was more of an intellectual (unlike Kennedy, Mr Nixon wrote his own books), but the intellectual elite despised Richard Nixon – largely because he came from a poor family and his cultural background was different to their’s.

    There is no one more a slave to snobbery than the “Social Justice” crowd – if they decide you are “middle class” (not upper class like them) they will never forgive you, even if you go crawling to Mao overseas and introduce wage and price controls at home.

    Richard Nixon was deeply upset that they (the elite) despised him as a poor Quaker background type – and kept writing books and so on to try and get acceptance (which he never got). He was eventually driven from office for things that had been standard practice in Washington D.C. since 1933 – President Nixon could have defended himself by pointing out that such Presidents as Kennedy and Roosevelt had done (as a matter of course) vastly worse things than he, Nixon, had ever done in relation to the IRS or using the security services against political opponents. But President Nixon was desperate for people to “believe in the system” even at the cost of his own position.

    Actually I rather DESPISE that – as it is a corrupt system and deserves to be exposed.

    One good thing about Donald Trump is that he clearly does not care that people think him vulgar. And he could not care less about “belief in the system” (i.e. the university crowd who make the higher levels of the Federal bureaucracy) – he cares about himself, his family, and the power of the nation he leads.

    As for the media – the “Forth Estate” of the American “system”?

    Did any senior media person in 1960 NOT know that Jack Kennedy was very ill?

    Did any senior media person in 1960 NOT know that Jack Kennedy, in his desperation, was also using any drug (legal and illegal) he could lay his hands on?

    They knew – and they presented a totally false picture of a healthy (and clean living) candidate. That is the person they put in charge of the American Armed Forces (including the nuclear forces) – a terminal ill man who was also befuddled by drug abuse.

    Why should anyone have any respect for a “system” and a “free press” like that?

    And, if anything, the media today are far WORSE.

    They lie about almost everything – and every day.

    They are a true reflection of the “education system” that produces them – the “Schools of Journalism” and so on. Set up (created) to serve the “Progressive” cause – and filled with contempt (indeed actual hatred) for the truth.

  • John K


    I feel I have to disagree with you about President Kennedy’s policies on Vietnam and Cuba.

    With regard to Vietnam, his decision to pull out advisers was his established written policy. He could not do much more to prove it than to sign the National Security Action Memorandum to that effect. He could not have known that he would be assassinated, and that Lyndon Johnson would reverse his policy four days after his death.

    As to Cuba, he let the CIA conduct their Bay of Pigs operation exactly as they presented it to him. It was meant to be deniable, with no overt US involvement, and he did no more than keep to that. The CIA expected to bounce him into a war with Cuba, and he never gave his permission for that.

    At the time of his death, he had established a diplomatic back channel to Cuba. He wished to de-escalate the tension with that country, and re-establish normal relations. There was no reason for Fidel Castro to collude in assassinating President Kennedy, and every reason for him not to have done.

    That President Kennedy suffered from Addison’s Disease was indeed covered up, as all Presidential illnesses were at that time. He had to take cortisone injections to treat his condition. But he was not so “drug addled” as to fall for the military’s plan to invade Cuba at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We now know that Soviet commanders on the island had battlefield nuclear weapons under local control. An American invasion would have meant nuclear war. Kennedy managed to get Soviet IRBMs off Cuba for the price of removing obsolete missiles from Turkey.

    My reading of Kennedy is that, at a time of high nuclear tension between the two superpowers, he wished to reduce that tension and establish a modus vivendi. He was not, as you accept, a Communist, rather he was concerned to avoid any accidental nuclear war which would have destroyed civilization, a laudible aim, in my opinion.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Pres. Alpha: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

    Pres. Beetah: Ah, Mr. Mao, if it please you, sir, perhaps you would find it convenient to have the prestige of the United States’ official, diplomatic recognition?

    So the Fabulous Free United States of America represented to the world at large that she, for one, could pretend that nothing unseemly was happening in sweet, congenial, forward-looking China. Certainly, China is a wonderful, up-and-coming, forward-looking Big Player on the world stage. Have another beer. After all she is solving the world’s overpopulation problem, several million at a time. No, those are not screams of mortal agony. Have some port, it’ll settle your stomach.


    There are pickpockets, there are muggers, and then there are a few true monsters. I cannot imagine anyone sane and decent publicly introducing the charming Mr. Bundy as a shining new ornament in the social cosmos.

    Have another beer.

    . . .

    No disrespect toward anyone at Samizdata is intended. But Dicky & Hank purposely passed off in public Mao and the ChiComs as reasonably civilized human beings running a relatively civilized regime; and in so doing what they endorsed was evil, pure evil, tremendous evil — regardless of what they thought they were playing at.

    (As everyone knows, there have been various suggested “justifications,” plus a lot of good old pop-psychologizing.)

  • I agree more with Paul than Laird on Vietnam and Mao. It makes no sense to talk of ‘Kennedy bailing out the French’ when the French had been gone for years by the time Kennedy became president. The sole involvement of the French by 1960 was De Gaulle’s occasional warnings to the US that Vietnam was a bad place to fight. (While De Gaulle might not have relished seeing the US succeed where France had failed, he was militarily skilled and I do not doubt his advice to stay away was sincere and considered.) Kennedy’s advisors and troops were sent to the South Vietnamese government, not the long-gone and no-longer-relevant French.

    Ten years earlier, the US was indeed trying to ‘bail out the French’ – or to ‘use the French as their proxy’ depending how one views it. After Roosevelt’s death, his “no return of the French to Indo-China” policy was reversed until by the early 50s the US was funding much of the war, but when a French P.M. decided that the war did “less to resist communism in Asia than to open the way to it in western Europe”, the US could not keep them in the war. Thoughts of the US taking over the war then and there were firmly vetoed by Eisenhower who, like De Gaulle, understood more about war than the politicians did. By the time Kennedy was elected, the French were history in Vietnam.

    They were very important history. Thanks to long experience, culminating in WWII (nazi-soviet pact, etc.), the French understood very well how eagerly communists would betray naive allies. In the late 1940s, French colonial intelligence collaborated with Vietnamese communists to purge the resistance of all its non-communist elements. Sometimes ‘United Fronts’ would find their urging-them-forwards communist allies suddenly missing and the French forces suddenly present and knowing just where and who they were, and what their plans were, whereas at other times, the communists did the killing; that kind of thing. Once the only choice was between communists and French colonialists, the French could be sure that Roosevelt’s “no return of the French” policy would not return in the US, and they would have propaganda arguments for continuing their imperial rule.

    Or so they thought. When Mao turned up on Vietnam’s northern border at the end of the 40s, the French realised they had made a terrible mistake – but it was too late then. So in this and other ways, one could talk of Kennedy and Johnson inheriting the consequences of French mistakes, but not of bailing them out.

    I’m astonished to see Laird, of all people, repeating the “even Walter Cronkite had turned against” mantra – as if Walter were not a standard media leftie with an agenda, pretending a phony objectivity. How they must have smiled to echo and re-echo that line over the years, knowing that Walter was entirely one of them – no ‘even’ about it. “Even Dan Rather agrees Bush cheated on his national guard service” didn’t work out so well for them, four decades of such games having let the rest of us wise up to the technique. I can, with somewhat more reason, write that ‘even’ Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary admits that the Tet offense was a massive military defeat for the communists, which the media portrayed as a US defeat, partly through spin and partly through clueless misunderstanding. Johnson contributed: he had pushed a “we’ve turned the corner in Vietnam” line in 67, to serve his reelection next year. When the indigenous southern communists came into the open in 1968, and kept on fighting, they could be – and were – destroyed (and survivors could be turned), but it of course demonstrated how much strength they still had at the end of 1967, how far earlier confident statements had been wishful thinking.

    The communists also made mistakes during the war – never more so than when they broke the truce (attacking in Tet after promising the usual truce was as if those Germans on Christmas day 1914 had suddenly yelled ‘fooled you’ and mown down the British side in the no-mans-land football match), then showed the south how murderous they would be in power by perpetrating political massacres where they briefly gained control, then (in summer 1968) kept on pushing the failed offensive to the point of breaking their southern guerrilla force into irreparable fragments.

    For Paul to say that military victory was possible in the time of Nixon is true but one must ask, ‘Just how possible?’ The disaster that had been suffered by the communists’ indigenous forces in the south by early in Nixon’s presidency simplified one aspect of the military problem, but Indo-China remained “a bad place to fight” (actually, De Gaulle used another term, but the spambot might not like it even in the original French). North Vietnam remained militarily powerful, the weak neighbouring states remained nominally-neutral corridors through which northern units could prevent the death of the southern communist forces from becoming a real peace, Nixon’s turn towards Mao bought nothing, etc.. The political problem was illustrated by the South Vietnamese pundit who advised the US “to cast aside pretence and rule as a colonial power”. From a South Vietnamese’ PoV, a turn-of-century Phillipines solution could make sense – could even seem the least bad outcome – but from a US PoV the only possible political approach was a native, patriotic, anti-colonial, anti-communist South Vietnamese govrenment that the US merely helped (a lot) – i.e. a government staffed by just those people the communists and French intelligence had cooperated to thin out twenty-five earlier. Paul is correct to say the military position of, and military possibilities open to, the US at the start of the 70s were far better than the media pretended (or even understood), but even if Watergate had not destroyed Nixon’s ability to fight the narrative, there would have remained many a possible slip between ‘possible’ and ‘achieved’.

    As for the other point, Mao took Nixon and Kissinger for a ride, getting real political benefit – a UN veto, no less – in exchange for nothing. When talking of the UN – of the organisation that appoints Syria to its human rights committee – it makes very little dfference to note that Mao ruled China and Taiwan didn’t: true, but also irrelevant.

    Just my 0.02p on this rather off-original-OP-topic discussion.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The Vietnam War is of course off-topic here, but it is one of the advantages of Samizdata that one can get different viewpoints on such off topics, without having to read entire books written by authors with different viewpoints.

    A remark on this paragraph by Paul Marks:

    […] I will confine myself to pointing out that Mao continued to support Marxist forces in IndoChina – just as his rivals the Soviets were doing, so the idea that President Nixon achieved something by his policy of national humiliation and moral betrayal (roughly the same as organising a friendly meeting with the late Mr Hitler in the middle of the holocaust) is not correct.

    What about organizing a friendly meeting with the late Mr Stalin about a decade after the Holodomor? Not saying that what Nixon did is no worse than what FDR and Churchill did, just saying that it is necessary to explain why it is worse.

    BTW i’d like to think that Paul is wrong about the Korean War, but not for any cogent reason: it’s just that i like to think (possibly wrongly) of Truman as one of the great US Presidents of the xx century, together with Coolidge and Reagan.

  • John K


    Truman fought the Korean War so as not to win it, by which I mean he wanted to avert a world war. Thus, when the Chinese got involved, he did not extend the air war into Manchuria, though he would have been well within his rights to have done so. Russian pilots, pretending to be Chinese, were flying MiG 15s out of Manchuria, but American pilots were forbidden to pursue them across the border.

    It was similar in Vietnam, where Johnson micro-managed the war, in the mistaken belief he could increase the pressure on North Vietnam, but only in what he thought were carefully calculated amounts. The North Vietnamese were fighting a total war, and did not care.

    With regard to Cuba and the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy allowed the CIA plan to proceed only if the USA had complete deniability. He was very worried that the Russians would seize West Berlin if the Americans were seen to have seized Cuba, and that could well have led to a nuclear war. The CIA did not believe that he would allow the mission to fail rather than commit American troops, but that was his decision, and he kept to it. If the CIA plan had worked, fine, but Cuba was not worth West Berlin, much less World War III.