McLean resident publishes the book 'America in Vietnam: The War that
Couldn't Be Won.'
By Sean McCalley
October 22, 2010
A retired colonel of the United States Army offered his views on the
current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan earlier this week.
Herbert Y. Schandler, Ph. D., graduated from the U.S. Military
Academy at West Point in 1952. He served in a variety of locations,
including Korea and Europe. He worked extensively in Vietnam, where
he ascended the Army's ranks and participated in military dealings
with Vietnam for decades: He served as Executive Officer for 2nd
Battalion, 2nd Infantry; worked for a group that reviewed and
developed strategy for the Secretary of Defense after the Tet
Offensive; he also authored the last chapters of what later were
known as the Pentagon Papers, released by the New York Times in 1971.
Schandler was later promoted to Colonel and served for the Office of
the Chief of Staff. Using the Pentagon Papers for his dissertation,
he also earned a Ph. D from Harvard University in 1974. In 1979, he
authored The Unmaking of a President: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam.
HIS LATEST PUBLICATION is titled America in Vietnam: The War that
Couldn't Be Won. The book was released in 2009 through Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers, and the thesis regards Vietnamese
nationalism. He attributes their nationalism, not Communism, as the
key motivation for the North Vietnamese.
"Unity was more important [to the North Vietnamese] than peace," says
Schandler. He explained that Communism was a means to an end for the
North Vietnamese, who had "been fighting the Chinese for 2,000
years." Through their own brand of Communism, the North Vietnamese
could maintain a unique, national identity and "would not become a
While Dr. Schandler maintains that he is not an expert on Middle East
affairs, he believes that this is the main difference between Vietnam
and the US efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Afghanistan, US troops are not fighting to keep a country divided.
There is no "nationalistic force" countering the military efforts.
Instead, the Taliban is "a small group of dissidents… trying to
overthrow" the existing government.
When asked about Iraq, he believes that same lesson is applicable.
Dr. Schandler posits that modern day combat benefited by learning how
to battle Communist insurgents. Specifically, soldiers are working
hard to earn the support and respect of citizens, while trying to
"offer them a functioning democratic government."
If Dr. Schandler could offer advice for future strategies in the
Middle East, particularly for Afghanistan, he stresses a need to
strengthen the Afghan army. Working in tandem with the combat
strategies gleaned from Vietnam, American forces must nurture and
maintain stability while Afghanistan learns how to control its own affairs.
THE MATERIAL for his latest book was gathered from historical
conferences in Hanoi with current Vietnamese leaders. "[Schandler]
seeks to engender a broader view by drawing heavily on his
conversations… to provide some insight into their wartime thinking,
motivations, and objectives," says Dr. James H. Willbanks, director
of the Department of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and
General Staff College. "Even those who may disagree with Herbert
Schandler's assessment and conclusion that the war could not be won
will agree he has produced a scholarly and well-written book that
provides a unique perspective not only on America in Vietnam, but
also on what the other side was thinking (or says they were thinking)."