“Shaky as All Hell”

The U.S. and Nation Building in Southern Vietnam

Authored by: James M. Carter

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  June  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415888479
eBook ISBN: 9781135070991
Adobe ISBN: 9781135071028


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In 1966, U.S. Marine General Victor Krulak wrote that, “despite all our public assertions to the contrary, the South Vietnamese are not—and have never been—a nation.” Around the same time, Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert “Blowtorch” Komer made a similar observation when he wrote, “Hell, with half a million men in Vietnam, we are spending twenty-one billion dollars a year, and we’re fighting the whole war with Vietnamese watching us; how can you talk about national sovereignty?” Many other contemporaries also recognized the great contradiction of the U.S. war in Vietnam: the United States was fighting to maintain the existence of something which had not actually existed on its own, ever. 1

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