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August 26, 2007


Since it's an open thread--does anyone know anything about Michael Moyar and his revisionist take on the Vietnam War? He seems to be something of an intellectual hero for the right these days. I'm sorta hoping dr. ngo will pop up here, but Gary Farber's opinion would also be welcome. Well, anyone's opinion is welcome, but I'm naming the two people who probably know the most about the subject around here, AFAIK.

I'm no expert, and this is not an expert opinion, but based on the articles I've read, Moyar is a first-class, prima facie loon (or ideologue to the point of being a loon).

The only way to arrive at Moyar's conclusions and have any claim to doing research and scholarship is to ignore and suppress a mass of conflicting facts -- not "scholarship" worthy of the name.

In the absence of dr ngo, here are some relevant comments of his:

the Paris peace negotiations, did we eliminate the VC?, how important was the VC early on in the war? (Sorry if the summaries are inaccurate.)

Thanks for those, hilzoy.

Argh -- the first time I read G'Kar's main post I took in his location as "occupied Nam". Maybe DJ did too, subliminally, which led to the Moyar question... ;>

Yep, there I was outside Da Nang back in '67...

Thanks, hilzoy. (Still hoping for dr ngo or Gary as well, but those ngo links to his previous comments are probably a good substitute if he doesn't show up.)

Nah, Nell, it was the thread over at Jim Henley's blog where a passionate reader of Moyar showed up.

G'Kar: would you ever assist the humans fleeing the cylons?

More importantly, would you take over live BSG blogging when the mini-series runs this fall? ObWi used to provide this valuable service to the blogosphere, but alas, no more. That service alone would propel you to the status of most popular ObWi blogger!

G'Kar: I appreciate anything you can share with us – facts or opinion. Thanks again for taking the time.

thanks for this admission of human limitations.

if i ever found myself in possession of some special window on world affairs, or even with the appearance of such possession, i don't think i'd be as humble as that. good for you.

And to join in the chorus, the fact that you have the perspective to judge how your experiences are useful in forming policy opinions, and how they're not useful, is a big part of what makes your writing so valuable and interesting.

(BTW, while there are things that I'm sure you can't write about while they're going on, it would be fascinating if you were keeping notes for later publication, either real or bloggy, when professional issues make that possible. I do realize that I'm suggesting yet something else to do in your copious spare time, but it would be something I, and I bet other people around here, would be very interested in reading.)

G'Kar, I second kid blitzer's comment. Too often people at this site and elsewhere, from both sides of the debate (and I include myself) make judgements based upon statements by people who see less than you do.

So any perspective you give us will be welcome, and hopefully received with open minds and with the understanding that you are speaking only of your little corner of Narn.

And please, stay safe.

G'Kar: I echo what everyone else has said. And if only you had been at Da Nang in 67, perhaps we could settle all the Vietnam debates once and for all ;)

LB: an answer to your question might take a while to get back from Narn. However, while you're waiting, there is a blog that might serve as a substitute, albeit an imperfect one, for G'Kar's own observations.


Sadly, I do not know if I will be able to perform BSG blogging. We do not receive the SciFi channel on Narn, so it is unlikely I'll be able to see the episodes until I return to Babylon 5.

But to answer your question, yes I would help the humans to escape the Cylons.

I was momentarily puzzled as to who "Michael Moyar" was, but then I realized that it was Mark Moyar under discussion. (Here's a quick precis of his views.)

I'd say he's largely wrong, often overwhelmingly so, in many of his conclusions and opinions, but, from my limited and cursory knowledge of his work (not having read his book, at least yet), not without some occasional insights I'd agree with.

But overall, far more wrong than right. This seems a reasonably fair take.

I don't have a precise metric for kookiness, but I'd put him somewhere in the vague region of Colodny and Gettlin on Watergate: some interesting, and accurate, information, and occasional useful insights, mixed in with a lot of crap and utter nonsense, to the point of frequent looniness, in their case, which is only properly sortable by a reader with a wide and deep range of relevant prior knowledge as context.

However, unlike Colondy and Gettlin, Moyar is a genuine serious historian, and I'd grant him more credibility and respect than I do them. So: more wrong, rather than simply a kook.

But, generally speaking, I have no doubt that the "orthodox" historical take on the Vietnam War is essentially quite correct.

Unfortunately, it's hardly truly an orthodox view in the country, and certainly not on the right, which simply slavers to believe in the Dolchstosslegende view, for the usual reasons. I wouldn't remotely recommend adopting Moyar's views, but he's someone who is engaged in legitimate debate.

But I should emphasize that I don't have close or detailed knowledge of his work, or of papers taking issue with it, although simply on my own knowledge I definitely disagree with innumerable of his assertions and conclusions.

Certainly drngo's opinion would be valuable.

G'kar, thanks for your e-mail, which I owe you a reply on; apologies; I've just been really sick of late, along with a loud and messy Black Dog as a roommate. Less physically ill in the couple of days or so, though, at least. And I'm awful about e-mail, as a rule.

Thanks for your opinion, Gary. Sorry about the name mixup.

I am anything but a fan of B5, but even I see the value of a intelligent and toughtful individual like G'Kar, and I hope he comes home safely soon.

dr ngo signing in, albeit briefly. What very little I know of Dr. Moyar leads me to agree (unsurprisingly) with Gary Farber's tentative conclusions above. But then, I'm one of the "orthodox historians" Moyar has set himself against, so I would say that, wouldn't I?

(As a general rule, when a historical issue has been thoroughly pawed over for a few decades or longer - as Vietnam certainly has - it is not sufficient [for credibility] to proclaim oneself a revisionist and declare that the orthodox historians are all wrong. "I'm fine - all the rest of the Army is out of step." Especially, perhaps, when one's "new" views are nothing but a reinstatement of the "old" establishment views of the 1960s and before. The domino theory was right, after all???? Give me a break.)

(Although, like GF, I haven't read the book itself, and must reserve judgment on the possibility that MM has actual evidence to support his prejudices.)

(BTW, although I was not in Danang in 1967, I was studying Vietnamese at the Defense Language Institute, East Coast, in 1968, presumably preparatory to being sent to Vietnam, which, thank heavens, I never was. So none of this general argument is new to me.)

Meanwhile, my delay in response here, and the breathless nature of it now, may be attributed to:

1) A welcome visit from the delightful Anarch for a couple of weeks (on his way back from Around The World Again) in late August.

2) The world track & field championships, currently underway in Osaka, and thus on TV nightly and the internet always, which demand much of my attention (a pattern dating back to the 1952 Olympics, FWIW).

3) Anticipation of a job interview, coming up in about 30 hours, which may determine whether, upon extremely short notice, I (along with Mrs. Dr. Ngo) uproot from North Carolina for a year and sojourn in London, which has numerous possibilities, both positive and negative. As for the shortness of notice - they are interviewing on August 30th for a university-level teaching job nominally scheduled to start on September 1! (And me unable even to apply for a visa until/unless they supply me with a "work permit.")

I hope this explains why I may sound a bit distracted. More distracted than usual.

So, are you in London now???

(/me had crossed her fingers for dr ngo)

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