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Do you know what month this is? MAY IS NATIONAL TAVERN MONTH This is National Tavern Monththe time when America’s brewers pay special tribute to the friendly folk who serve the friendly brew. So why not stop by your favorite tavern, enjoy the great refreshing flavor of a nice cool beer, and mention casually to the tavern-keeper that you’re glad he’s there. We are. UNITED STATES BREWERS ASSOCIATION, INC. 905 International Life Bldg., Austin 1, Texas This War Could Last Ten Years . . New York City On the subject of Vietnam, what one needs most is protection from falling ideology and flying dogma. Here and in Vietnam, one is ‘bombarded by easy answers, oversimplifications, and half truths and half falsities and attacked with unrealistic alternatives: we must win the war or we must withdraw. But the closer you get to the war, the more contradictory, the more confusing, the more chaotic it all seems. There are a thousand contradictions. It is a military conflict that can only be won politically. Only the Vietnamese can win it, but without the big U.S. buildup they were losing it. It is “aggression from the north,” but fully 90 per cent of the “aggressors” are South Vietnamese. The U.S. wants to contain Communist China, but it is killing Vietnamese, not Chinese. Both sides claim morality, but there is none 10 The Texas Observer’ Ron Bailey save in myth and in an occasional act of mercy. The Viet Cong tax and torture, kidnap and kill \(more than 1,000 local ofpunish prisoners, brutalize suspects and suppress the slightest sign of dissent. U.S. artillery and airpower kill indiscriminately, not out of malice but because it is the nature of such weapons. From this collective chaos, from the assortment of abstractions, let me sort out a few activities. First, there are no good guysonly bad guys. At both extremes of the debate over Vietnam there is a regrettable tendency to see the cast of characters in the mawkishly moral terms of the western movie: the forces of good arrayed against the demons of the dark. I don’t question the basic motives of either side in this war, but the moral result of those motives is obscenely evident. And I am tempted to suggest that the road to Hell is paved with these good intentions which produce Viet Cong atrocities and American mass bombings. I am afraid we can no longer see the war as simply a civil conflict, which it was not long ago, or as an American ‘attempt to defend freedom, which we might have been able to do in the days ‘of Diem. Long wars and this has been waged for 20 years bring out the worst in people, whether they are patriotic peasants or misguided westerners. Thus I find it hard to ‘sympathize with either those who flaunt Viet Cong flags in peace parades or those who shout the shopworn, chauvinistic slogans of the American jingoistic right. There are South Vietnamesewith unquestioned credentials as human beings and believers in freedomwho want no part of ‘the Viet Cong. The struggle for power has perverted the best instincts of ‘both sides. But the basic question here is whether in our massive belated attempt to recoup what Robert Shaplen in his excellent book has called “the lost revolution,” we are willing to destroy hundreds of thousands of lives American as well as Vietnamese. Second, this has clearly become an American war. While we debate about the dangers of being dragged into an Asian land war, we are in fact already caught up in such a conflict. The signs are as certain as the “New York laundry” establishments springing up in bamboo huts up around the new U.S. enclaves and as numerous as the American soldiers who swarm the sidewalks of Saigon. When I arrived in Vietnam, there were 200,000 troops in the country. When left five weeks later, there were 220,000. It is common knowledge in Vietnam that the U.S. intends to have 400,000 there by the end of this year. The plans and logistical pipelines for that force were laid months ago. The third certainty is the ‘strength of our emotional commitment. It is difficult to divine on a sunny spring morning in New York, or even in the searing heat of Saigon, but we are at war. One hundred Americans and countless Vietnamese are dying every week, and when Americans die in ever-increasing numbers, as they must, the emotional pressure to do somethinganythingwill build to the bursting point: mine Haiphong harbor, bomb Hanoi, obliterate Peking. The consequences of this emotional commitment cannot be overestimated. In my short stay in Vietnam, I caught the diseaseand didn’t even know it until later. A day after leaving Saigon I sat in a cafe in the Louvre sipping red Ron Bailey, who has written for the Observer before, worked in the bureau of a national magazine in Houston until he was reassigned to New York City. He recently spent five weeks in Vietnam and wrote, on his return, this article.