Mighty ARVN

George WIll reviews Rick Perlstein's masterpiece, Nixonland and picks a very strange nit: "Calling South Vietnam’s army 'a joke' is not historical analysis, it is an unworthy dismissal of men who fought and died for more than a decade."

But, look, South Vietnam's military was a joke. That was the whole crux of the issue with Vietnam. The South Vietnamese government had little legitimacy and couldn't build workable state institutions. Even after years of intensive U.S. backing, the South Vietnamese army couldn't hold off the North without substantial financial and logistical aid, and the assistance of American air and sea power.

UPDATE: Rick comments to say he "have chosen a better word than 'joke.'" Still, ARVN was not a very competent fighting force -- that's why they lost! It's true, as various commenters are pointing out, that North Vietnamese forces also received Soviet support, but the quantity of U.S. support for the South was always much greater than the quantity of Soviet support for the North. It was like Afghanistan in reverse (or Afghanistan was like Vietnam in reverse) -- the commies had better proxies, so a low-cost endeavor for the U.S.S.R. was able to create a high cost endeavor for the U.S.A.