Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward have written a visually compelling companion, coffee table book to the PBS series, “The Vietnam War”. For the past week I have been pouring over its written and pictorial account of that bloody conflict between the US and the Viet Cong. Painstakingly laid out, the historical record shows, fifty years plus later that America, for all its posturing as the righteous intervener, was definitely the aggressor in a war that was unwinnable using strategies that showed little or no respect for the enemy. Both the pictures and written testimony speak volumes as to the horrors of modern warfare in the jungles of Vietnam where temperatures were often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and rained torrentially for days. There are a number of takeaways in my cursory reading of this voluminous study: one, troop surges such as employed by the US in Vietnam and Afghanistan don’t work because they come with no realistic endgame other than to break the will of the enemy; two, the American military, to this day, have yet to find a way to fight and defeat insurgencies; three, Nixon likely would not have won the 1968 election if the electorate knew that he was personally sabotaging the chance of peace talks in order win at the polls; four, the American high command and chiefs-of-staff repeatedly overstated their chances of ultimately winning because they didn’t have a fallback plan for losing or withdrawing; six, the NLF and the Viet Cong had nationalistic and ideological inspiration working on their behalf that allowed them to sustain incredible losses over time with the knowledge that they were wearing down the morale of the other side; seven, the book does a wonderful job in commemorating the bravery of men and women on both sides of the war. One name that stands out was the life of Edward Landsell, an American diplomat on site, who tried his level best to change the course of the war by getting the regional armies to use less costly, more efficient counter-insurgency tactics, involving such things as befriending rural hamlets and fighting widespread corruption in government. By that time, Vietnam was such a mess that Johnson and the Pentagon probably thought there was no course to take but straight ahead with more fire power, men and lies to assuage the people back home. The problem there was that as the body bags piled up, the Fourth Estate, across the US, was starting to explode the myth that the war against communism in southeast Asia could ever be won.