Nixon’s note to Henry Kissinger, then his national security adviser, on Jan. 3, 1972, was written sideways across a top-secret memo updating the president on war developments. Nixon wrote: “K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result = Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force.”This comes from documents spirited away by Alexander P. Butterfield, deputy to H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff. According to Butterfield, other aides took boxes of papers with them when they fled the collapsing White House, too.
The day before he wrote the “zilch” note, Nixon was asked about the military effectiveness of the bombing by Dan Rather of CBS News in an hour-long, prime-time television interview. “The results have been very, very effective,” Nixon declared.
Butterfield sums up Nixon:
Butterfield told Woodward that Nixon was controlled by “his various neuroses, the deep, deep, deep resentments and hatreds — he seemed to hate everybody. The resentments festered. And he never mellowed out.”
Air power is all well and good, but it can't win wars against home turf defenders who don't rely on advanced military materiel to continue operating.
Probably the most successful air war, The Gulf War, succeeded because it was an attack on the tanks columns, missile sites, and airforce of Sadam, and because his regime lacked popular support and was kept in place precisely by the threat of such military assets against the populace. Sadam had to surrender to spare the remnants of his forces, or be left toothless trying to control a belligerant population. The open dessert terrain also helped.
But in Vietnam, fighting chiefly against personnel rather than material, concealed in the dense cover of jungle nestled amongst hills and mountains, with the regime bolstered by popular support and able to engage in costant resistance without having to rely on large military targets, all the air power in the world did indeed accomplish zilch.
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