How were "organized human beings" able to defeat "organized modern technology" in Chapter 18 of A People's History of the United States?  

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What Zinn is talking about here is the ability of the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong (the organized human beings) to defeat the US military (the organized modern technology).  Zinn argues that this was possible basically because the communists were popular among the people and the US-backed government was not.

Zinn argues that Ho Chi Minh and the communists had the backing of the majority of the people of Vietnam.  He goes on to point out that the Diem government and those that followed it had very little support among the people.  All they had, Zinn says, was the support of US military technology.

Zinn, then, is painting this war as a victory of people fighting for an idea they believed in over what he sees as an oppressive military using its technology to try to make up for the fact that the cause it was supporting completely lacked legitimacy and popular support.

stanlake | Student

The simple facts, to the logistics of winning the Vietnam Nam War, became evident from the onset.  The pure truth, to any short or subsequent long-term continued conflict with the United States, was that Vietnam itself had experienced over 1000 years of war previously.  Any hope of making any violent change that would have a direct impact or a lasting effect on that country was totally futile.

The government of the "North" was stalled by a previous Geneva Accord that established the 45th Parallel as a temporary boundary... to postponing the joining of both sides until subsequent "free" elections would decide Vietnam's future and fate.

Instead in the South, a puppet government under Diem as president, and his brother as head of the secret police oppressed and corrupted the people.  Afterwards, assassinations and coups of subsequent temporary governments continued the trend.  This was done with the help of the U.S. Government's capitalistic economic and military aid assisting that change to the people.

The North managed to infiltrate the South and establish support in isolated hamlets and villages at the grassroots level.  Murder and torture coerced those who opposed supporting the North's values.  But enough hatred of conditions in the South was there to start with to build fighting support.  Eventually these "organized human beings" were to bear the brunt of the fight of the War...  either as "Viet Cong" or as "NVRA" from both sides of the border of Vietnam.

American Presidents LBJ & Richard Nixon failed to do their homework and the study of that past... by engaging in and prolonging the Vietnam War.  Instead, the extensive tole it took in life, not only on the people of South East Asia but also on the American lives lost and families damaged by that costly war.  All in the name of fighting "Communism".

It pushed the American psyche to the brink, with conflicting American values of riot and revolution. Leaving the American Government to fight for a "quick exit" strategy after 10 long years of fighting a war that could not be won using "organized modern technology".  Both the U.S. Government and it's people distrusted and collided with one another as a result of being volunteered to die for a "lost" cause.

Eventually, the Paris Peace Accord talks and agreements between the U.S. and the North legitimized the opportunity for America to withdraw its troops from South Vietnam.  With a promise of "Peace with Honor",  Secretary of State Kissinger negotiated for a release of U.S. Prisoners and an end of the Vietnam nightmare as we knew it.  We left the South to fend for themselves and bailed out, taking some refugees with us, and expecting others to escape by boat and survive the pirates in open waters.

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