It's been a half-century since the United States of America, until then undefeated in modern warfare, took its first “L.”
The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973 allowed then-President Richard Nixon to complete the drawdown of U.S. troops from Vietnam, ending the so-called “police action” that transmogrified into a quagmire that cost 58,220 American lives.
Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary widely, from 2.1 million to 3.8 million during the American intervention, and in related conflicts before and after.
Those Paris accords served as both an off-ramp for America and a humiliating admission of its defeat at the hands of communist North Vietnam.
Without American military might to shore it up, the South Vietnamese government — the bulwark against communism America had spent $140 billion and two decades propping up — collapsed in two years. That defeat was capped by chaotic images of helicopters evacuating Americans from the roof of their Saigon embassy.
But the conflict had been lost years earlier, in the court of public opinion back home. Far from fading into history, the Vietnam War has reverberated down through the decades, bending the frame of the republic, punching holes in the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism.”
It undermined trust in politicians who led the nation into a quicksand war; and in the military brass that cooked the books — deliberately undercounting enemy…