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Robert M. Sauer & Donald Siegel

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Pandemic Response Is Our Vietnam


Most scholars agree that America’s involvement in Vietnam was an unmitigated public policy disaster. In 2020, a new standard for monumental government failure has been set: our public policy response to the coronavirus, which has resulted in the establishment of a state-run religion of mandatory social distancing, a tyrannical public health police state to enforce it, and a never-ending “state of emergency.” The similarities between our misguided responses to Vietnam and the coronavirus are striking.

Our military action in Vietnam also began with a “state of emergency,” leading Congress to adopt the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which effectively launched America’s full-scale involvement in the Vietnam War. Vietnam is also regarded as the quintessential example of the dangers of groupthink, when President Johnson’s advisors refused to question a course of strategy and consider alternatives rigorously. Psychologist Irving Janis, who developed the concept of groupthink, based it on an analysis of President Johnson’s famous Tuesday lunch group of top-level advisors.

In March 2020, the same type of groupthink emerged regarding the virtues of unprecedented, deviant, and destructive “nonpharmaceutical interventions.” “Fifteen days to flatten the curve,” “Stay home/Save lives,” and “We are all in this together” were sold to us as patriotic acts, espoused by even the most devout conservatives, who would normally oppose overt government theft of property, services, and economic, personal, and religious liberty. Those who questioned the virtues of quarantines and lockdowns were vilified and censored from mainstream and social media as purveyors of misinformation or conspiracy theorists.
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