Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The never agains of Vietnam: the last battle?

I thought this comment from Nicholas on a previous thread was worth highlighting:

I think the home battle is between the two types of children of Vietnam...

Type "A" is "Never Again!" in the sense of never getting into [a] fight worth winning.

Type "B" (you and me) is also "Never Again!" -- but in the sense of never getting into a fight we're not willing to actually fight for the win.

It's odd how we keep coming back--not to Bataan, but to Vietnam (and also, in a sense, to Watergate).

I wonder sometimes whether this need to go back, and back, and back, will die out only when the generation that came of age at that time (mine) finally dies out, or whether the scars in the national psyche will last well beyond the lifetime of myself and all the other tiresome, addled boomers.

I sometimes fear it will be the latter, if only because so many of the effects of Vietnam have become institutionally embedded: the leftward tilt of academia; the tendency to consider the military as marauding abusers and/or exploited victims; the kneejerk and automatic distrust of the actions, and even the basic motives, of the government and the Presidency.

However, it does seem that one trend that began in that era has effectively ended for the majority of the American public (at least, if polls are any indication). That's the sense that the press is composed of heroic and crusading truthtellers.

But Type A and Type B of the "never agains" are duking it out mightily right now, over Iraq. I hope it's the last battle between these two particular factions--the last battle of Vietnam.


At 2:11 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

I'm having one of those classic blog glitches. Wondering what other people are seeing when they load the page...

What do I see? Well, the first couple of posts, and then the Tom Lehrer post is only partially loaded. Nothing on the right sidebar--no archives, etc. listed.

Then, when I clicked on "comments," some of the right sidebar starts showing (the photo, etc.), but not the archives.

Everything seems intact when I go to the Blogger page--all the old posts are there, fortunately.

What do other people see when they load the blog? Any advice on what's going on?


At 2:21 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little typology is a dangerous thing.
How about type C:

A fight with a just cause AND worth winning.

Is a fight worth winning if the cause was not just? What do you win, and lose, if it wasn't?

At 2:55 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Well, erasmus, I think the "just cause" and the "worth winning" probably go together, don't they? I suppose if we really believed America was bent on conquering the world for the sheer sake of flexing its muscles, they wouldn't go together. But at the moment, I see our recent wars as being both just and worth winning--some more so than others, of course.

I suppose if a cause is unjust and you lose, you lose credibility, and belief in your own strength. Ask the Soviet Union about Afghanistan.

And as for Blogger and its frustrations, all seems to be well at the moment. Everything is loading properly again.

At 3:24 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say they should go together. Problem arises when, as you say, the "just cause" is there more so in some wars than in others.
That means death to many for a, let's say, "somewhat" just cause? History has pretty much sorted this issue out for past wars for all but the fanatics on the left and right. History has not been too kind on our cause for going to war in Vietnam, which in no way makes a case for the brutalities or idelogy of the regime in the North at that time.
After 9-11 I would have supported W in a war against the terrorists and their supporters. But is that what Iraq is? A lot of decent and patriotic Americans can't conclude it is. How much light is there in the heat of today's argument? Not a lot. Neither W and his inner circle nor the W haters contribute much to our understanding. Every book or article is immediately suspect, by one side or the other. That over-quoted line from Yeats does apply here: the center hasn't held. The why of that may occupy historians fifty and a hundred years from now. On that cheery note...

At 4:41 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Most of the impetus is tied directly into whether one has real life memories of specific events. Because it is memories, and events, that shape human behavior and psychology.

TO the Arabs, who are not literate, what happened 500 years ago is almost as if it happened yesterday in the eyes of their fellow tribesman. Because you can always find someone who has heard from his uncle of the Severia tribe that so and so happened to his grand father, and he did this to whom and what not. Blood Feuds, perpetual family memory.

So while it isn't necessary to actually have real life memories of the events in question, it is still necessary to create the psychological conditions that empower such emotions such as pride, hate, joy, happiness, and bitterness.

What will make Vietnam disappear from the public conscience will primarily be because the Baby boomers die off, yes. But another substantial cause for its disappearance from the minds of the next generation is the fact that Vietnam was an anomaly. Americans in their heart of hearts, fight to the death. Only through deception and weakness at the top, will the results ever be different.

So because Vietnam is an abberation in the history and traditions of America, it will only last until the last living man who had actual memories of the time.

The causality effects will of course still be present, but that is nothing surprising.

The why of that may occupy historians fifty and a hundred years from now. On that cheery note...

the historians will bleep over this incident much as we pass over the use of propaganda in WWII by both sides.

It doesn't matter worth a damn how something was accomplished, that is for specialists, the great citizens of future times will be far more interested in the actual accomplishments and actual ramifications. Which are far in excess of anything our stochastic math and political predictions may currently predict.

For example, I am far less interested in the actual tactics Hannibal Barca used to crush the Roman Armies at Trebia and Cannae, than I am in the will and sacrifices of the Roman people in defense of their home land.

HIs double envelopment tactic is interesting in itself, and his tactical deviousness was far ahead of its time, true, but the historical ramifications are the results of his tactics rather than the tactics than themselves.

In that light, future historians will care little for the political infighting, doubting, and otherwise stupid frivolities of the 21st century. Oil for Food might matter to them far more than how the US president was handling domestic affairs.

In the end, it is either a tale of tragedy or a rise from the ashes ala the Phoenix.

Will the ROman Empire stand firm and be the heir a thousand years of civilization and knowledge? Or will they fall and be rendered dust unto the ages?

That is the only question that really matters in the end.

At 4:43 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger Huan said...

The Vietnam "never agains" will end when we have established victory in Iraq. Then the "never again war without victory" side will have won, and even the "never again war" will be glad for it. Think of the underlying/subconscious shame they must be trying to exercise by trying to be right, trying to re-live Vietnam again and again.

At 4:48 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw the first reports on the speech W gave at the Woodrow Wilson Center today. If reports are correct:
1. He admitted that "much of the (pre-war) intelligence (on Saddam and his WMDs) turned out to be wrong."
2.That Saddam was a threat "nonetheless."
3. That Saddam was looking for an opportunity to restart his weapons program.
4. That the world is a better place without Saddam.

Re #1: No shit, Sherlock. Now you tell us.
#2: How, and to whom? Could he have harmed the hair on one American head?
#3: Maybe so, maybe not, but we couldn't wait until that opportunity came and he tried to seize it? If that's the basis for our going to war, why aren't the B-52s over Iran now?
#4 : Sure, but that list was always long. So many evil, brutal dictators, why me now?

So, he really wasn't a threat, but he was bad and could have turned into a threat once again.

Who would have thought W was a disciple of Hegel?

At 5:00 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The last battle of Viet Nam." Very appropriate. Here's hoping we get it right this time. I am one of the first of the "baby boomers" (1946) and at the time of the Viet Nam war had mixed feelings about the whole thing (even as I spent 1969-70 in Cam Rahn Bay). I was exposed to, and even flirted around the edges of, the hippie, anti-war, anti-establishment crowd during my final year in the army in California. Everything I have seen and learned since that time has made me profoundly grateful that I resisted actually getting sucked (suckered?) into it.

At 6:00 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why the public relies upon the mainstream press to report correctly anything Bush has said or will ever say is beyond the wisdom of the ages.

How much longer will the public continue to tolerate the media's blinded-by-hate bubble?

At 6:04 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...


You write: Problem arises when, as you say, the "just cause" is there more so in some wars than in others. That means death to many for a, let's say, "somewhat" just cause?

Yes, unfortunately, it does. Life doesn't present us too often with perfectly and completely just situations; more often there are shades of gray. War, and war strategy--as I've written before--is often a question of the lesser of evils, or the least crazy of competing crazinesses. And the cause that appears at the beginning (for example, the fact that Saddam Hussein appeared to the entire world to be in possession of WMDs) is not necessarily the cause that is proven to have been true at the end. Nevertheless, we must act (not just in war, but in life itself) on incomplete information.

You write:

History has pretty much sorted this issue out for past wars for all but the fanatics on the left and right. History has not been too kind on our cause for going to war in Vietnam...

I guess that makes me a fanatic on the right, because I believe that history has proven our cause to have been just in Vietnam--or, at least, somewhat just. Ask the ex-boat people about it.

One problem with Vietnam was the flawed execution of that war, particularly in the early years, the pre-Vietnamization phase. I have read a number of convincing articles (linked elsewhere, in my Vietnam pieces) that make a good case that Vietnamization was working, and that the post-Watergate cutting of funding by Congress was the reason South Vietnam fell in the end. I am not certain whether this was true, but as I said, some of what I've read makes a compelling case for it.

The second problem with the "justness" of Vietnam was that our goals didn't go far enough, and admitted too much of realpolitik in terms of the government of South Vietnam. We were not committed to a free and functioning democracy there, and that was part of the "grayness" of the justness of the cause.

You also write: After 9-11 I would have supported W in a war against the terrorists and their supporters. But is that what Iraq is? A lot of decent and patriotic Americans can't conclude it is.

True. But why? For some of them, it's because they are not aware of the reasons we went into Iraq. Others--and I assume you are among them--are well-informed, but simply don't think "that's what Iraq is,"--and they think it's what Iraq needs to be in order to be a just war.

Of course, they (and you) are welcome to their opinion. But I have mine: I think that the war in Iraq is most definitely part of the so-called "war on terrorism," both directly and indirectly. Directly by the ties that Saddam had to terrorism itself (safe havens, etc.), and by the "flypaper" theory. But far more importantly, by attempting to change the face of the Arab world. I'm not the least bit ashamed of that particular motivation for the war.

In addition, the "justness" of the Iraq war does not rest solely on its tie-ins to the war on terrorism. The justness is also based on the vileness of Saddam's regime (human rights issues) and on his violations of the terms of the armistice for the 1991 Gulf War.

All those reasons combine to make this a just war, in my book. Your book may read differently.

At 6:18 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger RickInNY said...

Again, it's instructive to understand that for a lot of people on the left, it's more important for President Bush to fail than it is for the Iraqi people to succeed.

It will be very interesting to watch the reaction in the press to the elections tomorrow. Another rash of "Yes, but...." responses?

At 6:23 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They'll probably simply ignore it. I'll be getting my news from the blogosphere....

At 7:00 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So why is Sen. Carl Levin trying his best to keep the last vestage of Watergate alive.
And then there is this on Sen. Carl Levin which I'm sure will have Sen. Charles Grassley boiling mad.

At 8:45 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dThe place of Iraq in the WOT depends on your view of the latter.
Some pretend to think--although they are getting quieter--that it should have been a war on al Quaeda only, and getting OBL would/should have ended it. Some of them, not many, agreed with the op against the Taliban.
In this view, Iraq is nothing.
Others think we need to foment a Reformation in Islam. Call this the big view.
Yet others take an intermediate view.
Why not Iran? Two answers: One is that we can only do one at a time and the other is that if we were doing Iran, most who ask why not Iran would be asking why not Iraq. It's an unserious question.

Look at a map, some say. Afghanistan here, Iraq there, Iran bordered by two democratic states with bases for US troops.
Search for "caspian guard" for a an additional geopolitical view.
We can go to Syria, if it doesn't fall apart by itself. We can use Iraq for ops against Iran.

We have been, I believe, hoping the mad mullahs would be overthrown before they got nukes. Maybe not. But attacking before giving that more time--aren't there a lot of people who wanted to give practically everybody more time?--would have been a waste if not counterproductive. Between us and Israel, we can probably deal with the nuke issue without having to go in as we did with Iraq. Besides, we don't have a long dozen of UN resolutions regarding Iran as we did with Iraq.

As I said in my review of Kaplan's "Imperial Grunts" on Amazon, two empires, at least, grew because they could never come at a safe border. Those were Rome and Russia. For us, in the twenty-first century, the entire world is Out There, containing who knows what. We cannot depend on any version of Hadrian's Wall.

Part of our safety is free and democratic Muslim states. The fascists must be put into a subordinate role on a self-sustaining basis. Let the Iraqis occupy Iraq for us. Let them see their welfare in democracy and at least some kind of secularism.

At the same time, we have a problem with Islam. The bond between Muslims trumps a good many things we in the West would not expect. Sami al Arian may have been acquitted because a critical piece of evidence was not available. A Muslim FBI agent refused to secretly record conversations with al Arian. Get this, now. It was not that the FBI wanted to mess with al Arian's religious practices. It was about terrorism. And for an American citizen, sworn to uphold the Constitution, and to abhor terrorism, the mere fact that they were both Muslims was trumps.

Recall the hysteria over false reports of Koran desecration. During the intifadeh, terrorists took over and desecrated the Church of the Nativity. Christians didn't riot. Muslims weren't concerned. It didn't happen to them. What's the problem?

What happens to infidels does not touch the Muslims to any great extent. Fighting in Iraq forced the terrorists to massacre Muslims wholesale. That got the attention of the other Muslims. It was, as one observer put it, military ju-jitsu.

The bombing in Jordan got a lot of Muslim attention. Because it killed Muslims. What seems like a tin ear in public relations issues is really the sense that they matter and others don't.

Iraq is part of the WOT in the big view. Not the end. Possibly the end of the beginning.
Dragging Saddaam out of his hole got Ghaddafi's attention. He invited us to take his nuke operation which was far beyond what we or the IAEA had thought, along with 500 tons of mustard gas which was a complete surprise. One more reason to be restrained about the intel about Iraq.

Could Iraq have hurt one American? Sure. As soon as SH figured he could increase his support for anti-American terror. And if we back off, falling for his games, his view of what we might do in response could be that he'd get away with it.

The Cedar Revolution happened because America foreclosed the Homs option.

For those who take the larger view, leaving Iraq alone in our rear, so to speak, while we deal with other folks seemed insane.

As a sidelight, we have operated with the militaries of a number of newly-freed countries, building personal relationships between senior officers, getting a start on interoperability. We have more flexibility to operate in other locations because of that.

After Iraq, we will have remaining Syria and Iran as enemy Muslim states. Syria is weak, probably breaking up. Iran is beginning to get some additional attention.

It's possible that, by the end of Bush's second term, both will be neutered as threats.

That will leave us with North Korea, and a couple of leftists in Latin America. Otherwise, the terrorists will be completely stateless.

In the meantime, new and modern Muslims will be coming to power. The seventh century may still seem attractive to some, but the rest of the population will be in a position to object.

This, as far as I can tell, is the plan.

I recommend paying attention to Belmont Club on a regular basis.

At 9:32 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is more of an exploration than a point, so please bear with me. I remember Vietnam being invoked with regularity before Gulf War I. Supposedly, by winning so quickly, I heard back then that we had cured "Vietnam Syndrome."

Obviously, that's not exactly true. Still, I have to wonder how our rapid success there interacted with Vietnam Syndrome, or if it did at all.

I wonder if there's a parallel between somebody who has a really hard time solving a personal problem, and then he's able to conquer it easlity in a flash. Then, the next time he confronts the problem, even though it's not nearly as difficult as it used to be, it's wasn't quite as easy as it was that first time, so he assumes it's all crap again.

There seems to be a masochistic pleasure in reliving Vietnam. Our society became horribly divided, the US lost the war and great tragedy ensued, but getting the US out of there seems to be the highlight of many people's lives.

In Iraq War I and Afghanistan we won pretty damn easily, and this time around in Iraq, it's harder than we had hoped, but in no way even close to what we went through in the 60's and 70's. Still, it's Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam.

Is there anything that could change this fixation in many of our minds? This war's casualties would barely fill one panel on the Vietnam War Memorial, but we can't seem to tell the difference. Is there a name for this, or an explanation?

Just wondering.

At 9:43 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not as charitable as some, nor as charitable as I used to be.

Your questions would better be addressed to those who actually believed what their statements implied.

IMO,this is BDS and partisanship and lies. Very few people on the left are as dumb, ignorant of history, and logic-challenged as they sound. They lie.

They obfuscate. They prey on the compassion of normal people when talking about US casualties, about which they've never cared before, except when dead American soldiers were politically useful.

Your questions, I am sorry to say, are naive. There is no point in asking them of somebody who knows what he's doing but won't admit it.

You are expecting some sort of good faith.

At 10:16 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

richard aubrey:

I agree with everything you said in regards to the hardcore Left, but I've met too many liberals who really are good people to believe that they are as you describe.

Decent liberals I think are the "useful idiots" of the Hard Left, who are in turn the "useful idiots" of the Islamofascists.

Still, something at work in the minds of many baby-boomer liberals strikes me as quite bizarre. I watched the Woodstock movie and I've heard the music, and I suppose that feeling free to run around naked after the stale 50's could have been liberating a way.

Some wanted Ho Chi Minh to win, but many wanted peace. Unfortunately, the concepts became quite confused and the defeat of America by some awful people became equated with the victory of Youthful Ideals.

Some deliberately lie and deceive because they want us to loose. Others who want us to get our or Iraq truly think that leaving is the best option both for Iraq and America.

This conclusion is undoubtedly incorrect, but the fact is that some really good people have come to believe in it. Some of it is nostalgia, some our ridiculous education system, some the media, some squeamishness, some perhaps a rejection of the values of the WWII generation because of a fear of never being able to match their achievements, some societal breakdown, and some the very effective propaganda of the followers of Lenin and Gramsci. Nevertheless, many well-meaning people have unwittingly become the allies of our enemies, both foreign and domestic.

Some of this is due to the Vietnam Syndrome, but I have to wonder, after our rapid successes in Gulf War I and Afghanistan, if anything can solve it.

At 10:34 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate the thoughtfulness and decency of your answer.
Where we disagree, and where it matters, is that you regret our "loss" in Vietnam because the war was mismanaged. I, on the other hand, regret that we entered it for reasons having to do--in my "book", naturally--but others read on the same page--less with good or bad management, but with flawed and dishonest intentions. To find answers here historians have indeed dug in to the forces, economic and social, that have propelled many of our nation's foreign policy decisions--including the one on Vietnam.
No, I don't think you're a right-wing fanatic. I do think that many supporters of this war are unwilling to confront that in our country's history there is much that is great and admirable, but that there are also elements and chapters inimical to what most of us hold dear.
Which brings me to a kind of "gut" issue to some of us who served in the armed forces. I was in an armored division for two years. I met many splendid people from areas and backgrounds I never experienced until then.
What we shared, however, was something our president or his vice president scorned and none of their speechwriters' manufactured patriotism can touch: service.
Public service. They (W, Cheney, the rest of the privatizing CEOs) will never understand what Bill Mauldin's WWII Willie and Joe knew: you have the right to bad-mouth and bitch BECAUSE you were there. And you'd be there again.
But not for W or Cheney, who have lived and will always live in a world ten degrees of separation from most of us.
It's not left or right, it's honesty, decency, and empathy.
Efficiency and good management matter too, but without the former qualities, they don't amount to a hill of beans.
Clinton wanted to be President. He got it, and stood for Bill Clinton. Bush...not much difference, but more damage.
Go back to LBJ. He stood for something, agree with him or not.
God, give me a real conservative or an old-fashioned liberal.
Clinton? Bush? HOLLOW MEN.
They vare more dangerous and harmful to America.
Cheers, no matter how our "books" diverge.

At 10:41 PM, December 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neo-neocon wrote:

I think that the war in Iraq is most definitely part of the so-called "war on terrorism" ... far more importantly, by attempting to change the face of the Arab world. I'm not the least bit ashamed of that particular motivation for the war.

For a refutation, see "Regime change brings the unexpected", by John Simpson,
BBC world affairs editor, in Baghdad.

Key paragraph seems to be:

Opinion throughout the Muslim world is still deeply offended by the way the Americans and British marched into Iraq without serious international support.

I suspect history will record that it was the right idea tactlessly executed.

At 10:56 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger Promethea said...

Erasmus . . .

You are infected with Bush Derangement Syndrome. There is nothing wrong with Bush nor Cheney. Each has their own talents. They are performing great service, despite your eagerness to tear them down. Your arguments against them are quite petty.

At 11:23 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

erasmus: You write: ...W or Cheney, who have lived and will always live in a world ten degrees of separation from most of us.

In line with that, you might want to take a look at this post of mine, if you haven't already seen it.

In addition, I wonder why Bush's service as a fighter pilot in the National Guard, in which he did, after all, volunteer to go to Vietnam but was told he could not, doesn't count as service in your eyes. Is it a requirement to have been in the regular military to have served? To have been in combat? If this is the case, many of our Presidents would not have qualified to be Commander in Chief.

At 12:09 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry erasmus, but I find the "Bush is detached from the rest of us" argument somewhat hollow. Was the son of a senator Gore somehow a more "common man"? Oh, I forgot, he served in Vietnam with a personal guard. What about Roosevelt? Did his aristocratic background disqualify him from being an effective wartime leader?

I acknowledge that military service can help to make one a better president, but do we really want to exclude everybody who becomes president from using the military if they haven't served?

I would much rather serve under a capable man without service than a president like Carter who "feels my pain." I have also been in the military, and some of my worst superiors were among the most sympathetic (although there were some great ones who cared, too).

Also, I could probably list the crimes of American history as well as anyone. Yet I find it significant that almost no other nations in world history could be trusted with the power we have today.

We've not lived up to our own ideals, and we never will. But America itself is an ideal, and as often as we fail in our efforts to live up to what we should be, we will never cease trying.

Name another nation that can say that.

At 12:12 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FDR was a cripple, and from a relatively wealthy old family.
How many degrees of separation between him and a farm kid from Oklahoma?
Churchill? Now that's some separation.
Irrelevant question.

Bunnies. If you insist on good persons who are hoping we lose, look at Neo. She spent a lot of time explaining how difficult it is to change, and how easy it was to get "left", as it were.

Mid and late adolescence is a time when the personality is both malleable and subject to being set up like plaster of paris. Higher ed extends adolescence by half a decade, or more, while telling The Kids that they are superior because they are spending all this time in classrooms. As opposed to being useful and responsible.

Those who got frozen as anti-war types in the Sixties aren't going to move very easily. They set up a sub-society in which The Right Sort of People thought only one way. So many of their kids took it up.
In addition, Rebecca West, in her "The New Meaning of Treason" talks of how some of the most favored and privileged young people in the history of the world ended up trying to destroy what gave them their freedom and privilege and, clearly, did well for their fellow citizens.
Part of it was that socialism had been done, the Right Sort had done it, and thought themselves very fine folk. But you can only nationalize coal once. What's next? Moving further left, to stay on the edge and be this generation's Right Sort.
Once that gets into the personality, there are two problems. One is seeing things differently, and the other is having to defend wrong choices already made--which is frequently the cause for denial of what seems to others to be the most obvious.

Anybody can just want peace. The person who refuses to concede that there may be a cost to his path to peace is dishonest. Perhaps, to strain my charitable impulse, he first deluded himself.

IMO, the effort in Viet Nam was a good idea executed so poorly that it became a bad idea.

As Buckley once said, if we were to wake up one morning and find all of Southeast Asia peaceful because we won, how many of the peace activists would be happy? He didn't answer his rhetorical question, but my guess is it would have been...none.

The BBC article means...what? Are we to dispose of our own minds? The Arab world didn't like our duking it out with Saddaam when we had international support. They didn't like it when we didn't have serious international support. Is there a problem here? Perhaps the beeb is putting us on. Perhaps the Muslim mind on this matter is so far out that we can't mollify it and survive, too.
The major difference between Gulf One and the current fight in terms of international support is that Russia and France were bribed to stiff us. I don't know that this is the same as missing the moral authority of the international community.
This is the international community which puts, say, Syria as the head of the Human Rights committee at the UN. Remember Srebrenica? Darfur? Rwanda?

If the beeb is not simply making things up, then we have what is really an excuse on the part of some Muslims. Find out what we didn't do and claim that was the thing we should have done and pretend it would have made things all better. But if we'd done that, something else would have been found. Some other loose thread would have been asserted to be the silver bullet which would have made all right.
Nonsense, to be euphemistic.

At 12:38 AM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Darrell said...

Eramus, respect your service but as active duty I respect President Bush more now than any other Commander in Chief I have had in 23 years, the only President close is Ronald Reagen. He exercises sound leadership principles that I have learned the hard way coming up through the ranks.
Regardless of what you think he is more loyal and more respectful of the military than anyone I can remember. He is not afraid to use us.
Most people won't understand this but years and years of shooting drones and endless drills it is nice to be able to actually use those skills for real with a goal in mind.
Neo, sorry for feeding the trolls.
On the subject at hand I am sick, sick sick of the Vietnam argument. The military is so different today, we are all volunteers and although we have a small percentage that dont want to be here, it is tiny and they stick out like a sore thumb. I had fears of the MTV generation on the way over to Iraq and those fears were smashed to bits. The young men and women we have today are so smart and so motivated to do the right thing it changed my opinion forever. So young but so determined. I had one young Marine walk up to my desk to ask for some help and I swear my first thought was "does your mom know you are here? He looked like he was 12, but he wasn't.
Back to the subject I think it boils down to formative experiences. Some of us old timer's parents had a formative experience with the depression and WWII. Right now the senior editors and managers in the media and some of the governments formative experience was Vietnam, they rose up and stuck it to the man! They stopped a war man! The machine! and they, kids at the time, stopped the greatest war machine in the history of the world. Peace, love etc.
I have no doubt they are trying to relive their most important moment in their life that forged their world view for life. And they dont realize they were and are wrong.
So, while these young writers for the AP etc. know of VeitNam from MTV and some left leaning college classes that omitted that we would be buying nice cars from Democrative South Viet Nam like we are from korea right now, have no idea. But an old saying is "what interests my boss fascinates the hell out of me
' I am quite sure those old guys are telling tall tales to their young employees, most would like to keep there job soooo....
On the other side are people that were personnaly affected by that war and have a different view. A view on what could have been if we had kept our will.
As a Military person today my ears are very atuned to any rumblings of how that eras veterans and soldiers were treated. I feel bad that my country did that. Countless suicides and substance abuse probelms were caused by that treatment. I feel there are many that desperatley want to spit on us but dont because it isn't yet the cool thing to do. Every day I see us getting closer and closer to that. There are reports trickling in about how Iraq Veterans are being treated on college campuses.
When poeple like Murhta speak, they are speaking through that prism of Viet Nam, they have no idea what they are talking about. We learned much from that conflict and acted on what we learned. There is no real parallel althought they desperatly want there to be.
Neo, I would be interested to hear a clinical view on my "formative experience" theory.

At 1:04 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I remember Vietnam being invoked with regularity before Gulf War I."

I remember Vietnam being invoked during Panama. Some people then were claiming that it might become Bush's Vietnam and that it would "define his presidency". How many people even remember it? I think some people have been hard-wired with the necessity to compare everything to Vietnam and I believe they'll only stop doing that when they stop breathing, no matter how absurd the comparison might be.

"I think that the war in Iraq is most definitely part of the so-called "war on terrorism" ... far more importantly, by attempting to change the face of the Arab world. I'm not the least bit ashamed of that particular motivation for the war."

I'm 100% on-board with this idea from Neo. I'm frequently surprised how the nuance-based community seems to demonstrate an utter lack of nuance. They try to reduce the war to a simple WMD Yes/No question. They try to reduce the War on Terror to a simple get Al Qaeda/get Bin Laden question. As if either one of those is an adequate response to the cross societal sickness that spawned the whole Middle Eastern mess in the first place (both Saddam and the Islamists). The peripheral vision of the masters of nuance is so poor regarding world events that I sometimes wonder if they are all stuck inside the same burqa.

At 7:36 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

neo et al:
1. No, I don't "hate" Bush. I just think he's a third-rate manager, not engaged in a political philosophy (conservatrism would be fine, see the ten principles of conservatism on the site of the Russell Kirk Foundation.) He stands, rather clumsily, for American Corporatism. And that has little to do with freedom, democracy, or the kind of conservatism the GOP once endorsed. Sound like "hate" to you?
2. Bush answered "No" when enlisting in the AF National Guard to the question if he'd serve abroad--ie, Vietnam. The document HAS been published.
3. Opposing Soviet Communism was a worthwhile fight indeed, but the war in Vietnam may not have been an honest and decent battle in that war.
Which brings us to Iraq. Yes, America must lead, with or without certain "allies," the war against the Islamic jihad. And how will the war in Iraq have aided that cause? Or, will it? I think every American should at least ask such questions. Why are there so many on the right who must label anyone who does a "lefty" or "troll?"
I have not closed my mind to different or conflicting answers as we "stay the course." But I see that some have. And that is more sad.

At 8:07 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey:

The degrees of separation refer to the mind, able and willing to overcome distances created by wealth, class, education etc. Or not. You can come from an old Brahmin family, be educated at Andover and Yale and understand the life of a Dayton assembly line worker, or not.
It is my sense that neither the left nor the right are capable of such understanding. The left pretends it does. The right doesn't even bother. Not a nickel's worth of difference.

At 8:16 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Viet Nam needs to have been a loser from the get-go. Immoral. Ill-judged. Impossible to win. Can't beat the outrised, upraged peasantry who've been oppressed, suppressed, repressed and depressed no matter what military stuff you bring to the battlefield.

And don't tell us about beating the Japanese, a notably determined bunch. Just don't.

Anyway, the reason VN has to be a permanent loser which never had a possibility of being a victory is that every new venture is labled "another Viet Nam". When the left doesn't want us to start something--because we might win and that would never do--they invoke Viet Nam. That way, facing a sure loser, maybe we don't start. That way,we can't win.

Now, if it were admitted that Viet Nam could have been won if done better and that it was, in Reagan's words, a "noble effort", then "another Viet Nam" loses its punch.
Too bad some have bought the argument about Viet Nam, even if they don't necessarily buy the current use.

Erasmus. When I was in OCS in 1969, we had a class on our personnel files. We were issued them from the company clerk and went off to Infantry Hall. Turns out the "classified" sign was on the door and MPs were checking ID. The class was about going through our files, piece of paper by piece of paper to spot any shortfalls in pieces of paper and teach us to read the stupid things.
Why classified? Because about ten percent of the candidates were not what was known as "college option". They'd had a number of years of active duty. And the places they might have served were not to be known. Hence the oddity that going over the plain-vanilla personnel file was "classified". These are the guys who, if they are killed, are said to have rolled a jeep, or died in a helicopter crash. These are the guys whose sneaking-around clothes amounted to a hawaian shirt, khaki pants, low-quarters and white sox. Still with the LZ and whitewalls.

I happened across a book by a missionary in the Congo in the Sixties who spoke of being rescued by Cuban-American mercenaries. I had a commander who had a different view of who, exactly, was paying those guys.

Seems to me that anybody who didn't volunteer for that kind of duty off in the boonies where the US wasn't supposed to be is about as wimpy as Bush who didn't want to serve overseas.

Bush did volunteer for Viet Nam later on. He didn't have the hours.
I volunteered for Viet Nam. My brother was killed first, so I got off orders.

Lots of reasons not to be in Viet Nam, and Bush's were as honorable as many and better than most.

The logical extension of the chickenhawk argument is that only veterans vote, and when "Starship Troopers" (the movie--spit--not the book--fabulous) came out, and Heinlein's view of the price of the franchise became known, the left howled fascism. They do that all the time, anyway, but in this case they were directing it at the fictional case being made that the only way to get the vote was to have an honorable discharge from military service.
It has its attractions, but for those who don't like it, the chickenhawk argument ought to be deployed more cautiously.
As if they actually gave a rodent's butt for the actual concept. It's a lie, that they care. It's a tool to use against Bush and the administration and would be dropped in an instant if a democrat were in office.
As everybody knows.

At 8:34 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey:
Let's try this. If, in the 1960s, you thought the war in Vietnam was wrong, get out of serving or escape to Canada.
Calling it a "noble cause" and getting out of it is something else.
But my point was not so much the "chickenhawk" argument as the disappearance of political philosophy from both parties, from liberal and conservative factions. I see Frist, DeLay, Clinton (B and H) as representatives of our political wasteland, serving those who finance their campaigns and get the clauses in the legislation as a return.
The American people? To be babbled to in 4th of July rhetoric occasionally.
9-11 changed some that all right, but in my view Bush (no, I don't hate him) has not risen to face the challenge from the Islamic world. He is trying to "manage" it, and that may be the problem. Ask McNamara today about "managing" the war in Vietnam. Business solutions are not necessarily the best responses to world problems. Neither, of course, is knee-jerk pacifism. I really am an equal opportunity critic here.

At 9:45 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Arab world didn't like our duking it out with Saddaam when we had international support. They didn't like it when we didn't have serious international support.

1990 (August) - At an emergency summit of the Arab League, 12 out of the 20 states present condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

2003 - The League voted 21-1 in favor of a resolution demanding the immediate and unconditional removal of US and British soldiers from Iraq. (Kuwait casts the lone dissenting vote.)

source: Wikipedia

At 9:57 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Bush is managing the WOT.
What's the alternative?
All wars are managed. If you want to use the word.
The alternative is non-management.
Churchill managed the Brits' part of the war, juggling the availability of landing craft against his ability to convince FDR that more were needed in Europe and the Pacific could wait. He once messaged the Brit Anzio commander to explain how come they had so many on ration strength actually ashore but still couldn't fight. Not enough combat troops. Maybe he was right, maybe not. War involves limited resources, less limited opportunities or possible catastrophes.
Bush is hoping that Islam will reform itself if several things happen. One being the demonstration that conventional Arab states are completely and utterly powerless against us and there must be a reason. What, we hope, the Arabs will be thinking is wrong with us. Maybe it's Islam's political system. That would be a nice conclusion for them to come to.
We need to make it clear to the Arab masses that they have opportunities and that the primary obstacle is their own despots. That would be a nice conclusion for them to come to.
We could fight all the Muslims in the world who wnat to fight us, which would start with about a hundred million Wahhabis and Salafists and grow from there.
Or we could deke them into doing what we want by letting them see it's best for them.
Seems like a good idea to me.

What will tell the tale is what we do wrt Saudi Arabia once Iraq and Syria and Iran are taken care of.

Maybe we should get hold of Harvard and ask them not to take Saudi money for a department whose goal is to explain Islam to us.

At 10:56 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish your scenarios all the luck, especially the one dealing with problem of what to do with the Saudis once "Iraq and Syria and Iran are taken care of."
If we're going to take care of all that, who will take care of the American middle class and workers, victims of the global marketplace con job?
Read Pat Buchanan's piece in "The American Conservative," which--after describing the erosion of our manufacuring base--concludes: "Our elites tell us that we simply have not read Thomas Friedman, we do not understand that the old Hobbesian world is history, that we have entered a new era of interdependence where democracy and feee markets will flourish and usher us all into a golden age --and we Americans will lead the way.
If they are right, we are Cassandras. If they are wrong, they are fools who sold out the greatest country in all history for a mess of pottage."
I think they, liberals and conservatives alike, did just that.
What will be left of America's core, its strong middle class, after Iraq, Syria and Iran are "taken care of?" And what will be left of our soul after such "taking care" takes us into more secret prisons and torture chambers?
The old Hobbesian world is very much alive, and it will remain so as long as human beings run the planet.

At 11:26 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The torture chambers belong to others. The current argument over torture--I can't believe you haven't been paying attention--is not about torture but about what constitutes torture.
The McCain bill leaves the entire thing open. Yelling? Sure, since the definition is "inhumane or degrading". Red ink? Yup. Do your homework. At this point, there is nothing that can't be used by the ACLU if they think they have a wacky judge who will say that something we'd consider innocuous in Basic is inhumane.
As Wretchard said, this will lead to more torture, since we'll turn these guys over to other countries. Who would want to take the chance of holding on to one of these guys for more than a few seconds. Anything that happened could be actionable.
Remember the BN commander who fired a pistol in the air to get a guy to talk. He retired at a reduced rank to avoid eight years in jail. With that as the standard, putting the guy in an unpadded seat on the way to the rear would certainly merit an Article 15. Better just give him to the Kurds.
I know guys who used the fired in the air technique routinely against German POWs. Nobody seemed upset about that, nor concerned about souls.
This war is different and the difference is that Bush is running it.
The strong middle class was built on having destroyed most of the rest of the developed world so they couldn't build stuff. We got complacent and didn't notice that they rebuilt and went into competition with us. Either we repeat the process, or we have high tariffs which will ruin us, or we figure out a change.
The number of farmers is down by about nine million in the last hundred years. How come the nation didn't fall apart? Change happens.

If you don't want the war managed, then what are we to do with it?

Anon. The two resolutions you mention are about going in two different directions. Iraq into Kuwait. US/UK into Iraq. You need to compare two going the same way. US/UK into Iraq 1991 vs. the same in 2003. Then you have to convince us that the league represents Arabs. Remember the representative government thing--they don't have it.

At 11:45 AM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't much hold for the fatalistic "change happens." Sure it does, because of what we do or don't do.
No, the nation won't fall apart. But it will, gradually, resemble Argentina or Brazil in its social structure: a small (10-15%) upper class (the "knowledge" managers), a thin middle, and a large underclass. So, big deal, change happens. I'll be looking up, or down, on the new USA by then, but I'm not wild about how the country will be for my grandchildren.

At 12:24 PM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey:
"One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the fu***ng cook. He shouldn't be in with no PUCs."
From the testimony of a 82nd Airborne sergeant at FOB Mercury, Iraq.

Not torture? Not us?
Whether it's sport or assignment, the broken leg doesn't know the difference.

At 12:46 PM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Joe Schmoe said...


I have never served, but I don't repsect your service. You were obviously drafted back in the 50's or 60's, along with millions of others. You spent a couple of years camping out and painting rocks in West Germany. BFD.

(How can I tell, given the anonymous nature of this forum? The two-year term of service, the refernce to Maudlin (not many of today's 19 year-olds, or even 30 year-olds know who the famous WWII cartoonist is), the New Deal rhetoric, and citation to Pat Buchannan as a great conservative thinker.

Why am I rasing the issue of your personal history? Because you slandered Bush and Cheney. You criticized them for failing to volunteer for Vietnam, while you, yourself, "were there."

The problem is, you were not a volunteer either. Your service was totally involuntary, just like childhood vaccinations and schooling. Therefore, you don't have the right to wrap yourself in the mantle of courage or claim moral superiority. The people serving today, unlike you, are VOLUNTEERS. That, my friend, is sacrifice. That's patriotism.

The tactic you are employing is pretty common among liberal Democrats. Some guy who got drafted 40 years ago will always be reminding us that he is a "veteran," once wore the uniform, etc., etc. See, e.g.. John Kerry. The more modern version of this is some guy who spent four years as a truck driver in the National Guard to earn money for college proclaiming himself a "veteran" and an "expert" on military tactics, strategy, etc.

Meanwhile, something like 80% of actual military voters are voting for Bush. They don't hold his lack of "service" against him. Only you feel that way.

At 12:50 PM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erasmus. I'm a bit late on doubting your good faith. But I caught on.

The incident you describe is illegal and was/will be/ or should be punished as others have been.

You went from implying national policy to pointing to an illegal act. You didn't think you'd get caught.

My father's platoon had an SOP. The biggest, scariest, nuttiest looking guy would appear to lose it, charge the newly-captured German POW, firing a grenade blank from his Garand. The German would generally talk. My father's soul, and the nation's, survived.
I have a neighbor who fought in the Phillipines. He had no problem then, and doesn't now, with how their Nisei interpreter dealt with recalcitrant Japanese. FYI, none of this stuff is policy now, and would be punished.

Change happens. I don't know what we could have done to keep nine million people employed as farmers, considering the improvement in agricultural technology.
Change happens. Trying to hold it back is counterproductive.

At 1:08 PM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe Schmoe:
1. Only you would confuse criticism with slander.
2. It's not the lack of military service, it's their eagerness, lust almost, to push others to do what they themselves would not do. Does that necessarily impede them from being good leaders? No. But it's an unattractive character trait.
3. The GIs in WWII were drafted too. Is what they did, from Anzio to Berlin and in the Pacific NOT sacrifice?
You are confused and your post is garbled. You want to defend Bush and Cheney against my perceived "slander."
My service, at Fort Hood and in Germany, (MOS was sniper in the armored infantry) is not relevant. Yes, I was drafted in the late and peaceful 1950s. So?
In the draft army, did the volunteers perform any better, any more patriotically than the the draftees? Unless you have research to back anything like that up, defend W and the five-deferment VP all you want--but for the substance of what they are doing.
Or not doing.
By the way, during maneuvers in Germany in the February snow, nobody could tell whether the guy next to you or across the lines from you was a volunteer or draftee. Nobody seemed to give a shit either. Try it.

At 1:21 PM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Aubrey:
No, I did not say the cook's act was "national policy." I said that the broken leg doesn't know or care whether it was that, or done for sport.
There are other acts, similar to the one by the cook, in the testimony from 82nd Airborne personnel.
But what seems to matter more is that anything critical said must be attributed to left/liberal/democratic hatred of Bush/Cheney. I was mighty critical of Clinton in his days, and my liberal friends chastized me as much as you do.
I do not question that Bush haters are out there, as Clinton haters were there (still are). Not everything critical is fueled by hate. I'm as much critical of the screamers on the left as I am of the ones on the right.
No good. Got to be with us, or you're against us.

At 1:30 PM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Joe Schmoe said...

You are not slandering Bush and Cheny when you refer to thier "manufactured patriotism" and question their "honesty, decency, and empathy?"


And you do it by holding up yourself as an exemplar of patriotic virtue, because you served. Except that you didn't have any choice in the matter. You were no volunteer, yet you criticize Bush and Cheney for failing to volunteer. I don't think that is appropriate at all.

It is certainly appropriate to criticize the President's leadership skills. For example, while I myself am a fanatical Bush supporter, I thought he did a piss-poor job on the morning of 9/11 itself. When the nation was desperately awaiting a speech from the President, Bush was flying around in Air Force One, first to Shreveport, then Omaha. He belonged in Washington, D.C., and he should have gone there instead.

That is an example of a fair criticism. It's factual. It's not overly sweeping. And the critic simply layes out the facts, he doesn't hold himself up as morally superior to the subject of his critisim.

Now, the one fair criticism of Bush that you do make is that he is out of touch with the average dogface, necuase he hasn't served. This criticism is not unreasonable. But I think it is simplistic and wrong.

You don't have to be in the military to expereince suffering and death, you know. I myself have seen slow, horrible deaths from cancer and emphysema up close and personal. I've seen people killed in accidents. Others have committed suicide. I once spent a year working in a hospital for the severely physically disabled; there I ment plenty of 18 and 19 year-olds who were normal teenagers one day, and quadraplegics the next. I've held grieving mothers and widows, tried to think of comforting words, and witnessed and felt the loneliness and despair of the families left behind.

But you know what? I'm not unique. Almost everyone has experienced these things. Bush and Cheney certainly have. Yet you portray them as bloodthirsty technocrats, moving soldiers around on a chess board, having no idea of the human drama and tragedy that flows from their orders. Well, I think your view is childlike and foolish. Of course Bush and Cheney know what it means to send men into war. Everyone knows what it means. It doesn't come easily to anyone.

At 1:45 PM, December 15, 2005, Blogger Motor 1560 said...

Richard Aubrey: Thanks for your service from one of those guys, "...who, if they are killed, are said to have rolled a jeep, or died in a helicopter crash. These are the guys whose sneaking-around clothes amounted to a hawaian shirt, khaki pants, low-quarters and white sox.. I went on active duty straight out of college before we were an official branch. Did Benning, jump school and Rangers. Then training and operations got real interesting.

I knew about Kennan's "Containment Policy" and I had read Kissinger's Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. Oddly enough, just about every senior NCO I knew had read them too. All of us had a more "global" view than the average soldier.

All of us came out of the experience as "never do it again, unless you are willing to win, and we'll recognize winning when we get there." That held true for my younger brother as well. He also served multiple tours in the Navy assigned to the Marines as a medic.

It became the mantra of every serving and reserve officer when the military collapsed in the 70's. You want to talk about a "broken military"? In the 70's it didn't even look repairable.

Those are the people who dedicated their lives to building the military we have now. Compared to today's military, I served in the Horse Cavalry as far as training, leadership and dedication to mission is concerned.

My service is similar to the IRA, "Once in; never out.", so there are opportunites for those of us who have lost a couple of steps off their game. Our game was only physical when they needed strong bodies to haul smart brains around.

Michael Yon made the point in one of his dispatches that this is the first war where a relational database is a weapon. The "kids" know this and more. They are all dedicated to winning.

I'll sign this one with the most common end to practically every conversation I have had. "Charlie, Tango, Mike". Continue The Mission.

At 1:51 PM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe Schmoe:
I wrote:
"It's not left or right, it's honesty, decency, and empathy."

That means it does not matter whether it's Bush/Cheney or Clinton/Gore. As the song says, the fundamentals still apply.

At 3:17 PM, December 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Motor, dammit. I know what 1542 is, having been one myself plus the Airborne prefix of 7. But what's a 1560?

Did you guys ever pop for dark socks and a Lacoste knockoff? Skip the hourly haircuts? Was the farmer's tan a giveaway?

Of all the stuff I could picture myself dealing with, the Hollow Army is the toughest. Being OCS, my preferred tactic when facing a brick wall was to employ my head. Not my brain. Flexibility was for ROTC guys.

You guys who hung in there deserve more praise than most people can conceive. I hope the result of your labors fills you with pride, and if it does, it's still not enough.


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