The Worst and the Darkest

I’m sure it’s been pointed out before and in greater depth elsewhere, but you have to marvel at the parallels between the Viet Nam war buildup and the Iraq war. In reading Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, I have to stop on just about every single page and marvel at the parallels. And I don’t just mean the superficial ones. Texan president, etc. I mean the bureaucratic infighting, the subtle power tricks of the insider game used to push a certain agenda, flying in the face of facts and good policy, and the exit of the reality-based officials (Bowles, Kennan, McNaughton, Trueheart, Kattenberg et al. with Powell, Clarke, O’Niell, et al. leaving because of Iraq).

Bush II has turned into a strange mix of LBJ and Nixon. Terrorism is the new -ism we have to fight with unbending zeal, under the stick of right-wing rabidity, lest we be deemed as soft. Similarly, just as Truman and Acheson were hard-line anti-communists, they were branded as weak for losing China; Clinton, whose administration was hard-line anti-terrorist, much harder than pre-9/11 Bush, was blamed for 9/11 and his missile strikes on bin Laden were considered wagging the dog.

The press fueled much of the revolt. Fulbright had a committee (and it was he, after all who was swindled into shepharding the Tonkin Resolution through)–Conyers and Feingold are in the minority. So, we don’t have any chance of this occurring now, really. There will be no 60s in the 10s.

2 thoughts on “The Worst and the Darkest”

  1. For all their errors the Vietnam War architects were the best and the brightest in the tradition of FDR’s braintrust, The Iraq II perpetraitors are legacy students; the boss’ nimrod son who sits in his manager’s cube watching DVDs all day and then takes over the show when the old man croaks.


  2. The difference to me is that Viet Nam was a bad application of a good policy (containment) and Iraq is a bad application of a bad policy.At some point in the early Johnson years, it should have become clear that what was going in in Viet Nam was not going to affect our balance of power with the Soviets; it was nothing like losing China. Losing China was in reality a disaster for American foreign policy, and it was caused by many of the same mistakes that marked the Viet Nam period. After the Sino-Soviet split, it also should have mattered less, but the bottom line is that it would have been an honest danger to us to have all of Asia except for a very few places hostile to us (Pakistan, Japan). The Cold War was real–the fate of humanity was at stake every day, and the tension that came from that was overdone and overzealous, but at least it was based on something real.The war on terror on the other hand is completely fake. 9/11 is not a world wide conflict, it is not a “global war on terror”; it is simply a conflict with a certain kind of islamic radical, who could have been eliminated but wasn’t.Instead, it was used as a hook to reawake cold war zeal with no real danger to our interests, no annihilation, in the balance.The communists really were oppressive. They did not reflect the traditions of 19th century utopians like Marx at all. They really were worth fighting. The most enlightened states in the world are our creation, the social democracies of europe, canada, and japan, and the would-be America of LBJ and Nixon if they hadn’t bankrupted the country with Viet Nam. The proof is in the pudding. When the Berlin Wall came down, the countries behind the iron country became social democracies, not dictatorships led by men like Diem or Pinochet or or Saud or Mubarak or Bush or any other American installed tinpot dictator.On the other hand, many of the countries in the middle east, if freed of their US installed strongmen would pick a government with a religious islamic leader.We’re absolutely nowhere on this.


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