Pardon my long silence, but long days and slow internet connections (therefore, no photos) have kept me from my keyboard. I have a little time now, though, and would love to share with you a few impressions I’ve formed based upon eight days in Vietnam and three days in Laos. In other words, these are superficial observations and I welcome corrections.
In no particular order:
Except for the lavish Ho Chi Minh memorial and mausoleum in Hanoi, it’s hard to remember that Vietnam is technically still a communist nation. Mr. Bookworm described it more accurately, echoing both Napolean and Adam Smith, as a “nation of shopkeepers.”
Wherever we looked, people were buying and selling things. Saigon (a name the Vietnamese seem to prefer over “Ho Chi Minh City”) seems to be made entirely of storefronts, with the shops’ owners living above or behind their shop.
I had the dubious pleasure, back in the 1980s, of visiting Prague, when Czechoslovakia was still under Soviet control. It was a grim, unhappy, gray city in which, other than government-approved, overpriced glassware, nothing was for sale except for a nasty kind of ice cream that seemed to be the preferred opiate of the people. Vietnam did not have that feel.
A little confusingly to this Westerner, all the stores sell precisely the same merchandise and are all next door to each other. That is, one entire street might have nothing but stores selling toilets — and they’re all the same toilets (ironically, I saw a lot of “American Standard” brand toilets and baths).
Our guides informed us that the distinction isn’t which store offers cheaper, better, or different goods; it’s whether the customer has a relationship with the seller. That was true whether the product at issue was clothes, appliances, or even food from the endless little kitchens/restaurants set up on sidewalks in every quarter of any town or city we saw.
We spent two days in Hue, Vietnam. Looking at this peaceful city, it’s hard to believe that it was the site if the Tet Offensive — a place where our troops won the battle and our government lost the war.
Hue has an ancient Citadel, which was both a military enclave and an imperial palace. Some of the heaviest fighting during the Tet Offensive occurred there, so large sections were completely leveled. Some parts remained, either unscathed or reparable and the Vietnamese have been working over the past few years to make those repairs. The place is lovely, both sad and gracious. I would love to show you pictures, but the internet is so slow that I consider myself lucky to be able to write about the place.
Four days ago, we visited the War Remnants Museum in Saigon, which is the Viet Cong version of the war. It’s factually accurate, although slanted to show the Americans as mass slaughterers — which is to be expected, because to the victors belong the narrative. Of course, the word “victors” in this case is one I choose carefully, because the US won the war on the ground but, as it has since the Vietnam War, abandoned the fight in the court of public opinion and, therefore, effectively lost the war anyway.
One of the interesting things that the museum admitted was that the Viet Cong violated the Paris Peace Accords because of Watergate. Back in 1973, when Kissinger negotiated a Korea style peace treaty with the Viet Cong and the democratic (and painfully corrupt) South Vietnamese, the museum says that the VCs intended to abide by the agreement because they were scared of Nixon. That is, they expected rough treatment if they violated the Accords.
According to the museum, all that changed when Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal. The VCs (correctly) assessed Ford as weaker than Nixon, and that was the green light they needed to invade South Vietnam and conquer the country. The lesson I drew from that is that, as we’ve seen with Obama and the Middle East is that weak presidents are dangerous to peace. Bad guys need to be afraid of the good guy, not comfortable walking all over him.
The second interesting thing was that our guide admitted that the VCs lost the Tet Offensive, adding that the Americans lost the war anyway because “the political climate changed.” His statement led me back to something I wanted to explain to the Little Bookworm who’s on the trip with me.
Wars, I said, are often won and lost, not on the battlefield, but amongst the civilians. That’s why Sherman’s march through Georgia was what was needed to end the Civil War. As long as Southern civilians supported the war, their soldiers would just keep fighting until they could fight no more.
In the 1960s and 1970s, although the battles took placer in Vietnam, the real war was between America, on the one hand, and the Russian Soviets and Chinese Communists on the other hand. While the bloody military battles themselves barely reached America’s civilians, the communists were able to do something that Americans were unable to do: namely, wage psychological war against the American population.
My parents, who were no fools, never doubted that the entire anti-war, hippie, drug scene originated with the communists. As Ion Mihai Pacepa explains in Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism, my parents were correct. The Vietnam War was a two-front war and the anti-war movement was the second front. I’ve often thought that it was Walter Cronkite who really lost the war for America:
There he was, America’s “most trusted man,” solemnly parroting communist propaganda. That was the beginning of the end. Our American youth continued to spill blood in that deadly tropical paradise for another four years, but the war was effectively over then. As the Vietnamese museum suggests, we didn’t lose the war in Vietnam, we lost it at home.
Reagan was a temporary antidote to the terrible mental and moral collapse we suffered as a result of this hidden home front war. Let’s hope Trump can do the same in the face of the unrelenting Marxist culture war that’s been openly waged in America for the last eight years.
I’m sorry that this post is a bit cursory and disjointed. I’ve been able to read on the internet with hotel wireless, but I’ve had problem getting to my own site. Interestingly, I also cannot get either Breitbart or Weasel Zippers, although I can get Drudge, Powerline, and American Thinker. It’s also a bit hard to type and things keep crashing. I’m not whining . . . Just explaining.
I’ll try to write more when I have better internet access (and to post picture then too) but for now this will have to do. Just a little more time and a slightly faster, more stable wireless, and all will be good. Having said that, I’m amazed and impressed that I have wireless at all. Despite being ostensibly communist, the Vietnamese people are born capitalists, and they’re doing their damndest to bring their country into the 21st century.
We visited the Củ Chi tunnels today. These were the tunnels outside of Saigon that the Viet Cong built as a headquarters, a trap, and a base for operations. Visitors actually see only a small part of the tunnels themselves, with the rest being above ground recreations.
The tunnels reveal that the Viet Cong were a resilient, ingenious, and very small people. Resilient because they functioned entirely underground despite massive US bombardments; ingenious because they turned the entire region into a death trap for US troops, complete with snipers and hidden holes filled with bamboo spears, metal spikes, poisonous snakes, and scorpions for unlucky soldiers; and very small because I found the small portions of tunnels open to the public hard to walk through and I’m only five feet tall (about 2.5 feet when bent double, as was necessary for me to traverse the tunnels). Oh, and the entire tunnel network was dug out in a region with high temperatures, high humidity, and fun things such as malaria.
That the American troops who fought the Viet Cong didn’t win wasn’t for want of courage or effort though. I was left with a deep respect for those young American men who entered that lush, dangerous jungle in the service of a government that fought a winnable war stupidly — but more on that when I’m not on an iPad and am less tired.
I don’t have pictures because the site didn’t lend itself to my limited photographic skills. The only picture I took was off the nearby tributary to the Saigon River, simply because it was so beautiful. The picture is at the head of this post, but here’s a larger version:
Again, I’m sorry for this post’s brevity, but I’m just too tired to say more.
Hot and steamy, but delightfully unpolluted air compared to Beijing.
Lush greenery and gorgeous lights to celebrates the holidays.
Death walks at your side every time you try to cross a street — the traffic, especially the people on their little motorbikes, never stops.
Beautiful, gracious people.
A fascinating propaganda museum that I’ll tell you more about in another post.
Beautiful architecture, both old and new.
A few photos:
I’m doing actual legal work today, but I want to clear my spindle before it gets completely out of control. Here goes, a quick, down-and-dirty round-up:
President Trump? Scott Adams has pretty much nailed everything that’s happened so far in this election, at least when it comes to Trump’s tactics and trajectory. Watch him on Bill Maher’s show explaining precisely why he thinks Trump will win, and win big. He also says not to worry: Trump will not be a crazy, war-mad, racist, irrational president — although Hillary could be a problem if elected because she’s a walking alcohol cabinet and drug pharmacopeia.
ACLU Director mugged by reality and other bathroom musings. When Maya Dillard Smith, interim director of the Georgia chapter of the ACLU, went into a public bathroom with her daughters, only to have the girls frightened by some manly looking so-called women, she summarily quit the ACLU, went public with the reason she quit, and was roundly and soundly ignored by America’s mainstream media.
Incidentally, I asked two boys who are in high school if they think the Obama directive will result in boys who are not transgender taking advantage of its broad language and visiting girl’s bathrooms and locker rooms. Both boys instantly answered “No! No one would ever do that.” Then they said, “The girls would chase them out.” Then, after a moment’s cogitation, they proceeded to name all the “weird,” “goofy” boys they knew who would, in fact, probably take advantage of the opportunity to see teen girls naked or nearly so.
And while I’m on the subject, people concerned by the ongoing sexual assaults against Muslim women in refugee camps have a radical solution for the problem: separate bathrooms for men and women. No, I’m not kidding. The Lefties on my real-me Facebook page, the same ones championing Obama’s transgender diktats, are thrilled about this idea. We truly are a culture that’s moved beyond parody.
Reading about Admiral Denton’s rare courage and undiluted patriotism made me realize how profoundly wrong it is that John Kerry has ascended to one of the highest positions in the land, a journey he made through cowardice, slander, and gold-digging marriages. Compare and contrast:
For his show of courage in refusing to denounce his own country, Admiral Denton suffered such terrible torture even those of his guards who had not had all humanity stripped from them were reduced to tears.
And then there’s this:
Life is what it is. Admiral Denton was admirable in that he put the past behind him and went on to lead a full, rich life. But there’s still something seriously out of whack when a weasel like Kerry represents the United States abroad and, in true weasel fashion, grovels before mullahs and tyrants, while doing what he’s always done: selling America and her allies down the river.
The Taliban has hit Marin County (indirectly). Marin County is headquarters for Roots of Peace, an admirable charity that seeks to advance agricultural development in poverty-stricken areas. It has an outpost in Afghanistan, where it seeks to enable the Afghani people to feed themselves. The Taliban can’t have that kind of thing happening in its country. It therefore sent off some foot soldiers to attack the Roots of Peace Kabul office, killing a child in the process. If radical Islam had a cable-TV station, it’s motto would be “All war, all the time.” One wonders if this will be a bit of reality that mugs that peaceniks who are so self-centered that they cannot envision cultures that have, as their core value, a desire for perpetual warfare.
David Clarke, Milwaukee’s Sheriff, made a splash when he encouraged Milwaukee’s beleaguered citizens to arm themselves:
I think Clarke may have found a kindred spirit in Detroit Police Chief James Craig. During a press conference in which he discussed the rising numbers of homeowners (successfully) using arms to defend themselves, he had this to say:
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a press conference last week that in his 37-year career, he’s never seen as many homeowners defending themselves by shooting intruders. Craig told The News in January he felt the crime rate could be lowered if more “good Americans” were armed, because he said criminals would think twice about attacking.
“It does appear more and more Detroiters are becoming empowered,” Craig said. “More and more Detroiters are getting sick of the violence. I know of no other place where I’ve seen this number of justifiable homicides. It’s interesting that these incidents go across gender lines.”
We want more law enforcement like Clarke and Craig, and less like Marin’s Second Amendment-challenged sheriff.
I also want more of this: An Ebony magazine editor went on a rant against conservative blacks; got called on it; claimed that the person calling her out was a white racist; when she learned that the person calling her out was black apologized for calling him white; and then doubled down on rants that were both anti-conservative black and anti-white. (That’s not want I want to see more of. It’s this next thing I like.) Normally, Republicans would run away screaming from this type of confrontation, leaving the racist Leftist in control of the field. This time, the RNC demanded an apology . . . and got it.
Speaking of the Left’s racial obsessions: Any half-sentient being knows that Stephen Colbert’s shtick is that he created a faux-conservative character who is pathologically dumb, racist, sexist, etc., and that Colbert, a marginally-talented generic Leftist, uses this character to claim that all conservatives are pathologically dumb, racist, sexist, etc. That’s why it’s hysterically funny that, when his show tried to highlight (non-existent) Republican racism by having his character ostensibly tweet out a crude anti-Asian stereotype, the Asian community got riled and demanded that Colbert be fired for being an anti-Asian racist. Asians should stop getting their knickers in a twist about stupid TV shows and should start looking at where their real politic interests lie. (Hint: It’s not the Democrat Party.)
Leland Yee has been around forever as a fixture in Bay Area politics. As his name implies, he’s Asian, he’s hard Left, and he represents San Francisco and parts of San Mateo in the California legislature. Since Sandy Hook, Yee’s been very vocal about being anti-guns. He also just got indicted for gun running, including trying to sell arms to Islamist groups. The MSM has been trying hard to ignore his story, as it’s been trying hard to ignore a bunch of other stories about spectacularly corrupt Democrat figures. Howie Carr therefore serves a useful public service when he calls out the media, the Democrat party, and the crooks.
Speaking of crooks, Harry Reid claims never to have called Republicans liars when it comes to Obamacare, despite footage of him calling Republicans liars because of Obamacare. There’s some debate on the Right about whether Reid’s gone senile or is just trying out his version of The Big Lie. My theory is that we’re seeing malignant narcissism in play. As I’ve said a zillion times before in speaking about Obama, malignant narcissists never “lie” because their needs of the moment always dictate the truth of the moment. That is, if they need to say it, it must be true. (It’s nice to be your own God.)
Keith Koffler identifies the four roots of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy. I agree with him, although I would add a fifth, which is that Obama desperately wants to see America knocked down to size as punishment for her myriad sins. Perhaps Obama should read the DiploMad, as he explains why Russia, the country before which Obama is now weakly doing obeisance, has always been much worse than America could ever be, both as a protector and an enemy.
Adm. Jeremiah Denton, Jr. has died at 89. The public learned about Denton during the Vietnam War when, during one of the forced confessions that the North Vietnamese liked to televise to the world, he blinked out a Morse code message — “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” — thereby providing the first proof America had that the Commies were torturing American POWs. During the same interview, he bravely said he supported his country, a statement that led to more torture. Denton was also America’s longest-held POW, spending almost 8 years in the Hell that was the Hanoi Hilton, and various related prisons. During that entire time, he was brutally and repeatedly tortured and he spent four years in solitary confinement (where he was tortured). My heart bleeds when I read what happened to him. But Denton came home and he got on with a full, rich life, including six years in the U.S. Senate. If anyone deserves to Rest In Peace, it is Adm. Denton.
I don’t think much of Stanford. It’s nothing personal. I think all the big universities (and most of the small ones) have become intellectually corrupt. However, Prof. Michael McConnell, at Stanford Law School, has somewhat restored my faith in Stanford by writing one of the clearest analyses I’ve yet seen of the problems facing the government in the Hobby Lobby case. Of course, law and logic will not sway Ginsberg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer, all of whom are activists much more concerned with making policy than with applying law. As happens too often, Anthony Kennedy will cast the deciding vote — a reality that places way too much power in the hands of a man who seems too often to blow, not where the Constitution takes him, but wherever his fancy for the day alights.
And to end on a light note, two more ridiculously funny Kid Snippets, offering an inspired combination of kid wisdom lip synched by some remarkably talented adult actors:
Radiolab is a show produced for a New York public radio station. That tells you everything you need to know about Radiolab’s political orientation.
The other day, Radiolab broadcast a story about the Hmong (American allies during the Vietnam War), their suffering at Communist hands when the Americans pulled out, their experience with toxic “Yellow Rain,” and the Reagan administration’s reliance on Yellow Rain stories to justify producing some chemical weapons:
Producer Pat Walters brings us a detective story from the Cold War, about a mysterious substance that fell from the sky in Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam war.
As retired CIA officer Merle Prebbenow explains, once the US pulled its troops out of the region, the communists took over — the Viet Cong and their allies in Laos the Pathet Lao. Eng Yang, who was living in a tiny village in Laos in 1975, explained what that meant for him, and his family and friends. Eng, who talked to us with his niece Kao Kalia Yang translating, is Hmong. Thousands of Hmong fought alongside the Americans during the war, and when the US left, they were targeted by Viet Cong and Pathet Lao, who were out for revenge. Eng says it started with isolated killings, until one day, his whole village was attacked. He and thousands of other Hmong fled their homes and went into hiding in the jungle. And that’s when they started seeing it — yellow droplets that fell from the sky and splattered the landscape, followed by dying plants, animals, and eventually friends and family doubled over with stomach problems.
When US scientists looked at the yellow spots, they found poison, and pretty soon “Yellow Rain” as it was known, had become a flashpoint in the cold war. Chemical weapons expert Matt Meselson and biologist Thomas Seeley, two scientists bent on analyzing the substance, tell us what happened when they challenged the original reports (which were used to justify the production of a chemical weapon by the US back in the early 80s). And when we explain their views to Eng, who saw loved ones die, and who fled his home in Laos to escape, we have to reckon with a very different kind of truth.
What the precis, above, doesn’t say, though, is that these chemical weapons’ experts concluded that the Hmong were assaulted by nothing worse than “bee poop.” It doesn’t take a genius to know the Radiolab line of thought: America and her allies were paranoid about communists; this paranoia saw a simple group of people equate a natural phenomenon with communist poison; and the paranoid and stupid Reagan administration piggy-backed on this primitive ignorance in order to justify creating weapons of mass destruction.
The only problem with Radiolab’s reasoner was that the show’s interviewer, Robert Krulwich, pushed Eng Yang and Kao Kalia Yang too hard as he tried to force them to spout the party line. Krulwich essentially called Yang an idiot who wouldn’t recognize bee poop if he saw it. To maintain this fiction, the show apparently failed to translate Yang saying that he was a beekeeper, so he knows bee poop.
Instead of outrage at the Reagan administration for being stupid enough to be taken in by a bee poop rain, the show’s audience was outraged that it would pick on a sweet little old man who had suffered so terribly at Communist hands:
A response from Kao Kalia Yang from her Tumblr page http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/kao-kalia-yang
“I’m writing you because today RadioLab aired a piece on Yellow Rain. They contacted me earlier this summer saying they wanted a Hmong perspective. I facilitated an interview with my Uncle Eng Yang because he lived through the experience. I agreed to serve as interpreter. The interview went on for about two hours. Robert Krulwich, one of the host of the show, grew increasingly disrespectful toward my uncle’s experiences and his lack of formal education. I lost the reigns on my emotions and I stopped the interview. This is of course the part that the show decides to end on.
“The story is billed as a search for Truth. I am a firm believer that the Truth belongs to those who’ve lived it. I am still processing the story they aired and all the information edited out (my uncle’s explanations about the Hmong experience with bees, how we have harvested honey for centuries, how the attacks happened far from bee settlements, how they were strategic in that they happened only where there were heavy concentrations of Hmong people).
“I am sharing this with you because I believe it can be used for the work you do—to positively influence understanding. If you are Hmong, I’m sharing this with you because it is a valuable statement of media and representations of us…even as we struggle to do our best work.”
– Kao Kalia Yang
[snip]Diane from MN
I speak Hmong and can hear Eng telling the interviewers repeatedly in the final cut he knows what bee pollen looks like. It’s disingenuous for you have us assume you understand Hmong. Radiolab is counting on your ignorance of the Hmong language to create the emotional story you heard. If you are Hmong-speaking you’ll hear how poorly the story was put together. If they went to Eng for his story, they did a very good job at keeping it out of the final cut because they cut almost all of the interview out and kept just the anguished cries of the interpreter (I refer to Kao Kalia as an interpreter because Eng was supposed to be the primary interviewee), who was compelled to advocate for her uncle when Robert, et. al started to inflicted emotional pain on Eng. Even Kao Kalia’s husband, who witnessed the interview, has said Eng was talking about his knowledge of bees and told the interviewers he is an experienced beekeeper. Did you hear any of this in the final cut? Not unless you understand Hmong!
If you bother to read the comments below you will find public comments from Kao Kalia, her husband and Paul Hillmer, who Radiolab contacted initially for a lead and was referred to Eng Yang. Read Kao Kalia’s comment about how it came about she took on the interview. Read her husband’s first-hand account of what he witnessed before you make more assumptions about the Radiolab story as you’ve been fooled.
Lastly, the science on the bee pollen is inconclusive and it is alleged that Meselson did not collect samples in the area where the Yellow Rain genocide took place. Here is an excerpt and link to the article refuting his research:
“A particularly vicious piece palmed off as scientific research was published in the Sept. Scientific American by Harvard biochemistry prof Matthew Meselson and two others. Meselson, whose trip to SE Asia had been financed by the leftist MacArthur Foundation, collected bees’ feces (droppings) far away from any war zone, examined the material by electron microscopy and other methods, not surprisingly found some toxins in it, and not surprisingly found no man-made toxins attributable to Soviet weapons.” -Wall Street Journal in 1987 by William Kucewicz: http://www.fortfreedom.org/y04.htm
As far as I’m concern, Radiolab’s story is science fiction.
[snip]Lima from MN
Robert Krulwich you don’t have the skill or depth to understand or represent the human heart, especially a broken one. For me to listen to radiolab again I want this next segment for you to say sorry ON AIR so that we can all hear and that our soft, human heart can rest.
[snip]Marty from NYC
I lost a lot of respect for Robert Krulwich after listening to this episode. He was being downright cruel to a man who had endured such horrible things during his life.
A new low for Radiolab. Frankly, I’m shocked this interview was even aired. It was just disgusting.
Shame on you, Robert.
I’ve never posted here, but have been disturbed for days after listening to this episode. This was at best sloppy journalism and at worst extremely disrespectful to the thousands of Hmong people who died and their families who were left in the aftermath. Shame on Robert Krulwich for taking a know-it-all stance in the face of the people who ACTUALLY lived through this horrific experience. His tone and attitude towards these people was reprehensible. An apology needs to be issued, by NPR if not on part of Krulwich.
When last I checked, there were 149 comments, the vast majority of which were angered and disgusted that Krulwich felt the need to bully a little old man in order to force his story into shape.
What these NPR-liberal audience members don’t understand is that the kind of bullying they saw is inevitable on Progressive radio. The Progressives have a narrative, and they will do anything to force the facts to fit the narrative. Usually, they do this by quoting friendly experts at length or by selectively editing people or events antithetical to Progressive viewpoints. Here, Radiolab’s editors thought that its audience would be more, rather than less, sympathetic to Krulwich as he kept trying to force an old man to acknowledge that he was a victim of America, not the Communists. That thinking falls into the “epic fail” category.
It would be nice if those audience members who were disgusted by the segment would give something different a try — say, perhaps, conservative talk radio, which has long, open-ended segments that force, not only the guest, but also the host to defend his position. I doubt that will happen though. Most will just surf the internet until they find other Progressive podcasts that aren’t careless enough to show how the meat gets into the sausage.
Read here John McCain’s 1973 account of his plane crash and his 5 1/2 years at the mercy of the North Vietnamese. It may not tell you whether he’ll be a good president, but it certainly tells you something about the man, all of it good.
While I worked on an appellate brief last night, Mr. Bookworm watched Frontline’s Bush’s War. I was not surprised to learn that it characterized the Bush administration as not only profoundly stupid, but also deviously Machiavellian, with Bush in charge, except that he’s so stupid that he is actually manipulated by the evil Cheney. At least, that’s what Mr. Bookworm told me. The bottom line, as my very upset husband said, was that the “worst presidency in history” used all its fatal flaws to get us into Iraq.
I didn’t feel like debating the merits. First, I hadn’t watched the show. Second, it was impossible for me to amass all the necessary facts. I would have also gotten stuck in the morass of conceding that the Bush administration definitely made mistakes. This concession would have led into an extended discussion about the fact that, in all wars, the good, winning side makes devastatingly bad mistakes because in war you use the information you have, not the information you will have when the dust clears.
Instead, I put the matter differently: “Accepting everything as true, what would you do now? For good or bad, we’re in Iraq now.” Interestingly, Mr. Bookworm refused to engage, falling back on harping on the evils of the Bush administration and its bad decision making. “Yes,” I said. “But that’s the past. We’re in Iraq now. Bush and his whole team are leaving office in January 2009. What would you do?” The only answer I got back was “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Mr. Bookworm’s preference for wallowing in the past and his unwillingness to deal with present realities is hardly surprising. In his world — the New York Times, the New Yorker, NPR, PBS — only the past gets discussed. To the extent that there is an Iraq plan, it can be summarized in one phrase: “Get out.” Of course, smart liberals, and my husband is very smart, know that “Get out” is neither an operational plan, nor a good one.
Equally unsurprising is the fact that Barack Obama, a man who is rather strikingly uninformed about foreign affairs given the fact that he has voluntarily plunged into the center of political life during time of war, has exactly the same attitude. He too never looks beyond the liberal media world and, while perfectly ready to spell out the Bush administration’s past failures, is incapable of dealing with the current reality, which is that we’re in war in Iraq. The best he can do is misrepresent John McCain’s statement that American interests are best protected by a continuing American presence in Iraq, just as we have a continuing American presence in former hot spots such as Germany, Japan and Korea.
John Fund highlights only the most recent example of Obama’s almost frightening lack of vision and knowledge when it comes to foreign policy:
This week, Mr. Obama stumbled again after he declared he wants to withdraw from Iraq but “leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy.”
John McCain quickly leaped on the notion of keeping a “strike force” in Iraq and noted it was in direct contradiction to previous Obama statements that he would fully withdraw almost all troops. Mr. McCain had a series of questions: “I think it might be appropriate to describe exactly what that means. Does that mean 100,000 troops? Where are they based? What is their mission?”
Given that the Progressives seem irrevocably tied to the past, whether it’s endlessly rehashing the Vietnam War or Bush’s mistakes in this War, this is not going to be the only time that Obama stumbles and tumbles into a debate with McCain that he can’t win. McCain may be the Old Dude, so old that he actually served in Vietnam, but when it comes to this War McCain resolutely faces the future. He’s actually thought about what’s going on now, and what America needs to do to best protect her troops and her national interests. As Fund says:
Look for an ongoing debate between the two men over just what presence in Iraq Mr. Obama envisions should he win the White House. Present evidence would indicate that both men see a substantial U.S. role in the country, but that Mr. McCain’s stated goal is to achieve victory and Mr. Obama has a far more muddled outcome in mind.
The Presidential campaign is going to prove that, when it comes to the Iraq War, you can run to the past, but you can’t hide there. Unless Obama comes up with a real plan, recognizing the actual on-the-ground realities in Iraq, I suspect significant numbers of Americans are going to worry that, not only are the Democrats obsessed with the Vietnam War, they’re planning on repeating all of its worst mistakes.
I’m about to show my youth and ignorance here with regard to the Vietnam War (’cause even though I lived through it, I was truly a child then). But first, let me back up a bit. Mr. Bookworm rented Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a film with an interesting conceit: Ms. Taymor takes 33 of the Beatles songs and interweaves a story around them. As a musical, it’s pretty successful. Bucking trends in musicals for the last 40 years, she chooses actors who actually have really good singing voices. Also, showing her background in theater and puppet work, it’s a visually impressive movie, if you don’t mind that she goes over the top sometimes. That’s the praise.
Now for the criticism: The movie is set during the Vietnam War era and is totally anti-War. American soldiers are shown as brutal robotic types who work for a military that takes sweet, innocent young men and throws them into the maw of hell. Anti-war protests are shown as seminally important events that simultaneously reveal the grossness of American policy in Vietnam and that allow wholesome, moral young Americans to find a place for themselves in opposition to the evil war. In this regard, the movie is both a babyboomer nostalgia trip and a nudge-nudge wink-wink anti-Iraq War movie. So, even as the movie is beautiful to look at and lovely to hear, it offends me. It’s blithe acceptance of the 60s Leftist tropes is so facile as to be almost grotesque — but it did leave me thinking.
The street protest I mentioned above culminates with a speaker talking about American imperialist aggression and Americans as baby killers. What I wondered very much was how and where this angle on the war started. Truth to tell, it sounds precisely like the kind of talking points you can see brooded over by a handful of people attending some secret Communist meeting in a grimy NY basement apartment.
Looked at objectively, from the point of view of a whole nation, the “our nation is evil” idea is kind of fringey. That being the case, how did it gain so much currency? Why did Americans embrace this paradigm about the war instead of viewing the War — as John F. Kennedy, their hero, viewed it — as a necessary (for America) way to stop worldwide Communist aggression and as an act of decency to keep the Vietnamese free? Where did Americans get the idea, stated in this movie, that the Vietnamese wanted us to go? Maybe the North Vietnamese, who were Communist puppets did, but I was under the impression that the South Vietnamese were desperate for us to stay there and protect them from a Communist takeover — a takeover that, when we pulled out, was even more horrific than anyone had anticipated. (One of my most vivid pre-teen memories is of the extraordinary panic on the ground, amongst ordinary Vietnamese, when the Americans pulled out.)
In the current War, from the first second, the Leftists just leapt upon the Vietnam War template, dragging their old signs out, and replaying the identical scenario, with a sympathetic media to help out and spread it amongst people who normally wouldn’t give too much of a rat’s ass one way or another. It’s been like watching a re-run. But who created the original 1960s script, and how did it spread so rapidly and effectively that it became the accepted view that our American men and boys were brutal, imperialistic babykillers — end of story?
Did the original script come from the Kremlin, which was gleefully spreading misinformation, or was it an organic, homegrown Leftist process? Was it embraced so quickly because, after the Korean War, we were sick of getting involved in jungle fighting in the Far East? Or was the draft the problem, with articulate, well-read, generically liberal/Leftist students suddenly having a vested interest in saving themselves — and shooting further Left in the process? And if it’s the latter explanation — that is, the draft created self-interested young people who would rather attack their own nation and leave the Vietnamese in hell than put themselves at risk — why didn’t the draft create precisely the same problems with WWII?
I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but it suddenly occurred to me that, while I’ve always seen the end result of anti-Vietnam War agitation, I’ve never understand how the theme came into being and how it got a toehold in the American psyche and the American body politic.