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.
I watched about 30 minutes of the debate. I missed the beginning because I was taking care of business, and I tuned out after 30 minutes because my feed broke down. What little I did watch still left me with a few impressions about the field.
Before I begin, let me recommend to you an article from Breitbart that is really a predicate to deciding which of the Republican candidates you like best: “A Stark Choice: Ted Cruz’s Jacksonian Americanism vs. Marco Rubio’s Wilsonian Internationalism.”
The article boils the foreign policy issue (which the Constitution gives to the president) down to two world views: The Wilson world view is that we have to intervene all over the world to make it a better place, and that it’s shameful to win wars; instead we have to make peace. The Jackson view is that we shouldn’t fight a war that doesn’t directly benefit us, but when we fight, we fight to win. Wilsonians would say a safer world indirectly benefits us, making intervention wars worthwhile. Jacksonians would say that too many of our wars have not only failed to give us any benefit, they’ve been very bad for us, especially because — as Obama exemplifies — we shouldn’t win.
Given ISIS’s role in the world, it’s useful to get a handle on the candidates’ fundamental foreign policy orientation.
(The rest of what I’m going to say is un-researched stream-of-consciousness stuff, based solely on my own often faulty memory. If I’ve made mistakes (and I’m sure I have), feel free to correct me. I only ask that you be kind when you do.)
I tried to use this Jackson/Wilson divide as a filter by which to view 20th century wars and found it a little confusing, to say the least. America automatically sided with England against Germany because America had her roots in England. In fact, though, from the standpoint of America’s interests, there really was little to choose between England and Germany. If it weren’t for German perfidy, as revealed in the Zimmerman telegram, it’s entirely likely that Wilson really would have kept his pledge to keep America out of the continental war.
As it was, once Wilson got a taste of American military power, he began to believe that it was America’s manifest destiny to bring goodness and light to the whole world — without any actual benefit to America, something that would have been just too, too crass and self-interested. Ironically enough, given Wilson’s “world peace” vision, it was because America tilted the war in Britain’s favor that Germany not only lost, it ended up so destabilized that the anarchic 1920s created the perfect power vacuum for the rise of the Nazis.
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:
I could have done this as myriad small posts, but I was in the mood for something big. I’ll separate the different ideas and issues with asterisks (after all, Obama’s promise with his unspoken asterisk has made asterisks the hot new thing in writing).
My friend (I like say that — my friend) Sally Zelikovsky has written rules for Republicans who want to win elections. They are very pragmatic rules which state that the time for internecine cherry-picking, purging, and warfare should wait until after the Democrats no longer control Washington. I’m just giving the rules. Please go to her post to see her intelligent support for many of the less obvious or more challenging rules:
(1) Duke it out in the primaries and whole-heartedly support your candidate of choice.
(2) Do not support your preferred candidate by stooping to Democrat levels.
(3) Never forfeit a “sure thing” candidate for a high risk one.
(4) Unless an incontrovertible liability, never abandon a viable candidate especially in an important race.
(5) In extreme cases, when a candidate is hurting other races, it’s okay to withdraw support.
(6) Do not use outliers to formulate strategies for the entire country.
(7) Make protest votes a thing of the past [snip]
(8) Think of the end game.
(9) Social conservatives and tea partiers should hold any elected Republican’s feet to the fire.
(10) Moderates should expect social conservatives and tea partiers to hold their feet to the fire.
(11) Do not air our collective dirty laundry.
(12) Always anticipate the leftwing response, think through your story, then stick to it.
(13) In politics, as in life, there are people in any group or organization who have varying degrees of commitment. [snip]
(14) Use the media to communicate with the PEOPLE. This is your chance to be a PR person for conservatism, even though the press is never on your side.
(15) Always promote the improved quality of life in Republican-run states andcontrast this with the diminished quality of life in true blue states.
(16) Speak with one voice on the issues where there is consensus.
(17) Where there is no consensus, speak to the fact that we are a diverse party that welcomes debate but, in the end, we are all guided by time-tested conservative principles that promote freedom.
Some of the suggestions are hard to swallow, because they continue to provide political cover for checkbook Republicans, meaning those who support a Democrat agenda, but who make loud noises about “we have to be able to pay for it.” Read Sally’s whole article and, if you feel like it, please get back to me.
Lee Smith has a brilliant analysis of what John Kerry and Barack Obama are doing in the Middle East:
So how did we reach a point where the United States is working with the Islamic Republic of Iran, while longtime U.S. allies are not only outside the circle but trying to block an American-Iranian condominium over the Middle East? A pretty good idea can be gleaned by taking the advice given by Politico in an article detailing Obama’s habit of meeting with prestigious reporters and columnists to test-drive his ideas: “If you want to know where the president stands on a foreign policy issue . . . read the latest column by David Ignatius” or Thomas Friedman, another frequent sounding-board for the president.
Read the whole thing and weep. What they’re doing is every bit as bad as it sounds, and there will be terrible repercussions.
Fouad Ajami says that Obama’s magic is gone. I like his article but I have to disagree with the core premise. Obama never had magic. What he had was a complicit media. It’s easy to win the game when the referees have determined in advance that you’ll win. At a certain point, though, the spectators begin to think that the fix is in.
Up until this past Wednesday, I tended to side slightly with the government regarding Edward Snowden — namely, that he was a traitor who stole America’s secrets. And indeed, he seems to have stolen lots and lots of secrets. What I learned on Wednesday, though, when I heard Mary Theroux, of the Independent Institute, speak, is that the government’s spying on American citizens is so enormous we literally cannot comprehend its scope. The data collection (which is in the multiple zetabytes) grossly violates our inherent Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. NSA employees before Snowden tried to blow the whistle on this beginning around the year 2000, and got ferociously persecuted by the government because of their efforts. Snowden’s spectacular leak broke that log jam.
But here’s the really important thing that Theroux said: The government gets so much data, it’s useless for the stated purpose of crime and terrorism prevention. As it comes in, it’s simply so much white noise. It certainly didn’t stop 9/11 or the Boston bombing. In this regard, think of England, which has more CCTVs per capita than any other country in the 1st world, and maybe in any world. Nevertheless, these cameras do nothing to prevent crime. As the number of cameras has increased, so has the crime rate. The data is useful only after the fact, to help (sometimes) apprehend the criminal.
Well, one can argue that ex post facto apprehension is a good thing — but it’s a good thing only if there’s been a clear violation of a pretty well known law (e.g., don’t beat people to death or don’t rob a jewelry store). We’re looking at something much more sinister here. Think of the volume of law in America and, worse, think of the staggering volumes of rules interpreting those laws.
As Theroux noted, Stalin’s chief of police famously said (and I’m paraphrasing) give me the man and I can find the crime. We Americans have a government that’s sitting on data that can be used to criminalize us after the fact the current government (Republican or Democrat or Third Party) doesn’t like us. It’s like a landmine under every American.
Since Obama is quite possibly the most inept national security president in the world, it’s arguable that Snowden’s revealing secrets along those lines (e.g., that we’ve been eavesdropping on allies) leaves us in no worse shape than we were before. After all, as Lee Smith notes above, Obama has already turned our allies into enemies. What Snowden did do with his escapade was to remind us that, when government begins collecting every bit of information simply because it can, every citizen becomes a potential criminal. We’re not at the Stasi stage yet, but our government is laying the groundwork for a Stasi society. That’s an utterly terrifying thought. We still can stop it now. Once it’s in play, stopping it gets much, much harder to stop that fascist juggernaut.
Given the debacle that Obamacare is proving to be for Obama, the Democrats, and Progressivism generally, a reader sent me an email saying that we should be grateful for Chief Justice Roberts for allowing this disaster to unfold. That email reminded me that, back in June 2012, when Chief Justice Roberts managed to salvage Obamacare, I wrote a post looking for lemonade in Roberts’ opinion and, once again, I was a bit prescient. (And yes, I am mining many of my old posts as real-time events are showing that I predicted with a fair degree of accuracy everything from Obamacare, to the shifting alliances in the Middle East, to Obama’s meltdown when the real world intruded on his little narcissistic dream.) It’s a long, wandering (and, of course, fascinating and insightful) post, but here’s the Chief Justice nub of it:
Roberts wrote the decision at the end of a 90 year continuum holding that Government fixes problems and the Supreme Court fixes Government. This approach makes “We, the people” unnecessary. Rather than elections being the corrective, the Court is the corrective — except that the Court’s make-up is controlled by the Government. (Remember the Bork debacle?)
Roberts refused to play this game. He slapped back the Democrats’ hands when it came to the Commerce Clause, telling them that the federal government cannot legislate inactivity. And he held — quite correctly — that if there’s any possible way for the Court to salvage a law, it must do so. His salvaging was to say that, this particular law, written in this particular way, with these particular controls over the people, can be salvaged by calling it a tax. It’s an ugly decision, but probably a correct one. And then he tossed the whole thing back to the American people.
I can just see Roberts’ thought-process (although he might have thought in more polite terms): You idiots elected a Congress and president that used every kind of political chicanery known to man in order to pass the biggest tax in American history and one that, moreover, completely corrupts the free market system. It’s not the Supreme Court’s responsibility to correct that kind of thing, provided that the judges can, as I did, find a smidgen of constitutionality in it. There’s an election coming up in November. Let’s hope you’ve wised up enough to figure out that my Supreme Court is returning power to “We, the people.” We will not pull your chestnuts out of the fire. We will not legislate from the bench. We will construe things as narrowly as possible. If you, the people, don’t like it, you, the people, elect different representatives.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, Ace wonders if Obama just gave the Supreme Court another bite at this rotten apple.
Power Line brought this AP headline to my attention: “In Reversal, Obama to Allow Canceled Health Plans.” Who knew that a constitutionally appointed executive had the power to “allow” canceled health plans?
It was an especially interesting headline to read because, last night, I attended a panel discussion with AP reporters, photographers, and the editor in chief of the AP photograph department. The purpose was to promote a new book of photographs that AP employees and stringers took during the Vietnam War: Vietnam: The Real War: A Photographic History by the Associated Press. It was an interesting event, although I’m sorry to say that they were boring speakers. (It seems like an oxymoron, but they were boring speakers who offered some interesting content.)
One of the things the panelists kept saying is that they have so much integrity and are devoted to even-handedness in their subject matter and presentation. We know that’s a joke when it comes to written coverage about domestic politics. AP has been a Democrat shill since at least George W.’s administration. But it’s also been a shill when it comes to photographs. Given their record, I have to admit that it was a bit difficult to listen to the panelists’ smug satisfaction about their higher calling, integrity, and even-handedness.
I like Deroy Murdock’s writing, so I liked his analysis of the Obamacare debacle. It’s fun to read. It doesn’t have the soaring schadenfreude of Jonah Goldberg’s instant classic, but it’s still darn good.
Speaking of good writing, Megan McArdle is at it again, this time pointing out in very polite, analytical language that Obama has taken on the behavior of a tyrant (not a word she uses, but it’s the gist): The law is what Obama says the law is. It’s probably worth thinking about the Snowden revelations as you read McArdle describe the way in which Obama usurps power. The media is clucking, but not with any force; the Democrats are running or enabling; and the Republicans are in-fighting. We’re seeing a weird, passive (even Weimar-ian) anarchy that creates room for a tyrant to breathe and grow.
I’m pleased to say that I never liked Oprah, so I’m not surprised to learn that she’s a race-baiting phony. Incidentally, to those who have mentioned in the comments that liberals are like beaten wives who keep coming back for more, Oprah is Exhibit A. She destroyed her TV show by endorsing Obama, and he rewarded her by freezing her out of the White House. So what does Oprah do? She keeps crawling back, defending the man who used her and abused her. I’m not sorry for her though. Her racist venom makes pity impossible.
The photo above must be one of the most iconic images from the hippie, anti-war period. A youthful anti-Vietnam War protester, faced with a ring of National Guard troops pointing their rifles at him, carefully places a flower in each muzzle. He thinks, no doubt, that the flowers have magically converted the guns into harmless instruments. The troops, however, know that their rifles are still rifles. The only thing that’s preventing them from firing is their inherent decency and, of course, the lack of any order telling them to pull the trigger. The flower didn’t change anything; it’s the underlying morality that matters.
I thought of this liberal delusion — that guns can magically be transformed into harmless flowers — when Hube brought to my attention the clarity with which Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the existential threat facing Israel, and about the West’s passivity in the face of this threat:
“The leaders of the Allies knew about the Holocaust in real time,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a permanent exhibit called “Shoah” in Block 27 at the Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum.
“They understood exactly what was happening in the death camps. They were asked to act, they could have acted, and they did not.
“To us Jews the lesson is clear: We must not be complacent in the face of threats of annihilation. We must not bury our heads in the sand or allow others to do the work for us. We will never be helpless again.”
To stare down the muzzle of a rifle is a remarkably clarifying moment. Why aren’t we having such clarifying moments in America despite the Islamists’ relentless war against America and Western values? I think the problem is perfectly summed up by the young man in that photo: reality-challenged Progressive think that, by pretending the rifle is a flower, it will magically become one. That’s not how rifles or flowers work.
I’m not the most observant person in the world. It was probably in around 1976 when I suddenly realized that the CBS nightly news, which my parents watched religiously, was no longer giving daily updates about the number of dead and wounded in Vietnam. That information had provided a backdrop to my childhood dinners, so much so that I completely tuned it out. When the numbers vanished, I was still tuned out.
Thinking about it, I also missed the transition from Global Freezing, which was the nightmare scenario of my 1970s youth (along with nuclear Holocaust, of course), to Global Warming, which is the nightmare scenario of my own children’s youth. Perhaps, though, it wasn’t that I was so absent minded, it was also that the message with both calamitous scenarios has been precisely the same. Zombie has written a very detailed post (not to worry, though, ’cause it’s also fascinating) comparing the two climate movements. I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I saw that Zombie’s thesis is as follows:
In both cases, proponents of the theory-du-jour say that in order to stave off disaster, we must reverse the march of civilization, stop our profligate use of carbon-based fuels, cede power and money from the First World to the Third World, and wherever possible revert to a Luddite pre-industrial lifestyle.
I realized: The solution (commit civilizational suicide) always remains the same; all that differs are the wildly divergent purported “crises” proffered up to justify the imposition of the solution.
Seen from this angle, the entire Climate Change field should be more properly reframed thus:
In order to weaken and eventually destroy the existing industrialized nations, we must devise an ecological “crisis” so severe that only voluntary economic suicide can solve it; and if this first crisis doesn’t materialize as planned, then devise another, and another, even if they flatly contradict our previous claims.
One of my favorite books ever is Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. (Just as a “by the way,” another wonderful Fussell book is Thank God for the Atom Bomb.) In The Great War and Modern Memory, Fussell examines how the literary British upper-class men who participated in the British war wrote about it, from the unadulterated patriotism of Rupert Brookes (who saw so little fighting and died of an infected mosquito bite at Gallipoli) to the tortured trauma of Siegfried Sassoon, who spent too many years on the Western Front. Fussell gracefully weaves military history, literary history, and literary analysis into one seamless, tragic whole. It is an epic work.
Fussell’s book also makes one aware that there are always two wars going on: the war on the ground, and what I call “the war as perceived.” Only the troops know the war on the ground but, if one has a literate military, everyone can experience the war second-hand. Although not as excessively literary as the British, who were steeped in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, etc., American troops did a fine job of bringing the war home, at least through the end of WWII. They wrote home from the front during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II. Not just that, but during all those wars, a critical percentage of the American male population was engaged in the fight, meaning that, not only were troops writing, a critical percentage of the people at home were reading what the troops wrote.
Things changed after World War II. We still fought wars and American troops still wrote home, but the audience was shrinking. Fewer and fewer families had someone on the front. Americans who did not have a friend or family member in the war lost sight of the “war as perceived.” Into that vacuum stepped the Leftist propagandists. They vigorously filled this informational void, most notably with John Kerry’s despicable Winter Soldier lies. With Vietnam, on the home front, the “war as perceived” began to have a great deal to do with hostile sources — our home-grown communist fifth party — and nothing to do with the military’s own experience.
The internet has changed all this. In the ordinary course of things, between my environment (blue, blue Bay Area) and demographics (I’m too old to have friends who fight and my children are too young to be part of the fighting generation), “the war as perceived” would have passed me by. Or, to the extent I did learn something about it, that knowledge would have come from the MSM filter, which is alternately maudlin or hostile when it comes to our fighting troops.
But with the internet . . . well, that’s a different thing entirely. We get front line reports, not from reporters, enemies, and propagandists, but from the troops themselves. We also get “back line reports” (for want of a better phrase). We don’t just learn from the troops about the blood and smoke. We hear, first hand, about the camaraderie, the training, the boredom, the skill sets, the loss, and the foolish fun.
This first person war reporting is incredibly important. It’s one of the reasons why, all efforts notwithstanding, the Lefties have been unable to turn Americans against the troops. Because of the blogs, we know the troops, unfiltered. They’re young men and young women who train, fight, play, dream, love and hate. They are us. We cannot pretend that they are some alien killer beings because the troops themselves won’t let that pretense exist.
The other thing milblogging teaches us is that so many of those who serve in our military our excellent writers and thinkers. They are well-informed, thoughtful, funny, intelligent and generally people with whom it’s nice to spend time. When I read my favorite milblogs, I always think to myself “Gosh, I’d like to have lunch with that writer.” (To my favorite milbloggers, that’s a hint. If you’re going in be in town, drop me a line.)
I’d therefore like to introduce you to a few of my favorite milbloggers. I’d also like it if you’d use the comments section to introduce me (and everyone else) to a few of your favorite milbloggers:
And a newbie, a female Marine: Tin and Phoenix
Whew! That was a long drive home. We got caught in traffic jams caused by two accidents, so we got to spend an extra couple of hours in the car. Still, better to sit around because of an accident than to be in an accident. I’ve done both and prefer the former.
While we were driving, we let the kids watch “Miracle on 34th Street,” which is always charming. We spent most of the drive though, listening to a book on CD: Kenneth C. Davis’ Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned.
It was an interesting book, in that it was honest about the facts (although Davis did buy the story about smallpox infected blankets, a story I understand to be a Howard Zinn fraud), but he couldn’t resist Left-wing editorializing, even when his editorial asides didn’t mesh with the facts. For example, in the section about why the British lost the colonies, his set-up was that they lost it for precisely the same reason that the Americans lost in Vietnam. In some respects, he was correct — a far-away enemy making logistics challenging, weak support at home, and the fact that the enemy used new tactics while the larger force (Britain/America) was still using its successful tactics from the previous war.
However, what Davis also tried to do was imply that, as was the case with Britain and the American colonies, America in Vietnam was trying to enforce imperial control on a small nation. He also implies that the Soviet Union in the 20th century, as did France in the 18th century, came in after the conflict started to aid the underdog and humiliate an old enemy. In that, Davis is completely dishonest. Vietnam was not a part of the American empire, nor was America trying to squeeze it into that role. And unlike France, the Soviet Union was not initially a disinterested bystander that only came in to aid an underdog and humiliate an old enemy at the same time. Instead, Vietnam always was a proxy war between superpowers. More than that, our aim was to prevent Vietnam from being subjugated to a colonizing power, rather than to subjugate it to our own power.
So, not only was Davis biased, he was historically wrong. Still, he gets points for presenting the facts (even if he didn’t understand their import) and the kids did get more brain food than they would have if they’d just watch an endless series of mindless movies while we drove.
Will Democrats once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
Here’s a very encouraging report about the latest NATO (mostly American forces) offensive in Helmand province, one of the last redoubts of the Taliban. I don’t know how much play this will get in the Mass Media, as they generally don’t like to talk about American victories.
I am still seething about the Vietnam War, which helped to define my generation. It was a war we won militarily at great sacrifice and lost politically, when we betrayed our treaty obligations to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I believe that the point at which the Vietnam war was lost was when CBS’s Walter Cronkite pronounced the Tet Offensive as an American defeat (it was quite the opposite).
So, here is my question: will the Democrats and MainStream Media repeat history and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, or will they play this to a conclusive victory?
I carpooled to a soccer game today. The driver, who is someone I don’t know very well, is a very charming man who is quite obviously a potential Obama voter. He wasn’t quite sure about me and, since he was a very civil individual, he never came out and either insulted McCain or lauded Obama. He did say, though, that he thought it was the government’s responsibility to provide medical care. He also characterized Vietnam as a complete disaster. That gave me an interesting opportunity to explain to him a few historic facts he didn’t know — because very few people know them.
I started out by reminding him of something that most people forget: the Vietnam War was a Democratic War. Kennedy started it and Johnson expanded it. (Nixon, the Republican, ended it.) I didn’t say this in the spirit of accusation, because I wasn’t being partisan. I said it to give historical context to a larger discussion about freedom versus statism.
I noted that, in the 1930s — and, again, most people have forgotten this — the major battle in Europe was between two Leftist ideologies: Communism and Fascism. When he looked a little blank, I pointed out that the Nazis were a socialist party, a fact he readily conceded. I also reminded him that, in the 1930s, given that Stalin was killing millions of his countrymen, and that Hitler hadn’t yet started his killing spree, Fascism actually looked like the better deal. World War II demonstrated that both ideologies — both of which vested all power in the State — were equally murderous.
Men of the Kennedy/Johnson generation, I said, saw their role in WWII as freeing Europe from the Nazi version of socialism. When that job ended, they saw themselves in a continuing war to bring an end to the Communist version of socialism. Again, they were reacting to overwhelming statism.
Thus, to them, it was all a single battle with America upholding the banner, not of freedom, but of individualism. They knew that America couldn’t necessarily make people free or bring them a democratic form of government, but that it could try to protect people from an all-powerful state. That’s always been an integral part of American identity. He agreed with everything I said.
I then moved to the issue of socialized medicine, which I pointed out, again, gives the state all the power. The state, I said, has no conscience, and it will start doling out medical care based on its determining of which classes of individual are valuable, and which are less valuable, to the state. My friend didn’t know, for example, that Baroness Warnock of Britain, who is considered one of Britain’s leading moralists, announced that demented old people have a “duty to die” because they are a burden on the state.
A few more examples like that, and we agreed that the problem wasn’t too little government when it comes to medicine, but too much. Health insurer companies operating in California are constrained by something like 1,600 state and federal regulations. I suggested that, rather than give the government more control over the medical bureaucracy, we take most of it away. He conceded that this was probably a good idea.
Lastly, I reminded him what happens when government steps in as the <span style=”font-style: italic;”>pater familias</span>. He didn’t know that, up until Johnson’s Great Society, African-Americans were ever so slowly “making it.” As a result of the Civil Rights movement, opportunities were opening for Northern Blacks, and they — meaning the men — were beginning to make more money. The African-American family was nuclear and starting to thrive.
This upward economic trend collapsed in the mid-1960s, and its collapse coincided absolutely to the minute with government social workers fanning out to black communities and telling them that the government would henceforth provide. Since it seemed stupid to work when you could get paid not to work, black men stopped working. They also stopped caring about their families, or even getting married, since unmarried mothers did even better under welfare than intact families. In a few short years, not only did African-Americans as a group collapse economically, their family structure collapsed too. Men were redundant. The state would provide. Again, my friend nodded his head in agreement.
The ride ended at that point but, as he was dropping me off, my friend told me (and I think he was speaking from his heart), that it was an incredibly interesting ride. And I bet it was, because I gave him real food for thought in the form of facts and ideas that fall outside of the orthodoxy that characterizes our ultra-liberal community.
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.
In an earlier post, I asked how America in the 60s managed to swing over to and completely accept its enemy’s way of defining the situation. That is, the logical American point of view should have been that we were defeating Communism, which is an evil scourge that was trying to take over the world one country at a time, and that we were aiding free Vietnamese in their desperate fight against the Communists. However, in America, on our streets and campuses, what you heard was that America was an evil imperialist trying to take over the world one country at a time. It was a profound paradigm shift and its only because of the passage of time that we know that the defeated pro-American viewpoint was the correct one — as countries emerged from the Communist yoke, it was clear that Communism was as evil as the anti-Communists said and that American help, no matter how lukewarm and limited it eventually became, counted.
The same holds true for Israel, and I think Joseph Klein correctly characterizes the topsy-turvey way in which a truly evil narrative has trumped reality:
Every year since Israel’s founding, Israeli civilians have been murdered by Arab soldiers, the fedayeen, Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Hezbollah or some other shadowy Islamic militant group. Israel’s enemies have, from the start, sought to eliminate the Jewish state through whatever means necessary, including committing genocide against the Jewish people.
Islamic terrorists use suicide bombers and increasingly sophisticated rockets, launched from lands relinquished by Israel to the Palestinians, to accomplish their grisly deeds. Their killing machines of choice tomorrow will be whatever weapons of mass destruction they can get their hands on.
Israel is falsely accused of ‘collective punishment’ when it strikes back to defend its citizens. This propaganda has been repeated at the United Nations, right up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon himself. He said late last month, for example, that “I would hope that the Israeli Government should not take such a collective punishment to the general public.”
Yet it is the Palestinian and other Islamic terrorists who continually violate the Israelis’ human rights under the Geneva Conventions, which state that “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited”.
The innocent Israeli women and children, who have been slaughtered while going about their daily lives in their homes, their schools, on buses, at shopping malls, and places of worship, have committed no wrong against the Palestinian people. They are the victims of the Islamic terrorists’ measures of intimidation and terrorism, which violate their most basic of human rights – life itself. The Islamic terrorists are pursuing nothing less than the collective annihilation of the Israeli people.
When the Israeli government responds with stern but non-violent, defensive measures to protect its most vulnerable citizens from murder – for example, with border closures, security checks, economic sanctions and a separation wall – the terrorists’ apologists complain that it is Israel which is violating the Palestinians’ human rights under international law. Their premise is that Israel, as the occupying power, is prohibited by international law from imposing collective punishment on the occupied population. As recently as last week, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson declared on the record that the UN still regards the Gaza Strip as part of the Occupied Territory. This assumption leads to the proposition that Israel is thereby precluded from taking actions that might hurt the people who are under its occupation.
The premise underlying this argument is false because Israel is no longer occupying Gaza – or Lebanon, for that matter. Hamas controls Gaza and the Lebanese have sovereignty over all of Lebanon. Yet Israel’s citizens continue to suffer intimidation and terrorism launched from those liberated areas in violation of their international human rights. The perpetrators are Palestinian and other Islamic terrorists, with the active support of state sponsors such as Iran. Israel in good faith ceded the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in a good faith effort to advance peace. Gaza turned instead into hostile territory under Hamas’s control. More than 4200 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israeli residential areas after Gaza was no longer occupied territory.
You can and should read the rest here. The inversion of truth into negative political propaganda can destroy a country from the inside out as we know. In America, it led to country in emotional and economic disarray until Reagan came along; in Israel, it may well lead to something more extreme, such as national annihilation.