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.
At a lawyer level, this has been a somewhat frustrating day, with me struggling to fit my facts (always true and honest ones) to the law (which sometimes refuses to cooperate), capped by a power outage that lost me an hour of time. Add to that the usual cries for attention from family, and I’m feeling a little . . . ummm, stressed. Still, I have stuff I want to share with you, so let me whip through it:
Chilling look into the near future at what the next school attack might look like
Mike McDaniel, who blogs at Stately McDaniel Manor, has looked at past school shootings, both at home and abroad, and come up with a possible scenario for the next assault on an American school. I don’t doubt that he’s accurately predicting a possible American future unless we take steps now to head it off.
David Horovitz describes Kerry’s despicable conduct in his self-appointed role as peace negotiator between Israel, a recognized nation among nations, and Hamas, a designated terrorist organization:
When The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff first reported the content of John Kerry’s ceasefire proposal on Friday afternoon, I wondered if something had gotten lost in translation. It seemed inconceivable that the American secretary of state would have drafted an initiative that, as a priority, did not require the dismantling of Hamas’s rocket arsenal and network of tunnels dug under the Israeli border. Yet the reported text did not address these issues at all, nor call for the demilitarization of Gaza.
It seemed inconceivable that the secretary’s initiative would specify the need to address Hamas’s demands for a lifting of the siege of Gaza, as though Hamas were a legitimate injured party acting in the interests of the people of Gaza — rather than the terror group that violently seized control of the Strip in 2007, diverted Gaza’s resources to its war effort against Israel, and could be relied upon to exploit any lifting of the “siege” in order to import yet more devastating weaponry with which to kill Israelis.
As another Times of Israel writer explained in great detail:
According to the text, “the Palestinian factions” and the State of Israel would make three commitments:
a) Establish a humanitarian cease-fire, ending all hostilities in and from the Gaza Strip, beginning in 48 hours, and lasting for a period of seven days
b) Build on the Cairo cease-fire understandings of November 2012 [that were reached, through American and Egyptian mediation, following Operation Pillar of Defense]
c) Convene in Cairo, at the invitation of Egypt, within 48 hours to negotiate resolution of all issues necessary to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and enduring solution to the crisis in Gaza, including arrangements to secure the opening of crossings, allow the entry of goods and people and ensure the social and economic livelihood of the Palestinian people living in Gaza, transfer funds to Gaza for the payment of salaries for public employees, and address all security issues.
The third part — “c” above — of the proposed ceasefire agreement, which was submitted by US Secretary of State John Kerry, was a particular source of vexation for Israeli leaders, as it basically accepts all of Hamas’s demands but addresses Israeli worries only tangentially. Rather than calling for demilitarization of Gaza or addressing the attack tunnels the group has dug, the proposal merely calls for a general discussion of “all security issues.”
According to the document, Israel would not be forced to withdraw its troops from Gaza during the course of the truce, but would also not be allowed to continue its work destroying any tunnels in the strip. During the ceasefire, “the parties will refrain from conducting any military or security targeting of each other,” the draft states.
The document also mentions that “members of the international community, including the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, the United States, Turkey, Qatar and many others, support the effective implementation of the humanitarian cease-fire and agreements reached between the parties, in cooperation and coordination with the parties, and will join in a major humanitarian assistance initiative to address the immediate needs of the people of Gaza.”
That segment effectively sidelines Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo, which are not mentioned at all. Especially noteworthy is the omission of Egypt, which borders on Gaza and has in the past mediated between Israel and Hamas. Instead, it appears, Kerry has designated Turkey and Qatar to take over this role in the current conflict. Doha and Ankara are Hamas’s staunchest allies in the region, which underlines why Jerusalem rejected the proposal outright.
In acceding to Hamas’s demands, John Kerry is injuring not only an American ally (that would be Israel), but America too, since Hamas is, as I mentioned, an official terrorist group, not to mention a sworn enemy of the West.
Here’s the thing, though: When it comes to John Kerry, we’ve heard this song before. Let me take you back to 1971, when John Kerry testified before Congress about his actions during the Vietnam War:
Mr. KERRY. My feeling, Senator, is undoubtedly this Congress, and I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but I do not believe that this Congress will, in fact, end the war as we would like to, which is immediately and unilaterally and, therefore, if I were to speak I would say we would set a date and the date obviously would be the earliest possible date. But I would like to say, in answering that, that I do not believe it is necessary to stall any longer. I have been to Paris. I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government and of all eight of Madam Binh’s points it has been stated time and time again, and was stated by Senator Vance Hartke when he returned from Paris, and it has been stated by many other officials of this Government, if the United States were to set a date for withdrawal the prisoners of war would be returned…
The Viet Cong’s demands at the time were for a complete American surrender and the communist takeover of the whole of Vietnam. (As an aside, that’s what we ended up doing, in part because people like Kerry, whose conduct at that time was illegal and seditious, paved the way.)
Looking at Kerry’s recent disgraceful performance in the Middle East, it’s clear that this is what Kerry does. He sides with murderous totalitarian regimes against his country and her allies. When it comes to Kerry’s embrace of Hamas, he is just acting true to form.
My friend Bruce Kesler served with the Marines in Vietnam. He urges people to read two recent books about Vietnam.
Oscar Wilde characterized foxhunting as “The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.” It’s a perfect epigram that takes an elegant swipe at the British hunters, not the foxes they hunted. I’m struggling to come up with something equally elegant about the Civil War in Syria, in which both sides are unspeakable and one side (the rebel side that Obama has announced we’re now aiding) advertising itself as practicing cannibalism. There are no good guys in this war, there are only bad guys with hapless civilians in the middle. I am not sanguine about Obama’s delayed decision to get the U.S. involved. If he’d acted two years ago, he might have enabled a fairly bloodless transition from Bashir al Assad to something resembling moderation in Syria. By waiting two years, he’s allowed Iran to get firmly entrenched on Assad’s behalf, and al Qaeda to get firmly entrenched on the rebels’ behalf. So, as in Libya, Americans are aiding al Qaeda. The Benghazi attack shows just how well that turned out. Anyway, if you want to know a bit more about the players in that mess (which either be a slowly bleeding quagmire or a true Armageddon) here’s some info. The one thing I can predict with absolute certainty is that this will not end well for America.
A friend of mine who blogs at “To Put it Bluntly” has an interesting post about money created and money taken.
Good for the Queen of England: she made as pointed a statement as is possible for a non-political head of state to make when she put on her birthday awards list a Jewish academic who has been fighting against the anti-zionism and antisemitism in Britain’s universities.
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.
I was pondering whether to post about Wesley Clark’s latest inanity, to the effect that McCain’s experience as a POW does not prove his leadership abilities. A conversation I had today with a beloved liberal (that would be my dear, dear mother) made me decide to do so. A lot of people have gotten embroiled in discussing the substance of Clark’s remark, without recognizing that it is a mere straw man. Certainly my mother got mired in that swamp.
First, here’s what Clark said:
“[McCain] hasn’t held executive responsibility,” Clark said on “Face the Nation” yesterday. “That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn’t a wartime squadron. I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”
One could argue whether being in command of a squadron, whether in peace time or war, cultivates leadership experience, but I won’t. I also won’t be foolish enough to say that the mere fact of getting shot down turns one into a leader. I’ll even concede that spending six years in a POW camp being tortured on a daily basis doesn’t turn one into a leader. But none of that is the point.
The point is that the primary reason Republicans have pointed to those experiences is not to establish McCain’s leadership ability but to point to his character. This is a man of incredible strength who not only survived an experience that would have killed many people, but who survived it with his soul intact. He emerged a strong and capable human being, deeply respected by his fellow captives. In other words, Clark’s argument was a straw man: he set up a principle that most conservatives never espoused, and then proceeded to shoot it down as if it mattered.
Sadly, though, although Clark’s argument shouldn’t matter, since it functions in its own hermetically sealed little universe, in the bizarre world of liberal illogical thought, it does matter. My Mom bought into it entirely: “You see,” she said to me, “McCain has no leadership ability.” That was her conclusion and she was sticking with it.
Perhaps because she’s very elderly and her thinking is no longer very flexible, that conclusion was, for her, unalterable. When I pointed out that, in addition to his military training (which must count for something), McCain had an active military career through 1982, and then spent the next 26 years in increasingly high level politics, she simply swatted those facts away. They were all irrelevant to her MSM fed conclusion that it’s for Republicans dishonest to argue that McCain’s a leader because of his Vietnam experiences. (Even though that isn’t what all or most Republicans have argued.)
Nor was she able to step back and acknowledge that, no matter how one slices it, Obama has substantially less experience. As compared to McCain’s pre-war and wartime military training and experience (which must count for something towards leadership and competence); his six years as a captive (showing character); and his subsequent 36 year long career in the military and government (which shows experience and leadership, even if you don’t agree with how he used those attributes), Obama is a blank: a student; a two year stint as a community activist for Leftist organizations; a brief period as a professor; a short term as a junior senator in a local Legislature; and an even shorter term as a junior Senator in Congress.
If this were the ordinary business world, all of us would recognize that Obama’s resume items are insufficient to develop many leadership skills, nor to establish character. That’s entirely separate from the fact that Obama may actually be a born leader, or that his character may be stellar. It’s sufficient to say that, unlike McCain’s resume, Obama’s doesn’t hint at either leadership or character qualities. One would need external proof of those qualities (and I don’t believe such proof exists, but that may just be me).
My mother — and let me reiterate again that she is a truly wonderful human being, whom I love dearly — seems to exemplify something I see with increasing regularity on the Left: people starting with the conclusion, and then jettisoning, not just contrary facts, but any facts at all. I prefer to start with facts and at least see if they extend to a factual conclusion . I can be wrong in my conclusion, but that’s at least where I’m trying to head. Everything is going to lead to an opinion anyway, but at least I’ve got my factual ducks in a row to defend whatever opinion I land on. Liberals don’t seem to be bothering with those factual ducks any more. They’ve become irrelevant.
I guess this is just one more example of Dennis Prager’s point that liberals care about emotion and feelings. Even gals like my Mom, who were already too old to be affected by the hippy era, seem to have absorbed as their political mantra the concept that “if it feels good, do it.”
Speaking of Dennis Prager, you may find interesting his steadfast defense of a McCain presidency, despite his strong opposition to McCain during the primaries. I especially like this bit:
My bottom line is this: The gulf between John McCain and conservatives is miniscule compared to the gulf between John McCain and Barack Obama. This is true regarding virtually every issue of significance to America. The America that a President Barack Obama would shape, with the help of a Democratic Congress and a liberal Supreme Court, would be very dissimilar from the America shaped by a President John McCain.
Conservatives who will not vote for McCain are well-intentioned utopians. They are comparing McCain to a consistently conservative candidate. The reality, however, is that McCain is not running against a consistently conservative candidate. He is running against a consistently left-wing candidate. And America cannot afford to have its first leftist president ever. It can afford liberal presidents — such as Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter (who governed as a liberal but became a leftist after leaving the White House), or John F. Kennedy, or Lyndon Johnson, or Harry Truman — i.e., all the Democrats who have been president since World War II. But the Democratic Party has moved well to the left of liberalism. And Barack Obama is at the left of that left-wing party.
Furthermore, given the strong possibility of a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and a liberal Supreme Court for decades to come, given the number of Supreme Court appointments a Democratic president will be able to make, an Obama victory will move America more radically leftward than ever in its history.
That is why the argument that an Obama administration will be so destructive that Americans will reject the left and then elect a real conservative to undo the damage done in an Obama presidency is deeply flawed.
UPDATE: Ocean Guy explains why Weasley Clark may be prone to idiotic pronouncements that he, in his own mind, believes are both sagacious and perspicacious. It makes for a read that is simultaneously enlightening and depressing.