Monday, January 29, 2007

Shining House Upon a Hill...With Some Dim Bulbs

The Cunning Realist has a couple of good posts here.

The first one about how Iraq is not at all like Vietnam. No, not a bit, because... "something might turn it around".
The collapse in the South, the one force which the American leaders could not control, continued unabated. The Americans had always had the illusion that something might turn it around; a new leader in South Vietnam who would understand how to get with the program; a realization on the part of the South Vietnamese that their necks were on the line, that the feared enemy (the Americans' feared enemy, though perhaps not the feared enemy of the Vietnamese), the Communists, were about to walk into Saigon. Or magically, the right battalion commander would turn up to lead ARVN battalions into battle against the Vietcong, or the right program would emerge, blending arms and pig-fatteners together to make the peasants want to choose our side.

But nothing changed, the other side continued to get stronger, the ARVN side weaker. One reason the principals were always surprised by this, and irritated by the failure of their programs, was that the truth of the war never entered the upper-level American calculations; that this was a revolutionary war, and that the other side held title to the revolution because of the colonial war which had just ended. This most simple fact, which was so important to the understanding of the political calculations...entered into the estimates of the American intelligence community and made them quite accurate.

But it never entered into the calculations of the principals, for a variety of reasons; among other things to see the other side in terms of nationalism or as revolutionaries might mean a re-evaluation of whether the United States was even fighting on the right side. In contrast, the question of Communism and anti-Communism as opposed to revolution and antirevolution was far more convenient for American policy makers.

David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest, pp. 462-463.
The next, an observation on the SOTU speech entitled "Shining City Upon A Hill...With Some Dim Bulbs":
One small part of Bush's SOTU speech stuck with me afterwards. Near the end, he said: "This is a decent and honorable country." As an unintentional reminder of what we've really lost during the past six years, it came across more as plaintive reassurance than anything else.

It reminded me of Willard's private musings as he watches the boasting and backslapping of Kilgore and his men around the campfire in Apocalypse Now: "The more they tried to make it just like home, the more they made everybody miss it."

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