American Thinkers

Viet Nam – the ‘Why’ …

Posted on March 17, 2018. Filed under: American Thinkers, Personalities |

Edwin O. Reischauer – By Paul M. Bourke –  The Man Who Knew too Much About Vietnam —- Paul M. Bourke was a Japan specialist with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The article is based on a paper he wrote while studying for a master in international affairs at Columbia University.

Few Americans viewed the Vietnam War in hindsight at the time, even after several years of fighting. People worried about where it was headed and whether it could be won. Few people were asking, yet, how it happened. Except Edwin O. Reischauer.

Throughout 1967, Reischauer, a professor of East Asian studies at Harvard and a former American ambassador to Japan, offered a rare and alternative analysis of Vietnam, the United States and Asia that has stood the test of time. Reischauer’s congressional testimony in 1967 and subsequent book, “Beyond Vietnam: The United States and Asia,” were all the more remarkable for being able to point to warnings he had made himself in the 1950s, about American involvement in Indochina, which had become a reality by 1967.

Born in Japan to Presbyterian missionary parents in 1910, Reischauer lived there until he was 16, and spoke Japanese fluently. He earned a doctorate in Asian studies from Harvard, where he subsequently taught Far East history and languages. From 1942 to 1945, he served in military intelligence at the War Department, and after the war with the Office of Far Eastern Affairs at the State Department.

He eventually went back to teaching at Harvard, but President John Kennedy pulled him back into government service as his ambassador to Japan,  a job he held from 1961 to 1966 — a rare instance of placing an expert, rather than a political appointee, in a high-profile embassy.

While still at Harvard, Reischauer was openly critical of the Manichean dualism of communism versus the free world promoted fervently by Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. In 1955, he published “Wanted: An Asian Policy,” in which he argued that the American stand against Communism in Korea could not be replicated across the rest of Asia. In fact, he wrote, the United States was already making the mistake of exporting that model to Southeast Asia, where it was supporting the French effort to reimpose colonial rule. “Indochina shows how absurdly wrong we are to battle Asian nationalism instead of aiding it,” he wrote. “The French failure to relinquish Indochina has put a heavy burden on the United States financially and could end by costing us dearly in lives.”

As ambassador, he also saw how America’s ill-conceived war in Vietnam was poisoning relations elsewhere in Asia, especially Japan. The Japanese public identified with the North Vietnamese as the subjects of American bombing and were concerned about Japan being drawn into a widening conflict between the United States and China.

Due in part to his increasing unwillingness to argue the case for America’s involvement in Vietnam to the Japanese, Reischauer resigned his post as ambassador in August 1966 and returned to Harvard, where he was free to express his misgivings about the Vietnam War in speeches and papers.

Reischauer was called to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 1967, just as its members were starting to voice their skepticism about the optimistic reports they received on Vietnam from the State Department and from the ambassador to South Vietnam, Ellsworth Bunker. Chaired by Senator J. William Fulbright, the committee was increasingly of the view that a negotiated settlement between North and South Vietnam, not an American military victory over North Vietnam, would be the most likely way for the country to end its military involvement.

As he was in “Wanted: An Asian Policy,” in his opening statement to the committee, the scholar and diplomat was unequivocal that the United States could and should have avoided getting bogged down in Vietnam. It should never have backed French attempts to reimpose colonial rule in Vietnam. It should never have assumed the French mantle in Vietnam after France was defeated by the Viet Minh in 1954. It should never have assumed that the political strategies used against Communism in Europe would work in developing countries in Asia.

“We have failed sometimes to understand the deeply rooted historic forces at work in Asia — anticolonialism, nationalism, the eagerness to wipe out past humiliations and the determination to advance rapidly without losing national identity,” Reischauer said, reading from his statement. This was a theme he developed more fully in his book “Beyond Vietnam,” restating his view that the United States had failed to harness Asian nationalism as the means of countering the Communists, who did harness nationalism to their ends in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia.

Reischauer was not the only person in the political establishment making this point in 1967, but he was the only one who had been making it consistently for over a decade. It was a conclusion he had made in 1955, in “Wanted: An Asian Policy”: “Indochina is the classic case in which the Communists have utilized nationalism effectively against us.” It should have been the other way around. Looking back on the lessons of the Korean War and the danger signs he pointed to in 1955, Reischauer wrote in 1967: “Storm warnings might be up in Vietnam, but we were not prepared to recognize them. We continued to drift toward new catastrophes.”

Reischauer maintained that the United States should not be the agent of political, social or economic change in Asia but should provide economic support to those countries seeking self-determination and to develop themselves. As for the imposition of Communism across Asia by China or the Soviet Union, Reischauer did not see the project succeeding. He pointed to the Vietnamese as the people least likely to yield to the control of Communist China, with Vietnam’s long history of resisting Chinese domination likely to reassert itself if the Vietnamese nationalists won the war.

Surprisingly, Reischauer did not advocate a negotiated settlement or rapid withdrawal, at least not yet. The former was unrealistic; the latter would cause immense damage to American credibility. Having entered the fight and shaped it in its interest, America now had no choice but to see it through. In “Beyond Vietnam,” he argued that a negotiated settlement would be possible only if the Communists came to understand that the United States would stay the course in Vietnam. At the same time, the South Vietnamese government had to become better at serving the interests of its people. “It should be made clear that Saigon is in the process of achieving the very things for which some Viet Cong supporters feel they are fighting,” he suggested.

By early 1968, Reischauer had abandoned his belief that the United States should continue in Vietnam. Just before the Tet offensive, he joined with 10 other Harvard scholars in a telegram to President Lyndon Johnson urging that he enter into negotiations toward a settlement including the Vietcong. He also appeared again in front of Congress, before the House Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, in February 1968. In keeping with the views he expressed in 1955 and 1967, he told the subcommittee: “We have imagined ourselves as building a military dike against an on-rushing Communist wave. But there has been no wave. The real problem has proved to be the swampy economic and political terrain behind the dike we were attempting to raise. It was the local ground water that was undermining political structures. When this threatened to happen in Vietnam, the heavy machines we brought in to heighten the military dikes proved unmaneuverable in the swampy land and, by breaking through the thin crust of the bog, made it even less capable of maintaining the sagging political structure.”

Reischauer was about as far from the culture of the antiwar movement as one could get, and yet his scholarly and professional insights did much to complement the multitudes filling the streets. Senator Fulbright, among others, listened to him closely; in March 1968, he read a statement from Reischauer and other Harvard scholars arguing against escalation during the televised testimony of Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

Reischauer was the rare breed of academic, one who, when the moment called, brought his estimable intellect to bear on the most important issue of the day. It says much about the state of American politics at the time that, until it was too late, too few people listened.

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Viet Nam – An Execution Caught on Camera …

Posted on February 2, 2018. Filed under: American Thinkers, Eloquence, Personalities |

Eddie Adams’ iconic Vietnam War photo n What happened next.

Photo – journalist Eddie Adams captured one of the most famous images of the Vietnam War – the very instant of an execution during the chaos of the Tet Offensive. It would bring him a lifetime of glory – but as James Jeffrey writes, also of sorrow.

The snub-nosed pistol is already recoiling in the man’s outstretched arm as the prisoner’s face contorts from the force of a bullet entering his skull. To the left of the frame, a watching soldier seems to be grimacing in shock.

It’s hard to not feel the same repulsion, and guilt, with the knowledge one is looking at the precise moment of death. Ballistic experts say the picture – which became known as Saigon Execution – shows the microsecond the bullet entered the man’s head.

Eddie Adams’s photo of Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a Viet Cong prisoner is considered one of the most influential images of the Vietnam War.

At the time, the image was reprinted around the world and came to symbolize for many the brutality and anarchy of the war. It also galvanized growing sentiment in America about the futility of the fight – that the war was unwinnable.

“There’s something in the nature of a still image that deeply affects the viewer and stays with them,” says Ben Wright, associate director for communications at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

The centre, based at the University of Texas at Austin, houses Adams’s archive of photos, documents and correspondence. “The film footage of the shooting, while ghastly, doesn’t evoke the same feelings of urgency and stark tragedy.”

But the photo did not – could not – fully explain the circumstances on the streets of Saigon on 1 February 1968, two days after the forces of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive. Dozens of South Vietnamese cities were caught by surprise.

Heavy street fighting had pitched Saigon into chaos when South Vietnamese military caught a suspected Viet Cong squad leader, Nguyen Van Lem, at the site of a mass grave of more than 30 civilians. Adams began taking photos as Lem was frogmarched through the streets to Loan’s jeep.

Loan stood beside Lem before pointing his pistol at the prisoner’s head. “I thought he was going to threaten or terrorise the guy,” Adams recalled afterwards, “so I just naturally raised my camera and took the picture.”

Lem was believed to have murdered the wife and six children of one of Loan’s colleagues. The general fired his pistol. “If you hesitate, if you didn’t do your duty, the men won’t follow you,” the general said about the suddenness of his actions.

Loan played a crucial role during the first 72 hours of the Tet Offensive, galvanising troops to prevent the fall of Saigon, according to Colonel Tullius Acampora, who worked for two years as the US Army’s liaison officer to Loan.

Adams said his immediate impression was that Loan was a “cold, callous killer”. But after travelling with him around the country he revised his assessment. “He is a product of modern Vietnam and his time,” Adams said in a dispatch from Vietnam.

By May the following year, the photo had won Adams a Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography.

But despite this crowning journalistic achievement and letters of congratulation from fellow Pulitzer winners, President Richard Nixon and even school children across America, the photo would come to haunt Adams.

“I was getting money for showing one man killing another,” Adams said at a later awards ceremony. “Two lives were destroyed, and I was getting paid for it. I was a hero.”

Adams and Loan stayed in touch, even becoming friends after the general fled South Vietnam at the end of the war for the United States. But upon Loan’s arrival, US Immigration and Nationalization Services wanted to deport him, a move influenced by the photo.

They approached Adams to testify against Loan, but Adams instead testified in his favour. Adams even appeared on television to explain the circumstances of the photograph.

Congress eventually lifted the deportation and Loan was allowed to stay, opening a restaurant in a Washington, DC suburb serving hamburgers, pizza and Vietnamese dishes. An old Washington Post newspaper article photo shows an older smiling Loan sitting at the restaurant counter.

But he was eventually forced into retirement when publicity about his past soured business. Adams recalled that on his last visit to the restaurant he found abusive graffiti about Loan scrawled in the toilet.

Hal Buell, Adams’ Photo Editor at the AP, says the Saigon Execution still holds sway 50 years later because the photo, “in one frame, symbolizes the full war’s brutality”.

“Like all icons, it summarises what has gone before, captures a current moment and, if we are smart enough, tells us something about the future brutality all wars promise.”

And Buell says the experience taught Adams about the limits of a single photograph telling a whole story.

“Eddie is quoted as saying that photography is a powerful weapon,” Buell says. “Photography by its nature is selective. It isolates a single moment, divorcing that moment from the moments before and after that possibly lead to adjusted meaning.”

Adams went on to an expansive photography career, winning more than 500 photojournalism awards and photographing high-profile figures including Ronald Reagan, Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. But despite all he achieved after Vietnam, the moment of his most famous photograph would always remain with Adams.

“Two people died in that Photograph,” Adams wrote following Loan’s death from cancer in 1998. “The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera.”


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With Words we Rule Men or like Trump we seek ‘Trouble’ …

Posted on October 3, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Public Speaking |

In the Bible, reticence is a virtue. “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent,” we are told in Proverbs 17:28. “With their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”

An Americanized version of this saying, often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain, is that it is better to remain silent and appear foolish than to speak and remove all doubt.

Or as Winston Churchill purportedly said, “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”

Kori Schake, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who served in key policy roles at the White House, Pentagon and Foggy Bottom during George W. Bush’s presidency, explained why Trump’s “fire and fury” threat was so dangerous back in August. Her piece for the Atlantic is as relevant today as it was seven weeks ago. This is the key paragraph:

“In 1949, the United States withdrew its military forces from the Korean Peninsula. Secretary of State Dean Acheson then gave an important speech defining American national-security interests — which notably excluded Korea.

‘It’s not the drawing down of U.S. forces but rather Acheson’s speech that is commonly cited as the signal of American abandonment of South Korea. Words matter: Acheson didn’t cause the Korean war, but his words are remembered as the provocation.

‘Words especially matter between societies that poorly understand each other’s motivations and intentions, as do North Korea and the U.S. We can afford to be sloppy in our formulations among friends, where cultural similarity or exposure give context, but neither of those circumstances pertain with North Korea.”

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Viet Nam War – What Americans did Wrong …

Posted on September 22, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers |

George C. Herring, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Kentucky, is the author of “America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975.”

From the early stages of the Vietnam War, American officials insisted that winning the hearts and Minds (WHAM) of the South Vietnamese people was the key to victory.

But the Americans tasked with carrying out that strategy were ill equipped, linguistically and culturally, to make it work. And in the end, that deficit destroyed whatever good will might have existed on either side and doomed America’s foray into Vietnam to failure.

Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s ambassador to Washington from 1965 to 1972, once called the two countries “peoples quite apart.” And indeed, American and Vietnamese culture had little contact before 1950. Americans understanding of the country’s language, history, religious traditions, etiquette or politics was abysmal.

The cultural disjunction was exacerbated by a strategic one: While the two nations agreed on the fundamental goal of preserving an independent, non-Communist South Vietnam, the stakes of the war for each were grossly disproportionate. The United States sought merely to uphold its credibility – South Vietnam fought for its existence.

Theirs was a patron-client relationship. The United States, the world’s strongest country and still riding high off its victory in World War II, was confident in its power — and its virtue. It expected to lead and to be followed. In contrast, the South Vietnamese, citizens of a fragile state newly freed from colonial rule and threatened by internal insurgency and external invasion, recognized their desperate need for American help but they were also acutely sensitive to dominance by an outside power. They struggled to uphold their dignity and autonomy.

Between 1950 and 1965, America’s role in the region, while significant in terms of money and matériel, occupied a limited footprint in the lives of everyday Vietnamese. That changed between 1965 and 1967, when the Americanization of the war brought hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians into the country and put an American face on the increasingly widespread destruction wrought by both sides.

Bui Diem noted the absence of communication between the two peoples during the major escalation in 1965, the “un-self-conscious arrogance” of the Americans and the impotence of the South Vietnamese. “The Americans came in like bulldozers and the South Vietnamese followed their lead without a thought of dissent.”

After 1965, the United States took on the burden of defeating the enemy militarily. It declined to establish a combined command structure with the South Vietnamese – as it had in Korea. It relegated the Army of the Republic of Vietnam to pacification, a task many Vietnamese considered demeaning. Americanization of the war also produced among South Vietnamese a “takeover effect,” by letting the Americans fight the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

Tragically, American actions encouraged dependency in a nation whose independence it sought to sustain.

As the American presence swelled, tensions between the two peoples grew. Vietnamese resented the way their visitors looked down on them and imposed their ways on a presumably inferior people. They were annoyed by American impatience.

Some envied the opulent lifestyle of the Americans, with their enormous bases equipped with all the conveniences of home, including air conditioning, shopping centers and movie houses. Others protested that the troops acted “despicably” toward them, speeding their trucks and cars through traffic at life-threatening speeds.

Some claimed that America dispensed aid as though it were being “given to a beggar.”

Most of all, many South Vietnamese resented their dependence on their ally and its suffocating presence in their lives. Some labeled the “American occupation” a “demoralizing scourge.”

Vietnamese recognized that the Americans were not “colonialists,” the journalist Robert Shaplen observed, but he perceptively added, “there has evolved here a colonial ambience that can sometimes be worse than colonialism itself.”

In the bonanza atmosphere that followed Americanization, South Vietnam’s economy centered upon serving the needs of the new arrivals. Prostitution became a special problem. As the number of Americans in Saigon surged into the tens of thousands, the number of houses of ill repute expanded proportionally, provoking criticism in the United States and South Vietnam.

Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas fumed that Saigon had become an “American brothel.” South Vietnamese Catholics and President Nguyen Van Thieu were especially concerned about prostitution and pleaded with American officials to do something about the suffocating presence of so many troops.

The result was Operation Moose (Move Out of Saigon Expeditiously), implemented mostly during 1967. Thousands of G.I.s moved to base camps outside the city (where the prostitutes soon followed), some joking that they had been “Moosed.” Saigon was also declared off limits for R & R. The pace was sufficiently slow that the operation was unofficially tagged Goose (Get Out of Saigon Eventually).

The exodus left around 7,900 American soldiers in the city. Moose did not satisfy President Thieu and it provided no more than a partial solution to the prostitution problem. It also left Saigon more vulnerable to the urban attacks launched by the Viet Cong during the 1968 Tet offensive.

The American way of war also inflicted a huge toll on village life in South Vietnam. To limit its own casualties and cope with unfamiliar and often inhospitable terrain, the United States unleashed extraordinary firepower on the country it was trying to save. Areas of suspected enemy strength were bombed and shelled and burned with napalm, often with little consideration of its impact on civilians. Defoliants were used to deny the enemy food and cover, with horrific short- and long-term consequences for Vietnamese.

American firepower destroyed homes, villages and crops and alienated those whose hearts and minds were to be won. American commanders declared entire areas free-fire zones.

Troops would round up villagers, burn their hooches and relocate them from their ancestral lands into squalid refugee camps. The area would then be bombed and shelled.

During Operation Cedar Falls in 1967, Americans forcibly relocated some 6,000 civilians from the village of Ben Suc. Caught between the Viet Cong and the Americans, villagers who wanted only to be left alone became sullen or outright hostile. By early 1967, over 1.5 million refugees had drifted into urban slums, where they were susceptible to Viet Cong propaganda.

To be sure, many Americans developed close ties with Vietnamese. Many also committed acts of kindness such as providing medical care and food to people in need. Especially in the early years and in remote areas, American advisers formed attachments with Vietnamese soldiers and villagers. Thousands of troops married Vietnamese women.

Still, most Americans arrived in the country without knowledge of the land and the people. “My time in Vietnam is the memory of ignorance,” one soldier later wrote. Not knowing the language or culture, the Americans did not know what the people felt, or even at times how to tell friend from foe. “What we need is some kind of litmus paper than turns red when it’s near a Communist,” one officer half-jokingly told a journalist.

Relations with South Vietnamese soldiers were likewise strained. Unaware of the difficulties their counterparts labored under, American troops disparaged their fighting qualities. The newcomers expected the people they were defending to offer the sort of gratitude they believed their fathers had gained for liberating France in World War II. When instead they encountered indifference or even hostility, they grew resentful.

For many Americans, the South Vietnamese became an object of contempt, even hatred. “The people were treacherous,” one soldier later recalled. “They say ‘G.I. No. 1’ when we’re in the village, but at night the dirty little rats are V.C.” The ability of the villagers to step around mines and booby traps that killed and maimed Americans provoked suspicion of collusion — and anger.

Americans also brought with them deeply entrenched racist attitudes that prompted the use of slurs such as “gook” and “dink,” which they applied to enemy and friend alike.

Contempt could quickly change to a rage that might be turned on Vietnamese civilians. During the summer and fall of 1967, the notorious Tiger Force, an elite commando unit, was assigned to remove civilians from the Song Ve River Valley, suspected to be a source of rice for Viet Cong units. The very name of the mission, Operation Rawhide, suggested a cattle roundup, which had a dehumanizing effect.

When the civilians resisted, the Tigers vented their rage by burning their villages. Unhappy with the assignment and under constant fire from enemy snipers, the Americans declared the area a free-fire zone and shot anything that moved, resulting in the brutal killing of numerous civilians.

Nevertheless, the Tigers were assigned another, similar mission, to remove civilians from Quang Tin province. Early in the operation, they were caught in a deadly ambush and suffered heavy losses. After that, all restraints came off. Commanders abetted their vengeance by setting a body count goal of 327 kills (to match the number of the 327th Infantry Regiment, of which the Tigers were a part).

The Tigers proceeded to kill hundreds of civilians and compounded their crime by mutilating the bodies of victims, including old women and even babies. The carnage stopped only when the operation ended in November.

The actions of the Tiger Force were replicated with even more savage results at My Lai, in Quang Ngai province, in February 1968, where American soldiers killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians. Such atrocities were not typical of American behavior, and even at My Lai there were soldiers who pushed back against their commanders’ orders to kill.

Nevertheless, the atrocious violence reflected attitudes toward Vietnamese that divided the two peoples and made the Vietnamese subservient to Americans. Given the frustrations and failures and mounting casualties of the American war effort, atrocities were perhaps only a matter of time.

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The BBC on TRUMP …

Posted on August 24, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Personalities |

From Katty Kay, BBC –

There’s been some speculation recently that Donald Trump’s luck is finally running out and his support among Republicans is about to collapse. I don’t buy it.
There is almost no indication in a slew of post-Charlottesville polls that President Trump’s supporters are on the verge of abandoning him.
Indeed, I was told by a Wisconsin-based reporter this week that his support among Republicans has increased there. That makes total sense to me.
To understand why somewhere between 35-38% of Americans consistently approve of the job Mr Trump is doing, you need to reframe the way you look at his voters.
It’s not what they are for that matters, it’s what they are against. So it’s not that a third of US voters are fervently on the side of Donald Trump – what’s more relevant is that they are adamantly on the opposing side of a culture war that’s been brewing here since the 1980s.
Look at it like that and you can see why it doesn’t really matter what Mr Trump achieves or doesn’t achieve. He defies the normal metrics for success because his voters don’t so much support him for what he does as they adore him for what he’s against.
Mr Trump is against the political establishment (the media, the Republican Party, political grandees like the Bushes and the Clintons) and change (which encompasses everything you had but fear you are losing) and he’s against the world (which has taken jobs and sent immigrants to take over America).
You can trace the roots of this culture war back to Ronald Reagan’s moral majority. Historians may even go back to the civic explosions of the 1960s.
If you believe America is engaged in a life-or-death battle over its identity, in which the past looks golden and the future looks, well, brown-ish, then Mr Trump sounds like he’s on your side.
If you believe the forces driving that unwelcome change are the media and immigration, then Mr Trump’s Arizona speech is music to your ears. It explains why every long minute spent trashing the press makes perfect political sense.
Conservatives in the American heartland have long believed, with some justification, that they can’t get a fair hearing in America’s mainstream press, which they see as overwhelmingly coastal and liberal. They believe the press has made it impossible for them to win elections.
In a poll out today by Quinnipiac University, 80% of Republicans say they trust Mr Trump more than the media.
No wonder his favourite enemy is the fake news. What this also means is that if Mr Trump continues to fail to rack up any major legislative achievements that would actually help his supporters, he, and they, have a built-in excuse.
In fact I’m hearing about three different scapegoats. Jerry, I’ll call him that, is a mild-mannered African American in his early 70s from West Virginia. He grew up under segregation and it was to his family’s deep dismay that he voted for Mr Trump last year.
He believes Mr Trump understands that America needs more discipline: no more young men walking round with their jeans halfway down their butts showing off their boxers, was how he described it to me. Jerry hankers for a time when young men dressed well, behaved well and didn’t answer back to their elders.
When I asked him if he’d be disappointed if Mr Trump failed to live up to his campaign promises of healthcare reform, tax reform and making American manufacturing great again, Jerry was clear. Mr Trump, he said, would probably never achieve any of those things for three reasons – the media, the Russia investigation and the Republican Party.
But he didn’t even really care – those are details, he said. What matters is that the president understands what America should be like. Mr Trump himself has understood this, viscerally, all along. He realised the power of tapping into cultural anger. Remember back in January 2016 during the campaign when he said: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
He knew he had no limits.
Today’s Quinnipiac poll isn’t good news for the president. By almost every metric, his overall support is ticking down. But on issues of trust, leadership, strength, values, he still has the support of a majority of Republicans. And his base is more solid still. I’m not saying Donald Trump will win again in 2020 but, given the complicated formula of American electoral maths, it’s certainly not impossible.
He won by just tens of thousands of votes in three key states. If those votes are still there as he runs for a second term, what’s to say he can’t win again?

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The US – Much Maligned …

Posted on August 19, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers |

Robert Fredrikberg writes –

British policy in the 19th century was that its navy should be as large as the next two combined.

Air power is the most important thing these days. The US Air Force is vastly larger than anyone else’s.

So you might ask, who has the second largest air force? The second largest air force in the world is the air force of the US Navy! The Navy’s air force is larger than any other country’s whole air force.
And the US Army has a third air force on top of that. So, totally dominant, basically. And it could stand a little cutting and still be totally dominant.

A number of commentators have brought up other powers. It seems to me that they are missing the point. What other country could wage a several year long war on the other side of the planet? None.

There are only a few countries that could even send in helicopters to rescue a hostage on the other side of the planet – without help.

Of course the US doesn’t always win. Of course it’s wrong most times. That’s not really the point. And I’m not even necessarily saying the situation is good.

It’s just a fact.

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Something for Mankind …

Posted on August 9, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Guide Posts, Personalities |

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr was a jurist and Supreme Court Justice for 30 yrs. He is famous for his concise, pithy, prescient opinions and remains one of the most widely cited Supreme Court justices. He is the author of the phrase, “clear and present danger.” These extracts are from his thought

ATTITUDE is more important than heritage, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say; it is also more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.

Carve every word before you let it fall. A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used. Don’t be ‘consistent but be true.

Every event that a man would master must be mounted on the run, and no man ever caught the reins of a thought except as it galloped past him. Man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. A new and valid idea is stronger than an army. The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are tending. The rule of joy and the law of duty seem to me all one.

Most of the things we do, we do for no better reason than that our fathers have done them or our neighbors do them, and the same is true of a larger part of what we think. People talk fundamentals and superlatives and then make some changes of detail.

To have doubted one’s own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at the touch, nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

The only prize much cared for by the powerful is power. Yet nothing is so commonplace that it has not the wish to be remarkable.

Beware how you take away hope from any human being.

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Checks n Balances and a Great Soldier …

Posted on July 31, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, Personalities, Searching for Success |

Gen KM Bhimaya …

The founding fathers had carefully inserted this feature as a safeguard against the putative tyranny of one branch of the government over the other: the tyranny of the judicial branch over the legislative, for example.

This powerful feature has worked very effectively in the U.S. government for over 240 years. On some occasions, it has frustrated the President, and on others, it has infuriated the Congress. On reflection, however, it has helped moderate popular passion and judicial overreach.

The preceding paragraph is an over simplistic introduction of a basic feature that sometimes has had far reaching implications on the lives of the citizens and on the decision/law making processes of the government in power.

The “Checks and Balances” are exercised through the Presidential veto, the override of this veto, filibuster, amended bills to circumvent judicial interpretations, and so on.

The recent solitary negative vote by Senator John McCain (a former Presidential candidate) spelled the doom of the much-debated health care reform, that is, the plan that the Republicans crafted to repeal and replace the Obama care.

Three Republican senators crossed the aisle and voted against the bill that their party had curated diligently and assiduously. All of the dissenting senators proclaimed without hesitation that their loyalty was to their respective constituencies, not to the President.

Senator McCain’s vote was crucial in defeating the bill. Republicans had 52 senators and an additional casting vote of the Vice President in their favor. They could afford to lose two votes only. Eventually, they lost three, and with that, the bill.

Senator McCain is a war hero whose father and grand-father had been full Admirals in the U.S. Navy. He is the recipient of Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. He was a prisoner of war for over five years in Vietnam and had refused an offer of early repatriation with which his captors had tempted him for propaganda purposes.

Although diagnosed with brain cancer, he got a temporary discharge from the hospital to be able to participate in voting. He did not vote against this bill impulsively, but after consulting with the opposition, particularly with the Senate Minority leader.

In so doing, he saved medical coverage for millions of seniors with pre-existing conditions, and those who depended upon Medicaid for their survival.

PPS What about our Supreme Court”s Over Reach in the National Anthem Case as well as the Liquor Ban on Hotels near Highways?

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Insurgency and Counter Insurgency …

Posted on July 17, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, From a Services Career |

By Gen KM Bhimaya …

The politico-military dynamic is inherent in any policy decisions, governing counterinsurgency operations. And then, there is the need to cope with an unwelcome intruder: the changing, and often unanticipated alliance and alignments in international relations. Let me attempt to cut through the abstruseness of my argument by giving some examples.

The “exit” strategy in any conflict is fraught with serious risks. In global conflict, it used to fall into the realm of grand strategy as defined by Liddell Hart in his classic, “The Strategy of Indirect Approach.” And this is the province of diplomacy. Although, armed forces officers, such as General of the Army George Marshall, have distinguished themselves with the formulation and successful implementation of “grand strategy” they are an exception, not the rule.

It is unthinkable that the U.S. civilian and military leaders (Gens Mattis. David Petraeus, and the former commander Stanley McChrystal) who oversaw/ oversee operations in Afghanistan are naive enough not to perceive Pakistan’s ham-handed but effective complicity in nourishing and using the Haqani group. These commanders are well-read scholars, combining in them a rich repertoire of theoretical and practical insights, but they must defer to public opinion.

The Vietnam war was lost by the strong domestic anti-war backlash, not by the “Tet” offensive that was a stunning success. President Obama has often been unfairly accused of soft-pedaling the terrorist challenges in the Middle-East, but he was acutely aware of the dangers of getting involved deeply “with more of the same”, the blundering policy adopted by some of his predecessors during the Vietnam war.

Alas, either the Indian diplomatic initiatives are not aggressive enough to carry conviction, or the U.S. policy makers choose not to acknowledge Pakistan’s mischief, because they do not want to risk losing Pakistan’s logistic and military support for the ongoing operations in Afghanistan. The upshot: Pakistan has been very successful in running with the hare and hunting with the hounds in Afghanistan and the adjoining frontier regions. India has yet to come up with a viable strategy to neutralize Pakistan’s policy of diminishing Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Be that as it may, the central message of my opening comments pertained to the future of the terrorist movements in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. That is, I was attempting a wild prediction, based on the historical evidence relating to the past fortunes and misfortunes of the burgeoning, splinter terrorist groups (the almost defeated ISIS, for example). What should be India’s long- term terrorist target?

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Viet Nam War – A Viet Namese tells McNamara where he went Wrong …

Posted on May 28, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, From a Services Career, Personalities, Searching for Success |

This is Mr Xuân Thuỷ, Foreign Minister of North Vietnam (1963 to 1965), during a 1995 meeting with former US Secretary of Defense, serving from 1961 to 1968, Robert S. McNamara.

“Mr. McNamara, You must never have read a history book. If you’d had, you’d know we weren’t pawns of the Chinese or the Russians.

McNamara, didn’t you know that? Don’t you understand that we have been fighting the Chinese for 1000 years? We were fighting for our independence.

And we would fight to the last man. And we were determined to do so. And no amount of bombing, no amount of U.S. pressure would ever have stopped us.” 

From – The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara:

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