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Saturday, October 9, 2010
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1.) Was the Vietnam war a mistake? It’s a question that still matters to us aging Baby Boomers. I had a thought on the subject the other day. It seems to me that there are wars that a nation has to fight. Those are the “holy wars”; where the other side is not just trying to plunder your bounty, but is trying to change your way of life. I.e., where the other side is trying to impose some sort of vision, be it religious (e.g. Christian or Islamic theocracy), or philosophic (e.g., Communist or Nazi fascist utopia). Whenever a nation or a tribe convinces itself that it has a plan for the world and that instituting that plan requires the use of firepower, about the only cure is to fight fire with fire. War is hell, but utopian visions that require belligerence are an even worse hell.

The USA fought the Vietnam war because it was trying to stop Soviet Russia from instituting its Marxist-Leninist vision, which indeed had been promulgated through the use of firepower and other belligerence. Was Vietnam really a Marxist holy war? It was being fought by Asian visionaries; but what was their vision? Did Ho Chi Minh want to see collective farming in California? It seems to me that the Viet Cong and the Vietnamese Communists were a bit more pragmatic and nationalistically inspired. From what little I know, the “eastern mind” is quite pragmatic. It doesn’t dwell on grand visions of how humankind should live their lives. This can be seen in the difference between Buddhism and the major western / middle-eastern faiths. (But admittedly, there are forms of dogmatic Buddhism, and Buddhist holy wars have been fought).

It’s too bad that Kennedy and Johnson and MacNamara and Rostow and Kissinger just couldn’t seem to grasp this. One has to wonder if the US and its Allies could have avoided full tilt war with Japan had, early on, we not viewed its military aggression as part of the same fabric from which Hitler and the Nazi’s were cut. And this may be a reminder that we have to look at the dangerous situations in Iran and North Korea today in different lights. I could be very wrong here, but I don’t see the Koreans as inspired by anything beyond their own dysfunction, whereas the Iranians might well be infected by the holy war virus. A very pernicious infection, indeed.

2.) I just read a review of a recent study regarding people’s attitudes about race, one that used biometric indicators of how people think and feel versus the usual survey technique. One interesting finding is that African-Americans do not have the same self-regard for their racial heritage as Caucasian Euro-Americans do (even though they verbally claim to; the biometric indicators tell a different story). So, several decades of “black pride” and black heritage may not have erased the effects of slavery and segregation.

3.) I drive to work in Newark, and I am starting to see signs of human misery that high levels of sustained unemployment are causing. Fortunately, the crime rate has not yet jumped significantly, although the number of murders may be increasing relative to the low point reached in 2008.

Thank the Lord that I haven’t seen any murders. However, I am seeing an uptick in street begging, which also slacked off in recent years (after being quite rampant in the 1980s). I have also noticed a new technique: guys in wheelchairs out in the road at traffic lights, begging for money from commuters. The desperation index is definitely reaching higher levels.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:47 pm      

  1. Jim, As to the Vietnam War, is there any doubt it was a mistake. The problem with so many of the wars today is that the U.S. fights the war according to the old “rules” and the other country basically fights “street.” They make up their own rules and have their own approach to fighting—all at odds with that of the democratic countries.
    The fact that we lost the Vietnam war says it all. If one observes the various countries that have adopted Communism or some version of it, eventually, and almost never by help from the outside, the countries come around to some version of democracy, either the Russian version (which may yet turn out to be the old version of Communism) or the country’s particular blend of communistic /socialistic /democratic ideas.
    As to wars going on now: I really have never understood why we needed to actually get into another “war” as “war”—the way we fight it. Basically, the first idea was to get Osama bin Laden and “take him out.” A “regular” war is not going to accomplish that at all. I fully expected the powers that be to send over a special ops type group, “take out” bin Laden, and that would be the end of it. I still don’t understand why they don’t take that approach to getting OBL. In fact, they might even higher out the “job” to a private firm who might be very efficient in accomplishing that job.
    I realize here I definitely do not sound very pacifist. But my approach to some particular things is that one must “speak the language of the others.” That is, play by their rules instead of the accepted rules of warfare. (Sorry I missed the metaphors here.) So if the rules are that there are no rules—any mayhem will work—then, why not put the “job” in the hands of some particular group that would be able to do the work efficiently, quickly, and quietly.
    As to African-Americans and their regard for their heritage: I think that in any immigrant group (of which I definitely am one) by about the third generation, the “regard” for the cultural or racial heritage starts to fade. The generation becomes “Americans.” In the African-American group, their heritage goes way beyond three generations. And in some cases people cannot trace their country of origin.
    Lastly, I wonder if the people you see in wheelchairs begging are not veterans from the war currently going on. Many of the individual military personnel who were hurt have received little help from the VA and/or the government. I’ve read that some of them have taken to just that—begging on the street in their wheelchairs to make very obvious their plight. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — October 10, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

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