Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What the Fuck?

[This is actually Aimai's post, which I deleted and re-posted to fix a Blogger problem]

You know how they say that maturity comes from experience? Well, what if you were the kind of human who only learns from the experiences of one year, or two, or three and then simply repeats those for the next sixty? If you don't keep having experiences, and keep learning from them, by definition you can never mature. John McCain is the oldest teenager ever to run for office. Woe betide us if we let this jumped up fool anywhere near important decisions.

In his book, Chuck Hagel writes of listening to declassified tapes from the mid-1960s in which Lyndon Johnson admitted to advisers that Vietnam probably couldn’t be won but rued that withdrawal would make him the first American president to lose a war. “I wish someone had told me when I was sitting on a burning tank in a Vietnamese rice paddy that I was fighting for a lost cause just to save a president’s legacy,” Hagel observes acidly. Although McCain was held and tortured for the same cause, he never saw the situation the way Hagel did. In his view, the American effort began to turn around with the promotion in 1968 of Gen. Creighton Abrams, who adopted the tactics favored by counterinsurgency experts like Fall. Abrams pulled back the search-and-destroy teams and instead focused on winning the “hearts and minds” of South Vietnamese villagers. His goal was to encourage the South Vietnamese military to take over their own defense — the process that came to be known as “Vietnamization.” McCain maintains that Abrams’s strategy was working, but it was undercut by the fact that, by that point, the American public had already rendered its verdict, and the drawdown of troops continued until the war’s chaotic end.

The lesson McCain and other conservatives took away from this version of history is that America was driven from Vietnam principally because the voters, discouraged by dire reports from a skeptical media, lost their will. McCain has said in the past that he felt the war could have been won had the right strategy been followed sooner. When I met with McCain last month for a far-ranging conversation about Vietnam and Iraq, I asked him whether he still felt this was the case. “These are all hypotheticals,” he replied. “But I think that if we had employed the strategy that Creighton Abrams put into effect when he relieved General Westmoreland” — that is, if the Abrams strategy had been used years earlier — “then at least the casualties would have been dramatically different.”

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