Thursday, August 20, 2009

McNamara's Ghost

"Geeky in his think, rimless glasses and slick-backed hair, expressionless, desiccated, fast-talking, and mechanically confident, McNamara was at the cutting edge of the managerial revolution--a business administrator, statistician, and efficiency expert. He was a mesmerizing figure for a time, especially after the Kennedy public-relations apparatus confected the myth of calibrated crisis management in the Cuban missile showdown of 1962. ... If there ever had been a time for the US to give battle [in Vietnam] (and there probably wasn't), it was after France promised independence but was still prepared to fight the Communists in Indochina. ... Having catastrophically given Laos away in the 1962 Neutrality Agreement (Nixon called it 'Communism on the installment plan'), turning that country into a river of troops and supplies being infiltrated southwards on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Kennedy should not have poured thousands of military advisers into South Vietnam and should not have schemed against South Vietnamese president Ngo Dien Diem, who was assassinated in 1963. ... In the face of a full-scale North Vietnamese invasion of the South, McNamara set about winning the hearts and minds by building infrastructure, with the North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong promptly destroyed. ... He and almost all the Best and Brightest (as the Kennedy entourage was often called) scurried out the back doors of the White House and the Pentagon into the tall grass, leaving Johnson holding the bag. ... One of McNamara's last public utterances as defense secretary was to rejoice that nuclear-weapons equality with the USSR, Mutual Assured Destruction, would be conducive to arms control and reduction. It wasn't. It was a huge preemptive concession that made the Russians more assertive than ever. ... Vietnam was a disaster because between the Eisenhower and Nixon adminstrations, the US leadership lacked reliable faculties of judgment about whether to enter such a war, had no idea how to conduct it, and sabotaged the efforts of those who did", Conrad Black, 27 July 2009 at:

"Geopolitical trendies ran a new one up the international flagpole to see if anyone saluted. It claimed to be the magic formula on how to win in Afghanistan. ... In the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, Fotini Christia, a member of the Security Studies Program at [MIT], and Michael Semple--an Irish official with the European Union delegation who was expelled from Afghanistan in December for his involvment with a Taliban reconciliation effort--put forward their 'flipping the enemy' thesis, which makes the exercise seem a tad harder than flipping hamburgers. Western logic is not a good guide when assessing the psychological profile of men who curse the birth of a girl and exalt a baby boy, born with a Kalashnikov in his cradle. ... But the authors fail to point out that this is precisely the reason [they want us to leave] why Taliban 'reconcilables,' as perceived by European interlocutors, will remain irreconcilable. ... The Vietnam War is long since forgotten and its lessons ignored by virtue of not being remembered. Before that, there was France's eight-year war in Algeria. And before that, France's eight-year war in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In each of these conflicts, the illusion was nurtured about splitting hard-as-nails insurgent fronts in the vain hope of getting the 'reconcilables,' or turncoats to carry the white man's burden. Guerilla movements frequently fostered the illusion of fissures to splt the rants of their enemies. ... The Christia-Semple thesis says the 'for many Taliban fighters, insurgency has nothing to do with Islamic zealotry, it is a way of life'," my emphasis, Arnaud de Borchgrave (AB), 3 August 2009, link:

40+ years ago I was taken in by "The Best and the Brightest". Not today. We are reliving Vietnam in Afghanistan.

Is AB ever right. I remember this stuff from Vietnam. Here we go again. Christia and Semple are two fools. Or worse. They are children, projecting their beliefs on others. I wonder if Stanley uses Christia and Semple as consultants, my 1 August 2009 post:


Anonymous said...

Hello I.A.,

If Afghanistan = Viet Nam

Then does Pakistan = Waterloo?

Anonymous said...

BTW, Did you notice the pre-Ramadan bombings? I wonder if holy war will start during holy month?

Anonymous said...

We are fools to be messing around over there.

Anonymous said...

Using 9/11 as a pretext to wage war in Afghanistan has grown stale...

This will be a giant black mark on Pres-O's legacy. It gains our nation nothing.

Mike said...

I agree that the govt is conducting yet another horrible and misguided war. And it continues to lie to the American people about its true intentions, similar to how it has handled the economic crisis. In terms of the economy I think the govt has shown that its main remedy for all of the problems is money printing and stimulus, which is essentially debt. And one of the few ways for most people to protect and potentially prosper from this is by investing in those assets that should rise from all the money printing, such as gold and other commodities. This is a good story on a mining company, Claude Resources that should benefit from a rise in the gold price.

Atrium said...

It never ceases to amaze me. Yes, Afghanistan is Vietnam all over again. The politicians and bureaucrats have no skin in that game, and the generals are into ticket punching and bigger budgets and more ribbons. Absent a complete and brutal occupation (go back in think Nazi Germany, Pol Pot, Tito, Stalin) we will never "democratize" Afganistan. As a Vietnam Vet, it is such a sad training exercise. I vote for leaving the Middle East entirely, and if they get too crazy, flatten it, make it glow in the dark, and pave it over with ten feet of cement.

Independent Accountant said...

Thanks for your service. As a kid watching Vietnam, I was appalled with our tactics and strategy. They made no sense. I came of age during Vietnam, but fortunately was not drafted. I saw our F-105 guys senselessly slaughtered as a result of insane targeting decisions. I saw our B-52 guys shot out of the sky because the Pentagon insisted they fly designated routes.
David Hackworth described the "ticket punchers" in "About Face". What generals? Do they know any military history?
Our poor guys in Afghanistan, lacking adequate artillery or air support. Poor soldiers, poor marines. What we do to our own guys is terrible.
As for the Middle East, you sound like Michael Savage. I share your sentiments. Instead, we welcome thousands of "refugees" a year from Arabia. Go figure that out.