Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Sunday, August 12, 2018

NYT Book review, 1972: The Best and the Brightest," Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam's latest, most important and impressive book, sets out to discover why America got involved in the worst and messiest war in our history. "What was it about the men, their attitudes, the country, its institutions and above all the era which had allowed this tragedy to take place?" They were, after all, "the best and the brightest," so why did it happen?

It happened, Halberstam concludes, because, "they had, for all their brilliance and hubris and sense of themselves, been unwilling to look and learn from the past." They ignored Hanoi history and misunderstood Munich history. "And they had been swept forward by their belief in the importance of anti-Communism (and the dangers of not paying sufficient homage to it)." The Age of the Pentagon Papers is, in reality, the Age of the Pumpkin Papers.

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It is difficult to argue with Halberstam's reasonable, compelling and persuasively presented thesis. The rhetoric is occasionally overblown, but he is right, they were "swept forward" by the sense of power and glory, omnipotence and omniscience of America in this century. They were "America" and they did want to be defined as "being strong and tough; but strength and toughness and courage were exterior qualities which would be demonstrated by going to a clean and hopefully antiseptic war with a small nation, rather than the interior more lonely kind of strength and courage of telling the truth to America and perhaps incurring a good deal of domestic political risk."

Moreover, Halberstam is able to bring his case alive through the artful use of warehouses of insider anecdotes, vignettes and detail. What better symbol of the illusion of an antiseptic war than Gen. William Westmoreland breakfasting in his underwear "in order to keep his fatigues pressed?" What more vivid way to convey the cold-war assumptions ingrained in L.B.J. than to report that the first thing that raced through his mind as the shots were fired that November day in Dallas was "that the Communists had done it?" How more dramatically to capture the stultifying atmosphere of our embassy in Saigon than to show Ambassador Frederick E. Nolting Jr., replacing a portrait of Thomas Jefferson with one of George Washington, in anticipation of a TV interview, because Jefferson was too controversial?

In addition to asking why it all happened, the book's main and most remarkable contribution is to introduce us in depth to the architects of America's involvement in Vietnam--not only to the LBJs, McNamaras and Rusks but to the Rosencrantz's and Guildensterns of the Federal bureaucracy--and in so doing, to capture and interplay between personality and policy; second, it illuminates the rules of the game--takes us into the bureaucratic arena and shows us how, time and again, bureaucratic considerations triumphed over ideological or even common-sense ones; and third, it traces the history of no-returning points which led to our entanglement in this tragic war, and seems to suggest in retrospect, any number of places where we might have stopped the war because we wanted to get off.

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Considered to be one of the seminal histories of the origins and failures of the Vietnam War, Halberstam contemporaneously captures the hubris, miscalculations and ineptitude from the WH through Foggy Bottom and into the Pentagon that gave us the Vietnam War.

Snoofy and Dirk wanted a Vietnam War discussion, have at it.

#1 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 04:36 PM | Reply

#1 Oh. Oh no you didn't. Give me some time, and I'll compose a well written rant. It may come soon, it may come in a few hours, I don't know.

You cant rush art.

But it is coming. I will be back to this thread.

#2 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-08-12 04:41 PM | Reply

And I think I'll start with "FDR would be appalled to know we are fighting for French colonialism" and then go straight into why you don't fight a land war in East Asia, but there actually was a way to win. Possibly two ways. We'll get into that.

#3 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-08-12 04:47 PM | Reply

"why America got involved in the worst and messiest war in our history"

Civil War on line 2.

#4 | Posted by snoofy at 2018-08-12 05:46 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

"why America got involved in the worst and messiest war in our history"

Iraq War on line 3.

#5 | Posted by PinchALoaf at 2018-08-12 06:06 PM | Reply

From the South China Sea thread:

You can't explain why Vietnam was a Lost Casue in a sentence or a paragraph?

#89 | POSTED BY SNOOFY AT 2018-08-12 03:57 PM

Feel free to start a new thread if you need to be educated, the goal posts on this one have moved enough.

#92 | POSTED BY RIGHTOCENTER AT 2018-08-12 04:00 PM

#92
Way to rise to the challenge there, Rightocoward.

#94 | POSTED BY DIRKSTRUAN AT 2018-08-12 04:02 PM | FLAG:

"America never really loses wars, it is only betrayed by impure, traitorous elements within.

Your mancrush obviously taught you how to build terrible strawmen, that is not even close to what I said in #64.
Care to explain why you believe that LBJ and McNamara were traitors, Comrade Boydirkovich?

#95 | POSTED BY RIGHTOCENTER AT 2018-08-12 04:03 PM

Shifting the burden.
You are the one who made that claim.

#97 | POSTED BY DIRKSTRUAN AT 2018-08-12 04:07 PM | FLAG:

And still no explanation of your Vietnam point! What a shock.

#98 | POSTED BY DIRKSTRUAN AT 2018-08-12 04:09 PM

#98
No explanation needed, you asked me if I thought the Vietnam war was a draw, and I said we lost it.
Like I said, you and your mancrush need to start a new thread on Vietnam if that is what is now exciting you.

#102 | POSTED BY RIGHTOCENTER AT 2018-08-12 04:12 PM

One is definitely needed... you just don't have it, you intellectual lightweight. Go back to your PIG guides and try to find the answer. Or maybe you'll have better luck on Stormfront.

#105 | POSTED BY DIRKSTRUAN AT 2018-08-12 04:16 PM

The lovers obviously can't start their own thread, so I oblige and start one for them over three hours ago, thinking that they would post in an orgiastic frenzy since they were suddenly soooo interested in the Vietnam War: Snoofy immediately posts a deflection and Comrade Boydirkovich...absolutely nothing.

Typical of our pseudo-intellectual Marxist and his mancrush.

#6 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 07:47 PM | Reply | Funny: 1

"why America got involved in the worst and messiest war in our history"
Iraq War on line 3.

#5 | POSTED BY PINCHALOAF AT 2018-08-12 06:06 PM

I don't necessarily disagree, actually, but the reason that the Iraq War qualifies is not in the execution of the war but in the complete lack of preparation by the State Department and the Pentagon for the peace, but we digress.

This article (where I got the title of the thread) is from the NYT Book Review in 1972, 30 years prior to our misadventure in Iraq.

#7 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 07:51 PM | Reply

"From the South China Sea thread:
You can't explain why Vietnam was a Lost Casue in a sentence or a paragraph?"

And then... you made this thread to double down on not being able to nutshell why the Vietnam War was a lost cause.

#8 | Posted by snoofy at 2018-08-12 08:05 PM | Reply

"And then... you made this thread to double down on not being able to nutshell why the Vietnam War was a lost cause troll.

#9 | Posted by REDIAL at 2018-08-12 08:11 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Nixon: We've got to quit thinking in terms of a three-day strike [in the Hanoi-Haiphong area]. We've got to be thinking in terms of an all-out bombing attack - which will continue until they - Now by all-out bombing attack, I am thinking about things that go far beyond. I'm thinking of the -----, I'm thinking of the railroad, I'm thinking, of course, the docks.
Kissinger: I agree with you.
President Nixon: We've got to use massive force.
Two hours later at noon, H. R. Haldeman and Ron Ziegler joined Kissinger and Nixon:
President: How many did we kill in Laos?
Ziegler: Maybe ten thousand - fifteen?
Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen.
President: See, the attack in the North that we have in mind, power plants, whatever's left - POL [petroleum], the docks. And, I still think we ought to take the ----- out now. Will that drown people?
Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.
President: No, no, no, I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.
President: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?...I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.

#10 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-08-12 08:20 PM | Reply

double down on not being able to nutshell why the Vietnam War was a lost cause.

Let's see, a Pulitzer Prize winner spends "688 small type but mostly readable pages" disecting all the problems and you want me to nutshell it:

LBJ and McNamara micromanaged the war, picking targets daily during breakfast for their political, not military impact and declared targets like airfields and harbors off limits to bombing or invasion. Westmoreland, handcuffed by his own CinC, was more worried about keeping the creases in his trousers than winning the war. Dean Rusk was afraid of his own shadow (not to mention LBJ) and staffed his FE desk with useless sycophants like Bill Bundy. Then there is this:

The dominant metaphor of this book--Halberstam's second theme--sees our Government as a great bureaucratic arena in which generals and Cabinet officers and lesser bureaucrats all are "players" in the game of bureaucratic politics. Their primary loyalty is to their team and what's good for their team may not necessarily be good for the country. The players are shown winning temporary victories which result in their literally as well as figuratively losing the war. The metaphor is not new, but Halberstam's application is convincing and shrewd, the examples are legion, and the depressing message is that in addition to deceiving the American people they deceived each other and themselves.
The fatal combination of spineless politicians too worried about how the war appeared on TV along with bureaucrats who were more concerned about themselves then their country are what made it a lost cause by 1969.

#11 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 08:27 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Halberstam has a third theme:

the history (chain, pyramid) of mistaken judgments and actions, is devastating in its documentation and detail. The Pentagon Papers are the words and Halberstam provides the music. He doesn't go back into "deep history," nor does he attempt the sort of radical psychological or economic analysis that can be found in the recently published "Roots of War" by Richard Barnet. But there is value in what he has done, which is to concentrate on more recent events, zeroing in on the so-called fall of China, the purge of State's best China experts (Davies, Service, Clubb) and a generation of Democratic defensiveness on the losing-Asia-to-the-Reds issue. He then takes us through the various decisions to support Diem, not to support Diem; to send Special Forces, to send unconventional forces, to send protective forces, to send search and destroy forces, to try retaliatory bombing, to commence sustained bombing, etc., etc.

Machismo, says Halberstam, "was no small part of it." Johnson "had always been haunted by the idea that he would be judged as being insufficiently manly for the job, that he would lack courage at a crucial moment." Westmoreland and McNamara are guilty because of their misplaced confidence in ground troops. L.B.J. was the real war criminal when he deceived the American people in July, 1965, by deciding to send over 100,000 to 125,000 troops, but telling the American people that it was only 50,000 and that it "does not imply any change in policy whatever." In fact, notes Halberstam, "it was the beginning of an entirely new policy which would see what was the South Vietnamese war become primarily an American war." Dean Rusk ("color him neutral or color him hardline. Which side was he on? ...") ought to take the rap because he never spoke up; he never fought; he let McNamara take over State.

Plenty of blame to go around, mostly resting on LBJ and his appointees.

#12 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 08:40 PM | Reply

"LBJ and McNamara micromanaged the war, picking targets daily during breakfast for their political"

So it's back to being a lost cause because of LBJ and SecDef.

if only we had the right people in charge, maybe we could have won!

That's not a "lost cause" that's a lost Commander in Chief.

#13 | Posted by snoofy at 2018-08-12 08:41 PM | Reply

#9

Hardly, but if you are afraid to chime in substantively, continue to snipe on the sidelines.

#14 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 08:41 PM | Reply

--and you want me to nutshell it

He needs it in "cheesy bits" as Horace Rumpole's wife would say.

#15 | Posted by nullifidian at 2018-08-12 08:44 PM | Reply | Funny: 1

#15
Posted by: He Who Must Be A Troll

#16 | Posted by snoofy at 2018-08-12 08:46 PM | Reply

JFK decided we should pull out of Vietnam (he was already at 20,000 troops) and gave his famous peace speech at the American University (10 June 1963) in Washington D.C that headlined every newspaper behind the iron curtain, but then he screwed up and issued Executive Order 11110, which basically bypassed the Federal Reserve. So it wasn't long before he died in a hail of gunfire.

LBJ reversed Kennedy's troop withdrawal order, and actually escalated because he didn't want to be seen as soft on communism, just like I do. But you can't fight a land war in East Asia. And as he slowly started to realize this, there where the protesters with awesome chants and he honestly seemed to be really bothered that he kept having to toss peoples lives away, whether they had volunteered or been drafted.

Oct 16, 1983 - 'I feel like a hitchhiker caught in a hailstorm on a Texas highway,' LBJ told his aide, Bill Moyers. 'I can't run, I can't hide and I can't make it stop.'.

Then came Nixon.

#17 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-08-12 08:51 PM | Reply

So it's back to being a lost cause because of LBJ and SecDef.

It's always been because of them and numerous others, as Halberstam details.

Nixon didn't do much better, but like Obama and the Great Recession, he was handed the mess and had to deal with it in the best way possible.

#18 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 08:53 PM | Reply

The fatal combination of spineless politicians too worried about how the war appeared on TV along with bureaucrats who were more concerned about themselves then their country are what made it a lost cause by 1969.
#11 | POSTED BY RIGHTOCENTER AT 2018-08-12 08:27 PM | FLAG:

There you go again with your Hitlerian "stab in the back" theory. If only the body politic was pure, the US imperial army would have swept on to glorious victory.

Make no mistake: What Rightostupid is really bemoaning here is the lack of a unified central authority and a better established national cult of violence. His fellow alt righters surely weep with him.

#19 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 09:01 PM | Reply

Nixon didn't do much better, but like Obama and the Great Recession, he was handed the mess and had to deal with it in the best way possible.... by illegally escalating the war and bombing the hell out of neighboring countries before leaving South Vietnam to its fate.

#18 | POSTED BY RIGHTOCENTER AT 2018-08-12 08:53 PM | FLAG:

FTFY, Captain Cut and Paste.

#20 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 09:04 PM | Reply

Hanging on Rightostupid's Bedroom Wall: en.m.wikipedia.org

#21 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 09:11 PM | Reply

#18 | Posted by Rightocenter

No. Nixon was a God-damned traitor! He actively collaborated with the enemy to get elected by screwing the peace talks. And then after that he sucked at winning.

I've been told that in the far future it is believed that the Statue of Liberty from our era represented a fertility goddess conceived by the union of Mickey Mouse and the trickster god, Nixon. Sure, the guy that told me that didn't exactly seem sane, but he actually could have been from the future.

#22 | Posted by HeliumRat at 2018-08-12 09:19 PM | Reply

www.google.com

Lies about the Vietnam war like those of Rightostupid are, of course, at the core of modern rightist identity. FTA:

"The story of the fall of Saigon as the right tells it is not one of American hubris getting its comeuppance via popular revolution or withdrawal of broad support at home, but one of sinister betrayal by spineless bureaucrats, cowed by selfish, pampered, troop-hating radicals. America's failure was not one of dubious moral judgement on the part of its ruling class, but rather moral turpitude on the part of its young people."

This, of course, went along with a related effort "to convince the public that the peace marches and race riots of the '60s had done more damage to this country than the war and racism that sparked them."

This effort, of course, continues to this day. Failure is war is seen, not as a failure of war itself as an implement of policy, but as a sign of internal moral corrosion inextricably related to broader leftists efforts at social, institutional, and cultural reform.

When conservatives look back on the 60s, they see a world in which "The worst injury of the decade was to the delicate sensibilities of hardworking, middle-class white men" rather than to the millions killed in unjust and illegal wars, the millions oppressed by racism, homophobia, and misogyny, and so on.

Does this sound distressingly familiar to anyone else?

#23 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 09:24 PM | Reply

Does anyone else see the irony of Comrade Boydirkovich decrying fascism while being the DR poster that quotes Hitler endlessly?

Funny how that works.

#24 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 09:55 PM | Reply

Does anyone else see the irony of Comrade Boydirkovich decrying fascism while being the DR poster that quotes Hitler endlessly?
Funny how that works.

#24 | POSTED BY RIGHTOCENTER AT 2018-08-12 09:55 PM | FLAG:

Rightostupid apparently doesn't know what irony means. Here's a hint you slack jawed buffoon: citing a fascist by way of comparison while calling out other fascists doesn't qualify.

#25 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 10:00 PM | Reply

Let's see, I link to a book review on the authoritative history of the Vietnam War written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has the contemporaneous inside scope on what actually happened in the Vietnam War in 1972, while it is still going on...

And Comrade Boydirkovich links to Peter Dirkenhead (who?) with an article he kluged together 42 years after the Vietnam War that blames Reagan for, well, everything.

#26 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 10:01 PM | Reply

You are a total tool, Boyduhh, give up before you embarrass yourself further.

#27 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 10:04 PM | Reply

that blames Reagan for, well, everything.

#26 | POSTED BY RIGHTOCENTER AT 2018-08-12 10:01 PM | REPLY | FLAG

The way your piece and prior post blame leftists you mean? Hypocrite.

But, of course, my article doesn't blame Reagan for anything. What it does do is expose the sort of right wing revisionist take on the Vietnam war and the 60s more generally as the self serving, reactionary nonsense that it is. You have no response but to whine and to try (and fail) to make a fallacious argument from authority.

#28 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 10:10 PM | Reply

No one is whining but you Boyduhh. Before he died in 2007 in a car accident, Halberstam was considered one of the greatest reporters of his era, was a staunch Democrat and was nominated for three Pulitzers for his coverage of the Civil Rights era, this book and international reporting (which he won for).

There is nothing revisionist about The Best and the Brightest, it just destroys your narrative, such as it is. Maybe you can find Dirkenhead and see what he has as a follow up to Gonville: a Memoir.

#29 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-12 10:21 PM | Reply

#29

Another fallacy riddled mess and no response to my points either. Sadly, just what I've come to expect from you.

Hey look, I found another of your wall posters: en.m.wikipedia.org

#30 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 10:24 PM | Reply

"No one is whining but you"

This whole thread is you whining about getting called out, you hack.
Your assertion as to why Vietnam is classic Nazi stab in the back mythology, the same reason you use to justify why the US would lose a war with China. As per your usual when you say something idiotic, you've merely doubled and tripled down on this assertion.
I have exposed what this assertion says about you and those like you and you are throwing a screaming tantrum.

#31 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 10:28 PM | Reply

" the reason that the Iraq War qualifies is not in the execution of the war but in the complete lack of preparation by the Republicans in charge for the peace"

FTFY.

If you notice, right wingers blame "the Democrats" when the Dems are in charge, and "the gub'mint" when the Rs are in charge.

Bill O'Reilly was best at that.

#32 | Posted by Danforth at 2018-08-12 10:29 PM | Reply

If Rightostupid had been in charge, he'd have won Vietnam with a tried and true right wing strategy. Can you guess which one? I'll give you a hint: it starts with "c" and ends with "rimes against humanity."

#33 | Posted by DirkStruan at 2018-08-12 11:30 PM | Reply

you want me to nutshell [the Vietnam War]

Failure of western imperialism.

#34 | Posted by ClownShack at 2018-08-13 01:05 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

#3 did i miss it? define 'win."

this rehashing is ridiculous. and let's end the faux patriotism and absurd "foisted upon us without even a vote" [said nazi bitch] reminders and scams ad nauseam.

#35 | Posted by ichiro at 2018-08-13 03:45 AM | Reply

LOL, looks like Comrade Boydirkovich went to bed angry yet again.

#36 | Posted by Rightocenter at 2018-08-13 06:34 PM | Reply

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