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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

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I agree with the hawks on this. [McNamara's] been criticized by the doves who say, You came around too late, and by the hawks who say, Well, it was a victory. And the hawks are right, it was a victory.

I've seen this claim by Chomsky before, that the US actually "won" the war in Vietnam, but it never made much sense to me. The Vietnamese showed that the US could be defeated - at enormous cost, of course - and their example has inspired resistance movements around the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. I just don't see how you can view that as a "victory" for the US.

SteveB, Chomsky claims that the US achieved a "victory" because the so-called domino effect was not fully realized. Chomsky often talks of the threat of a good example:

"The weaker and poorer a country is, the more dangerous it is as an example. If a tiny, poor country like Grenada can succeed in bringing about a better life for its people, some other place that has more resources will ask, "why not us?"

This was even true in Indochina, which is pretty big and has some significant resources. Although Eisenhower and his advisers ranted a lot about the rice and tin and rubber, the real fear was that if the people of Indochina achieved independence and justice, the people of Thailand would emulate it, and if that worked, they'd try it in Malaya, and pretty soon Indonesia would pursue an independent path, and by then a significant area of the Grand Area would have been lost. "

That Chomsky take-down reminded me why I like him so much. I love how factual he is. And yet the real horror of McNamara's life work oozes from the page.

To add to what mtech says above, the great fear among the imperial planners was the possible loss of Japan-the "super domino," see John Dower on this- to some kind of independent SE Asia economic alliance outside of US influence and control...

so in a very real sense WWII was fought in SE Asia to prevent Japan from having its own day in the sun, again free from US control and influence, while Vietnam was fought to make sure Japan would have its own "sphere of influence" and place of dominance, but only in a such a way the US approved of....

World domination is a tricky business.-Tony

And now, thanks to the New York Times op-ed page, we can learn from Lyndon Johnson's nephew that Johnson considered McNamara "the most compassionate member of his cabinet." Also, "McNamara’s tenure at the World Bank shows a man driven by a desire to help the poor," and "His efforts to move governments to increase their contributions to the poorest countries earned him the reputation in the underdeveloped world as 'the conscience of the West.' "

Also, "McNamara’s obsession with quantitative planning tended to make matters [in Vietnam] worse: though we killed more and more of the enemy, we were never able to protect civilians adequately."

How it must have pained the man later known as "the conscience of the West" not to have been able to "protect civilians adequately." God knows he tried.

"McNamara’s obsession with quantitative planning tended to make matters [in Vietnam] worse: though we killed more and more of the enemy, we were never able to protect civilians adequately."

Yeah, I caught that too. That sentence should be posted in a museum devoted to the topic of American narcissism as Exhibit A.

As Noam would point out, the Soviets could have argued they were doing the same thing, protecting the secularists in Afghanistan from the fundamentalists and no matter how many bombs they dropped, they never seemed to be able to protect the civilian population.

Arghh! You're positing a moral equivalence between the US and the USSR! But we're the good guys! Can't you tell the difference? Why do you have to blame everything bad that happens in the world on the US? Argh!!!!

That sentence should be posted in a museum devoted to the topic of American narcissism as Exhibit A.

Exactly. What strikes me about this is what a perfect, closed system it is. Somehow, our political, economic and military elites need to hear from Lyndon Johnson's nephew that Bob McNamara was a great guy, engaged in noble projects (thus reassuring them by implication that they are also great guys engaged in noble projects) and the New York Times exists exactly for that purpose. It's like the rest of us are just incidental spectators.

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