Open thread August 23, 2016 Dan Crawford | August 23, 2016 7:35 am Tags: open thread Comments (11) | Digg Facebook Twitter |
I always wonder why the super-smart like Obama-Hillary don’t get basic missing dimensions of our rump-democracy: like good union density?
I thought I caught a (small) connection (insight) the other week with a story about New York governor Cuomo not caring — which he does that a lot. First (small) connection (insight): not caring and not knowing (ob-hil style) result in the same analytical sequences and the same (inadequate) policy choices.
Just trying to puzzle how the so-smart can catch on to so-little.
Now I’m reading a book about the Vietnam War by a long time NY Times man on the spot (including a stint as bureau chief). I’ve gotten as far as Kennedy endlessly sending “big shots” to ‘Nam for short stays, wherein they quiz other big shots with agendas — followed by endless meetings with same, trying to sort out what’s going on.
Finally occurred to me that Kennedy would have been much better served by bringing lots of low-level soldiers and bureaucrats and CIA agents and whomever who spend their days on the streets and in the field. A few all day sessions with them and Jfk could have clearly sorted everything out.
I was impressed by a story by Ezra Klein of how Hillary devours issues by the dozen — but realized that while Hill is chopping away dozens of trees, she has no realization that all that time the forest is gaining on her (and us!).
Same problem isn’t it? Doesn’t it all equate: Ob-H to Cuomo to JFK? It is easy to see with JFK in “Nam 50+ years ago — not so easy to delineate here and now? Boils down to if you don’t relate to everyday people (Ob-H or Cuomo) on an everyday basis or else you will get lost in the same elite to elite shuffle where nobody even thinks about the gears catching gears in the real world.
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I’m reading FDR”s fireside chats to see how he related to people. The first one takes an audience that is much less sophisticated than today’s in an era with much less economic knowledge than now — and tries to explain the banking system and banking holiday without watering down.
Imagine what a different country it would be if Obama just spent a lot of the last eight years explaining that the minimum wage was $11 an hour (compares with $7.25 today) when per capita income was half today’s? He made one speech at a high school depicting income inequality as the “defining issue of our time”; it didn’t poll well, end of O issue.
Ditto for Obama didn’t really care about Malaki persecuting the Sunnis nor really care about Assad chlorine gassing children. Not really.
While we are on the topic of the irrational policy making let us peer at the year in-year out Republican moans and screams.
In psychiatry there is the concept of “transfer anxiety.” Some patients have so much anxiety (not the exact Repub problem) that they repress it to try to get away from it only to end up worrying about (usually irrational) something else — for instance, that throwing a cigarette in the street may ignite somebody’s gas tank. Can’t just make part of your perceptions go away.
Repubs anxieties OTH come from WANTING an anxiety — a healthy anxiety — wanting to save the world — DON’T WE ALL? But Repubs have no adult size issues they really care about: for instance, poverty, medical (all kinds of issues), discrimination, etc.
I like to say the Repubs have no “comet-strike” anxieties.
Gun control: there are 300 million guns in this country. Do Repubs seriously think somebody is going to come and take them all away? More stringent check or safety standards or whatever: no comet-strike there.
Immigration: there are 12 million illegal immigrants here. About 8 million may be over worked, under paid Mexicans. Going to bring America down? No comet-strike.
The deficit: assuming this generation is going to leave a bill for future generations — those future generations will have more money to pay for it through economic growth (IF WE RESTORE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING TO OUR LABOR MARKET)/but may decide to lay it off on their future generations/who will have more money/but who may lay it off on their future generations. That’s human nature — but no comet-strike.
Maybe if someone could explain to Republicans what they are really (not) worried about, some of them might switch to adult (earth-shaking) concerns.
Sorry have to disagree on Kennedy and the “if the Czar only knew” narrative about Vietnam. Because we had ALREADY brought in the low level soldiers and diplomats and spies if only by proxy when Burdick and Lederer published ‘The Ugly American’ in 1958.
And it had its impact on the 1960 race directly on Kennedy and his Administration:
“The book was published in the waning days of the Eisenhower administration. Reportedly as a result of the book, Eisenhower ordered an investigation of the U.S. foreign aid program. As the presidential campaign of 1960 heated up, the issues raised in the book became a campaign issue for the Democratic Party.:17
Lasting impacts in the Kennedy administration included President Kennedy’s national physical fitness program, his statement of America’s willingness to “bear any burden” in the Third World, the founding of the Peace Corps, the build-up of American Special Forces, and emphasis on counterinsurgency tactics in fighting communists in South Vietnam. According to British documentary film maker Adam Curtis, Senator and future U.S. President “John F. Kennedy was gripped by The Ugly American. In 1960, he and five other opinion leaders bought a large advertisement in The New York Times, saying that they had sent copies of the novel to every U.S. Senator, because its message was so important.””
But the fundamental issue remained: Kennedy and his Best and the Brightest still remained convinced that there was nothing you couldn’t fix by the appropriate application of American Know-How and so only tinkered around the edges. The answer to the challenges raised by Burdick and Lederer weren’t to go all John Wayne/Green Beret on those Slants but instead to fundamentally reexamine and change much of the basic substructure of American military and diplomatic policy, to get some understanding that you don’t win Hearts and Minds by Death from Above. And that is what never happened, we start with inserting specially trained teams of Green Berets and within a couple of years are introducing full divisions of Marines and regiments of Army Air Cavalry. Plus tanks. And lets NOT forget the magic of Strategic Bombing. All done near as I can tell by holdovers from Kennedy’ Besties.
JFK didn’t “sort everything out” because at heart he was just another Harvard guy who didn’t NEED to listen to lessers.
And Obama unfortunately had the same instinct. I started squealing at Angry Bear all the way back in late 2007 when Obama announced that his first three economic hires were the token Democrat at Chicago’s School of Business (Austan Goolsbee as the lead) and two Clintonista-Rubinista turned Harvard KSG guys (and so Summeristas) named Liebman and Cutler. Of whom the former teamed up with Maya MacGuineass and Bush SocSec guy Samwick to write a horrible neo-lib Privatization Plan.
Obama didn’t need to listen to anyone outside the tight Neo-Lib economic orthodoxy. Cause you had to be real smart to land a spot at Chicago or Harvard. Or real connected. Which is to say compared to Kennedy “Same as it Ever Was”.
Col John Paul Vann went off the ranch against the skewed situation reports coming of out Vietnam.
“Vann was assigned to South Vietnam in 1962 as an adviser to Colonel Huỳnh Văn Cao, commander of the ARVN IV Corps. In the thick of the anti-guerrilla war against the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, Vann became concerned with the way in which the war was being prosecuted, in particular the disastrous Battle of Ap Bac. Directing the battle from a spotter plane overhead, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery in taking enemy fire. He attempted to draw public attention to the problems through press contacts such as New York Times reporter David Halberstam, directing much of his ire towards MACV General Paul D. Harkins. Vann completed his Vietnam assignment in March 1963 and left the Army within a few months.” wiki.
Read Prochnau’s Once Upon a Distant War which chronicles the angst of reporters getting the truth out, and analyses what went down through the Diem assassinations.
I got my copy from a West Point Special Forces officer who did two tours advising……….
He thought Vann and those press guys in Saigon were correct.
My sense: our Vietnamese were less popular than the VC in spite of US tales of VC “terror” the plunderers in Saigon were much less hated.*
Not unlike US rulers in Afghanistan.
Iraq Shi’a government are doing right with the Shi’a 2/3, the ISIS guys were welcomed by the Sunni 1/3……… Falluja etc Locals supporting ISIS explains a lot of Shi’a conscripts bugging out.
Going by the book Our Vietnam by A. J. Langguth, Diem was pretty viciously dictatorial — but — Diem could have been another Mandela and Ho Chi Minh would still have been happy to see millions killed to take over South Vietnam for his communist ideology.
Diem gave the Vietminh a natural enemy — at first — to continue fighting for Ho without thinking too much about switching from fighting the French to the South government instead. That was in the early 60s.
By mid 1972 I believe most Vietnamese saw the communist insurgents for what they were — for what they had to offer. Pretty much all they had to offer was to kill anybody who disagreed with them — think Hue. By mid 1972 the South had a million men under conventional army arms — and — another either two or four million (I think four) in local defense forces — out of 10 million South Vietnamese males.
Strikes me that if the South government was arming half the males in the country to the teeth, then, the people must not have been revolting against the government. At one point the South sent 600,000 M16s into the countryside.
Morely Safer version of mid 1972: 150,000 communist troops occupying 10% of periphery after 10 years of fighting; can’t get them out.
Eighth grade math version: 150,000 (half-trained dregs?) make 5% of the 3 million North Vietnamese regulars killed or wounded (I’m assuming 2 wounded for every killed) out of a North male population of 6 1/2 million. Viet Cong guerillas wiped out — which alone would have starved out the North regulars with no place in the countryside to store supplies. Conventional invasion defeated with 50% casualties.
Then the Democratic Congress began to starve the funding and Ford cut off the air support.
See autobiographical novel by North Vietnamese regular whose Glorious 27th Youth Brigade went out with 500 and came back with 10. Great guy Uncle Ho. I picked up on this book in one of Anthony Bourdain’s.
All those M-16’s ended up on the black market some could have gotten to the US.
Diem and no one US installed after him were as good as the French, they were even more crooked. That is the observation my SOF friend made directly.
Most of the destruction of the VC, the NVA terror and the defection myth of Cronkite are malarkey.
The point to Bruce was: there was a small flow of righteous observations that differed from the Kennedy administration view which was propaganda at the level you see from Obama administration on everything from Ukraine to Kabul. Lodge came over and went along with the propaganda about strategic hamlets and beating the VC.
What the VC was reputed to have done to Saigon supporters was what Clintonbot would do with Trumpistas.
Denis about those assumptions of NV regulars killed and the ratio of killed to wounded perhaps you should read the parts of Best and the Brightest where in the middle of the battle for Hue an analyst in the War Room at the Pentagon pointed out that based on the formal estimates of the Order of Battle of the attackers, the reported KIA’s and the assumed ratio of WIA’s to KIA’s that all effectives had been removed from the battle. Even as it raged on.
Which is to say that the whole Body Count narrative was bullshit from bottom to top which is to say not only the numbers reported on TV every night (and I watched TV news then) but also the internal numbers reported up the chain of command. It was all GIGO: Garbage In and Garbage Out.
And “VietnaMzation” was also crap. During the last years of the war the U.S. spent huge amounts of money trying to build up ARVN so they could “stand up and we stood down” and it worked exactly as well and in exactly the same ways as the attempt to build up the Iraqi National Army during the Surge. In the end the expensively armed ARVN fared just as well agains the advancing North Vietnamese Regulars as the Iraqi Army did against various Sunni insurgents and terrrorist groups: that is ‘Badly’. In both cases those formed units just melted away, largely leaving their American weapons behind to be used by the enemy. Which is why a planned orderly evacuation of Vietnam by U.S. Forces and the civilian infrastructure turned into the chaotic clusterfuck that was the well reported and filmed evacuation of Saigon under fire. The U.S. at least thought ARVN could perform creditable ‘Hodor’ ‘Hold the Door’ duties and found out that was just not to be. Turns out the South Vietnamese male population might well have been nearly universally under arms but had no intention in hell of losing their lives to protect corrupt Generals who as it turns out all had their exit plans for relocation to Little Saigon in Orange County all in place.
that’s pretty much the way it looked to me. but rewriting history wasn’t something invented by George Orwell.
a read a book about why we lost Vietnam too long ago to remember the author. He quoted General Pickett (CSA) who asked why “we” lost the Civil War said, “I think the yanks had something to do with it.” Meaning we lost Vietnam (because) the North Vietnamese ran their end of the war better than we ran ours. no, we did not lose Vietnam because of Jane Fonda.
and without knowing anything at all about the strategy of empire, it seems to me we “lost” Vietnam because of “free fire zones” and other atrocities we would have hanged the Germans for.
and that seems to be why we are losing the the current war: can’t seem to “fight for freedom and to keep our honor clean.”
come to think of it, it’s the way we are running the whole country now: predatory capitalism.
re “smart people”:
even very smart and well informed humans are rarely smart enough to manage their own affairs let alone any government type problems that are big enough to become issues. and that’s not even counting the effects of self interest and idols of one’s own class.
this applies to you and me and is worth remembering from time to time .
South Vietnam was a scam in the first place. “Ho” offered 3 times for alliance with the US. By the late 50’s, he knew the fix was in and the Yanks were coming. “They” wanted control of Indochina. It was right there in the Council of Foreign Relation notes. Then when things weren’t going fast enough, in comes the Gulf of Tonkin. It was all planned for years. They didn’t get control, but the profit from the war was a nice secondary gift.
The only way to win the war and really, win the war in Indochina was mass extermination. Also thanks to the war, they brought populist hero’s like Pol Pot to power quite easily.