Originally posted at Missing The Moon 12/07
Aaaaahh, Robert McNamara.
I’m currently reading The Best and the Brightest. It’s ponderous, overlong, and overeverything—and a fascinating read. If you want to know about U.S. foreign policy between 1945 and 1970 (all of it, not just Indochina), this is for you. Halberstam weaves a tale that reads like a novel, albeit a very intellectual one; he picks out the telling detail, the insightful anecdote and, always, the right word. The book is populated with some real characters, too, especially that JFK fella. Best of all, Halberstam is opinionated and angry. He hammers the people who ought to be hammered.
The parallels between Vietnam and our current fiasco are there. Extremely topical reading, about a war that we didn’t have to make.
How Iraq is like Vietnam:
In both cases:
The U.S. govt tried to solve a political problem with a military solution. The U.S. govt did not learn the lessons from its previous military fiasco on foreign soil. When faced with the damning evidence that what they were doing was not working, the U.S. govt went into a fierce denial mode. The solution would be to send more troops over. It is much easier to send troops in than to get them out. The U.S. believed it could win by fighting a conventional ground/air war. Hahahahaha. Each administration was led by intelligent, arrogant, hubristic fucks who were totally out of touch with the pisspoor reality of their respective wars. Each war scuppered the American economy, leading to serious domestic problems. Each war scuppered the ruling party, the Democrats with LBJ, and the GOP with Shrub. There is a reason why the world hates America.
David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is as pertinent today as the day it came out in 1972. It is a long, bulky, dense read, but utterly fascinating in describing the perfect storm of bad decision-making that stained our country forever. I swear, you could substitute the word Iraq for Vietnam on any page; amazingly prescient. Both of these wars did not have to happen. This is not objective history. Halberstam is opinionated and uses his characters for target practice. I’m surprised no one sued for libel. At one point he calls Robert McNamara an idiot. He vivisects LBJ. Not a quick read, but a great one.