Sunday, January 14, 2007

Not "what," but "how."

I think that maybe asking "what" McCain is thinking is the wrong question. It might be better to ask "how" McCain is thinking if we want to know how he can embrace the parallel-reality position he now holds on the escalation of the Iraq War. The distinguished foreign affairs correspondent Robert Kaiser has an answer in today's WaPo:

"For a gray-haired journalist whose career included 18 months covering the Vietnam War for The Washington Post, it is a source of amazement to realize that my country has done this again. We twice took a huge risk in the hope that we could predict and dominate events in a nation whose history we did not know, whose language few of us spoke, whose rivalries we didn't understand, whose expectations for life, politics and economics were all foreign to many Americans.

Both times, we put our fate in the hands of local politicians who would not follow U.S. orders, who did not see their country's fate the way we did, and who could not muster the support of enough of their countrymen to produce the outcome Washington wanted. In Vietnam as in Iraq, U.S. military power alone proved unable to achieve the desired political objectives.

How did this happen again? After all, we're Americans -- practical, common-sense people who know how to get things done. Or so we'd like to think. In truth, we are ethnocentric to a fault, certain of our own superiority, convinced that others see us as we do, blithely indifferent to cultural, religious, political and historical realities far different from our own. These failings -- more than any tactical or strategic errors -- help explain the U.S. catastrophes in Vietnam and Iraq."

Simply put, McCain is thinking like most Americans: we can succeed where others fail, our military can impose our will on any situation, we are winners and winners win, etc, etc, ad nauseum. That kind of exceptionalism is responsible for Vietnam, and it is again at work in Iraq. Kaiser says by way of conclusion that a little humility might go a long way to improve the fortunes of this country in international relations.

How 'bout we try that? .

2 Comments:

Blogger LaPopessa said...

Along with that is last week's Newsweek article on McCain and Hagel - two Vietnam vets who are on opposite sides of Iraq. Opposition based, in part, on their personal experiences in Vietnam. As Hagel noted, McCain's experience, pre-POW status, was as flying over the country in bombers.

FROM NEWSWEEK
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16501666/site/newsweek/
The two men saw the war from sharply different angles. Chuck Hagel "walked point" with an infantry company near the Cambodian border in some of the worst fighting in 1967 and '68. His brother Tom often went on patrol with him (the brothers circumvented an Army rule that bars family members from serving in combat together). "I don't know how many times we would be assigned to go out for a search-and-destroy mission," Tom recalls, "and we'd pass South Vietnamese villages with South Vietnamese soldiers lying around sleeping in hammocks. They're doing easy duty while we were out doing the hard part." The lesson to the Hagel brothers was obvious: "You cannot win somebody else's independence," says Tom. "They have to do it for themselves."

Ground-pounder Tom says that while he respects McCain's service, the bomber pilot could not have known what reality was like down in the jungle: "He was up in the air at 10,000 feet. He never saw the consequences of those bombs."

1:30 PM  
Blogger jodmeister said...

D@mn it, my first comment didn't work. Regarding, "After all, we're Americans -- practical, common-sense people who know how to get things done," well, I bet you didn't know that all gov't officials are required before they take their oath to uphold the constitution that they must have a frontal lobotomy done to aid in their common sense removal. You see, common sense is not synonymous with government management. I can't tell you how many times some new policy or procedure is announced via email and I'll stare at my screen and think "huh"?

Seriously, I would like to see someone step up to the plate and announce a plan to finish what we started in both Iraq and Afghanistan, fix what we broke and get our troops home. So far, no one has given me any warm fuzzies about getting this done.

11:51 PM  

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