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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Inquiring minds want to know

Unasked question at tonight's Democratic debate:

U.S. Embassy, Saigon, May 1975

Senators, please explain to America and the world what the exact difference would be between the Marine forces you each have already planned for the task of securing the rooftop of the new American embassy building in Baghdad as the last American helicopter loads up to leave from there en route back to the nearest carrier task force in 2010?

Posted by Beldar at 09:53 PM in 2008 Election, Global War on Terror, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Inquiring minds want to know and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Feb 1, 2008 9:50:27 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Sure, here it is:

What the hell do we care? Foreign affairs are so tedious, especially when we've got the UN to take care of everything and remind us of how everything went to hell in 2001-2008. Think people care about that stuff when 18 billion people go to bed each night without health care and are worried SICK that they can't meet their mortgage payments...

Well, that's enough to give you the flavor, which will taste even worse coming back up than it did when it went down. We can reply what I've heard attributed to Trotsky:

You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) Halteclere made the following comment | Feb 1, 2008 3:55:03 PM | Permalink

Oooh - scary picture! Scary picture!

Two questions.

First question: "Please explain...exact difference would be between the Marine forces you each have already planned" and what? What is the other thing that is being compared?

I am pretty sure that Belder is comparing this possible future Marine force action with those military guys flying the last helicopter out of Vietnam. But I am not sure of the point. Is it:

1) that the last force to leave Iraq will leave behind loyal, native people struggling to escape the slaughter of an encompassing civil war, and Belder would like an explanation how removing forces from Iraq will be different? Or

2) that we could have won that (and will win this) protracted war if we had only seen through to the end, despite the majority of the population being against said war, and that by pulling out we suffered an inglorious defeat? Or

3) that, by propping up an unpopular government that slowly lost the confidence of the people there was such a vacuum of stability when the US pulled out that not only could that country not defend itself from the civil war, it seriously destabilized countries adjacent to that country?

I would surmise, from reading this blog that Beder’s point is mostly #2, with #1 and #3 also factoring into that main point. If I am mistaken, please let me know.

Now, about #2 – this is my second question: the idea that the US finally found a winning strategy in Vietnam but pulled out before that strategy could be realized is not one, I’ve found, that is generally explored in typical historical references. I admit that I am more knowledgeable of the beginnings of the Vietnam War than the endings. Is there a single book that Belder would recommend I read to better understand the historical context of the ending of Vietnam, and to best understand how the US was close to achieving victory and hadn’t actually been fought to a stalemate?


(3) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Feb 1, 2008 5:20:44 PM | Permalink

Dear Halteclere: Since Beldar is likely lawyering at the moment, let this reference librarian suggest:

1. A BETTER WAR by Lewis Sorley. Focuses on the 1968-75 period. Published 1999, recently reissued with (I think) a few revisions to bring it up to date.

2. Mark Moyar has written what promises to be the most comprehensive new history of this period. Unfortuantely he had to break the book in two. TRIUMPH FORSAKEN covers 1954-1965, with part two, the part you are interested in, still to come. (Of course.)

Both books are worth notice. The one thing that bothers me about both books is that for all their strengths in the American sources, the Vietnamese sourcers aren't quite so deeply covered. Moyar does not understand Vietnamese, so had to rely on what had been translated, and what he could afford to have translated. That caveat taken, I think you won't go wrong with Sorley and part 2 of Moyar when he comes through.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(4) Antimedia made the following comment | Feb 1, 2008 9:39:25 PM | Permalink

Gregory, your attack on Moyar is a rehash of scholars who disagree with him, particularly Chapman, who stated derisively that Moyar cannot read Vietnamese (as if that proves his work wrong!)

Here is Moyar's verbatim response to the claim.

Chapman, and another reviewer, criticize me for relying on a translator
in using Vietnamese sources. I do not see how reading voluminous
translations from a world-class translator, Merle Pribbenow, is less
effective than reading Vietnamese sources when the Vietnamese of many
scholars is inferior to that of Pribbenow. A substantial number of other
scholars of the Vietnam War, including some who read Vietnamese, have
employed Mr. Pribbenow’s translations because of their reliability,
though I am not aware that any of them has been criticized for it as I
have. No one has offered any evidence that the numerous translations Mr.
Pribbenow provided me were inaccurate in any way.
The charge is an obvious ad hominem attack that attempts to divert the readers' attention from Moyar's substantial work.

The claim that Moyar's Vietnamese sources are not extensive also fails examination, as he pointed out.

The suggestion that the book does not rely extensively on Vietnamese sources is
untenable. In the endnotes can be found over two hundred citations of
Vietnamese-language sources, many of which have never before been cited.
I am not aware of any general history of the war that contains so many
references to Vietnamese-language sources.
The problem with Moyar's work is not his scholarship. It's his challenge to the liberal orthodoxy that has thoroughly infested history departments.

(5) Friend #1 made the following comment | Feb 2, 2008 6:13:26 PM | Permalink

If photos like this scare you, then it's time that you embrace John McCain as your GOP nominee. He doesn't care if the U.S. stays in Iraq for 100 years. With Johnny Mac as your prez, there won't be any American helicopters shown on the six o'clock news, unless they've been shot out of the sky by insurgents who are in the last throes of their insurgency. {Cough-cough.}

You know, John McCain is not only a shoe-in for the GOP nomination, he is the precise candidate the Republican Party deserves. The problem with conservatism is that it no longer exists to any significant degree in the Republican Party. It certainly doesn't exist in most of the right-wing blogosphere, or on Rush Limbaugh's radio show or on the Fixed Noise Channel. Those outlets are water-carriers for GWB, who is NOT a conservative.

Real conservatives -- like Barry Goldwater, who supported smaller government and lower taxes, but would be drummed out of today's GOP because he also supported gay rights and did not preach fanatically for a "culture of life" -- stood idly by while the GOP was hijacked by neo-conservatives and evangelicals.

There was a time when conservatives could disagree with one another without being disagreeable. Not so anymore. How sad was it to watch McCain and Mitt Romney savage one another last week in (of all places) the Reagan Library. McCain essentially calls Romney a spineless flip-flopper (which is actually true), while Romney calls McCain "dishonest" and a candidate who harkens back to the Nixon era of "dirty tricks."

Whatever happened to that supposed Eleventh Commandment Republicans liked to boast about?

And, speaking of Ronald Reagan, how much would today's GOP savage him for "cutting and running" in Lebanon, for granting "amnesty" to illegal aliens and being all wishy-washy for appointing a pragmatist like Sandra Day O'Connor to the United States Supreme Court?

Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter and the right-wing blogosphere would probably have this to say about Reagan, if he were alive today: "He's unpatriotic and cowardly for cutting-and-running in Lebanon. He's obviously pro-terrorism, because he failed to secure our borders. And he's a total pansy when it comes to dealing with the Democrats (indeed, probably a closet liberal), as evidenced by his selection of Sandra Day O'Connor."

So there you would have it. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan, cowardly, unpatriotic, pro-terrorism president with liberal tendencies. I apologize if that sounds blasphemous to some of you, but that's what you've set yourselves up for. Strikingly, the only GOP presidential candidate who apparently does not want to follow the Bush model of expanded government, nation building and spying on our own citizens is Ron Paul. And he is derided as a "clown" on this message board and across the right-wing blogosphere.

John McCain's nomination is as inevitable as it is understandable. Mike Huckabee is too strong to eliminate because of the evangelical wing of the Party. Mitt Romney can't break through because he isn't Christian enough and he can't catch up to McCain when Huckabee is siphoning away so many of Romney's votes. McCain can't be stopped because he has the support of neo-conservative nation builders, who believe (to paraphrase GWB)that "freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man, woman and child."

John McCain is your guy. Love him, embrace him and vote for him. Fall in line behind him. You really don't have much choice. Otherwise, you will have Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as your president, presiding over a Democratically controlled Congress.

Serious question: How long before Limbaugh (after he craps himself on Super Tuesday), Hannity, et al and the right-wing blogosphere all begin back-peddling once it's clear that John McCain is their only hope? How long before the same people who blasted McCain "reluctantly" endorse him?

My guess is, not very long. A fleeting chance to win (or, perhaps, a fear of losing badly) will trump every small concern you currently have about McCain. And, best of all, if McCain wins, you won't have to see a scary Marine Helicopter photograph with people getting onboard for a safe trip home for at least four years.

(6) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 3, 2008 12:32:44 AM | Permalink

Friend #1, you've rather conveniently left out the other 98% of Reagan's record as president. Not even all of that consisted of unabashed victories. (You left out the Iran-Contra scandal, for example.) But as even Barack Obama can candidly recognize (before catching hell for it), Reagan was indeed a transformative president in both the foreign and domestic policy spheres — and for you to suggest otherwise is highly amusing, quite literally incredible.

McCain is no Reagan. I've said I'll vote for him if he's the GOP nominee, and I'll do my best in that event to point out to anyone who'll listen just how incredibly different he'd be as president from whoever the Dems nominate. But I think most of my readers, and an overwhelming majority of my commenters, understand the degree to which McCain is an apostate to the conservative movement.

Romney is admittedly not my first choice, but he's my top choice of the remaining two serious GOP candidates. McCain may become "my guy," but he's not that quite yet.

(7) Friend #1 made the following comment | Feb 3, 2008 9:58:18 AM | Permalink

“Friend #1, you've rather conveniently left out the other 98% of Reagan's record as president."

Beldar, you’ve inconveniently missed 100% of my point.

I was not engaging in a referendum on the Reagan presidency. Had I done so, I would have placed the Iran-Contra scandal front and center. I would have also pointed out that, despite campaigning as an ardent foe of government deficit spending, Reagan left office with a federal debt that was nearly triple its level when he was inaugurated. I would have also pointed out how the rich got richer, while the poor got poorer, in the Reagan economy. I would have cited how the number of families living below the poverty line increased by one-third during the Reagan administration. And I would have argued how and why Reagan’s zeal for deregulation helped create the savings and loan debacle, which left taxpayers holding the bag for billions of dollars in losses.

That being said, the primary point of my initial post was to illustrate how, in today’s toxic political environment, right-wing zealots feel free to conveniently ignore the vast majority of an otherwise conservative candidate’s record and over-emphasize (and, in some instances, completely distort) the tiny remainder. That’s essentially what Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mann Coulter and the right-wing blogosphere have done to John McCain. I found particularly amusing your post which openly questioned John McCain’s capability for selecting judicial nominees, based largely upon his allegiance to fellow Arizonan Sandra Day O’Connor. You illustrated my point about how Ronald Reagan, who appointed O’Connor to the United States Supreme Court, probably would have gotten skewered by today’s right-wing attack machine. That lapse in judgment (for which, in my view, Reagan should be roundly applauded), together with “cutting and running” in Lebanon and granting “amnesty” to illegal aliens would have gotten Reagan drummed out of today’s GOP. You can bet that the loudest voices calling for Reagan’s ouster would have come from those who claim to be Reagan’s disciples. Such is life in today’s upside down, right is left, circular firing squad GOP.

You deserve John McCain and in a few short days, you will have him.

The second point of my initial post was to hopefully prod you and some of your more thoughtful readers into some healthy, political self-reflection. It is my belief that conservatism is literally dying on the American political vine, largely because conservatives do not appear welcome in the Republican Party. Today’s GOP is a splintered lot of evangelicals, neo-conservatives, “liberal” Republicans (such Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Rudy Giuliani, Charlie Christ, etc.) and partisan Republicans, who will rant loudly about which candidates are not sufficiently “conservative,” but will abandon their stated principles and then dutifully fall in line behind their selected candidate. Conservatism is more of a buzz-word than an actual, practiced philosophy in today’s GOP.

I think many of the readers in this forum could benefit by reading or re-reading “The Conscience of a Conservative.” I suggest that you study Goldwater’s later interviews, in which he thoughtfully reconciles conservatism with gay rights and abortion rights. For a more contemporary perspective, you might wish to read Andrew Sullivan’s daily blog.

Once you’ve figured out what a conservative is, ask yourselves whether you are a conservative. If you truly believe that you are a conservative and you want conservatism to survive in the GOP, then stop shooting at one another and go out and fight for your Party!

But that must come in the years ahead. It is already too late for 2008.

For now ... simply continue to use conservatism as a buzz word ... Genuflect to neo-conservatives and evangelicals ... And then back-pedal at the very nanosecond that the last polls close on Super Tuesday and fall in line behind John "My Dear Friends" McCain.

I look forward to many enthusiastic and even a few "reluctant" Johnny Mac endorsements in the days and weeks to come.

(8) Paul Zrimsek made the following comment | Feb 3, 2008 11:09:41 AM | Permalink

I smell an impostor. REAL conservatives are for gay rights, abortion rights, and the gold standard.

(9) Friend #1 made the following comment | Feb 3, 2008 12:01:55 PM | Permalink

Have your nostrils checked. I'm a Democrat.

(10) Paul Zrimsek made the following comment | Feb 3, 2008 12:38:46 PM | Permalink

My nostrils have been compared favorably with Henry Waxman's; I was just having a little fun with you. Your preoccupation with who is or is not a Real Conservative would mark you as a Democrat even if we didn't have Beldar's testimony to go by.

(11) Beldar made the following comment | Feb 3, 2008 1:28:44 PM | Permalink

Friend #1: Reagan did the heavy lifting to finish winning the Cold War (after his predecessor had nearly forfeited the fight, and with an assist from his successor, Bush-41), rebuilt our military, and restored America's pride in itself. He ended stagflation and, through tax cuts and supply side economics, created the economic basis for vast increases that have followed ever since in home ownership, stock ownership, and the realization of the American dream. I'm telling you, you're only making yourself look silly by purporting to lecture me or my readers about how Ronald Reagan would be "drummed out" of the GOP today for being insufficiently conservative. It's like someone who's tone-deaf from birth attempting to be an opera critic, Friend #1.

Andrew Sullivan as a "conservative" icon? Oh dear. Trust me, if only on this one thing: Stop, because you're very severely embarrassing yourself by trying to tell me or my readers what kind of "conservatives" we ought to be. Just stop.

Republicans know that committed Democrats like yourself smell a repeat of 1996, and that you'd enjoy running against McCain as much as Bill Clinton enjoyed running against Bob Dole. As between McCain and Dole, I'd take Dole six days a week and twice on Sunday; but he wasn't a viable presidential candidate then, and McCain isn't one now, even though both are indeed genuine war heroes and both have, from time to time, rendered great service to the GOP.

I do applaud your creativity in abandoning the most popular myth of the Left, which is to the effect that the Right is a vast echo chamber in which dissenting voices are ruthlessly suppressed. Instead you go to the other, equally false extreme, which is to conclude that we're tearing ourselves apart. This is a healthy primary season for both major parties. I know that at bottom, you and I are both firm believers in the two-party system. For it to work, it has to permit, and then heal after, the internal conflicts of the Hillary vs. Barack/Mitt vs. McCain variety.

(12) Friend #1 made the following comment | Feb 3, 2008 3:24:05 PM | Permalink

"Friend #1: Reagan did the heavy lifting to finish winning the Cold War (after his predecessor had nearly forfeited the fight, and with an assist from his successor, Bush-41), rebuilt our military, and restored America's pride in itself. He ended stagflation and, through tax cuts and supply side economics, created the economic basis for vast increases that have followed ever since in home ownership, stock ownership, and the realization of the American dream."

Several things before I duck out to watch the Super Bowl (the football game, not the commercials) ...

First, I very much enjoy the civil and intelligent discussion in this forum. That is directly attributable to the forum's author. Smart message boards attract smart people. I hope I haven't lowered the forum's collective IQ.

Second, for the umpteenth time, this is not a referendum on Ronald Reagan! (Fine, you guys think he's the best president ever. I get it. Those other fellas on Mount Rushmore are total circus clowns.)

But I stand by my statement that Reagan would be drummed out of today's GOP. The only thing that might possibly keep today's Republicans from kicking Ronald Reagan to the curb is that the guy's name is Ronald Reagan. A pro-amnesty president who "cut and ran" from a Middle Eastern conflict and who appointed Sandra Day O'Connor to the United States Supreme Court could never survive the onslaught of right-wing media and the right-wing blogosphere. If the candidate's name were John Smith, he'd never get through the GOP primary.

Second, I *never* said Andrew Sullivan was a conservative "icon." I simply pointed you to Sullivan's daily blog for some "contemporary perspective," as the meaning of conservatism seems to be one of Sullivan's ongoing themes.

Beldar, I noticed that you failed to mention Barry Goldwater and his clashes with the modern GOP. I found that to be an interesting omission.

Finally, that I am a Democrat does not disqualify me from commenting on conservatism. I think it's a legitimate topic for discussion in what is purportedly a conservative forum. Any attempt to gloss over the obvious fractures within the GOP as a "healthy primary season for BOTH major parties" is false and misleading. Democrats are extremely enthused about their major candidates, and that is reflected by the stratospheric voter turnouts in virtually every primary.

Republicans, not so much.

You can either recognize and weigh in on the historic struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, or you can pretend that it is all just a passing phase. As I've mentioned, it's too late for this campaign season. For now you'll have to fall in behind John McCain. It won't be enough to continually and viciously attack Hillary or Barack, you'll have to embrace Johnny Mac if you want to win in November.

I was just curious as all.

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