February 02, 2005

A Thought Experiment on Iraq

Read the following paragragh. As you are reading, replace the words in the original text with words referring to our actions in Iraq:

Replace "Kennedy Administration" with "George W. Bush Administration"

Replace "Eisenhower" with "Clinton"

Replace "Asia" with "the Middle East"

Replace "Vietnam" with "Iraq"

Replace "Ho Chi Minh" with "Zarqawi" or "Bin Laden"

Replace "Communist" with "Islamic"

Replace "Diem" with "Allawi"

Replace "Domino Theory" with "Theory that says Al Queda is hierarchical and tied to states like Saddam's"

(If anyone can find a better replacement for Domino Theory, I'm open to suggestions. This phrase is awkward, but close.)

But the Kennedy Administration did not re-evaluate any of the Eisenhower conceptions in Asia; if anything, the Kennedy people would set out to upgrade and modernize the means of carrying out those policies. Later, as their policies floundered in Vietnam, they would lash out in frustration at their own personnel there, at the reporters, at the imcompetence of the client government. What they did not realize was the the problem was not just American personnel, which was often incompetence, nor the governmental reporting, which was highly dishonest, nor the client government, which was just as bad as its worst critics claimed - the real problem was the failure to re-examine the assumptions of the era, particularly in Asia. There was no real attempt, when the new Adminstration came in, to analyze Ho Ci Minh's position in terms of the Vietnamese people and in terms of the larger Communist world, to establish what Diem represented, to to determine whether the domino theory was in fact valid. Each time the question of the domino theory was sent to intelligence experts for evaluation, they would send back answers which reflected their doubts about its validity, but the highest level of government left the domino theory alone. It was as if, by questioning it, they might have revealed its emptiness, and would then have been forced to act on their new discovery. In fact, the President's own public statements on Laos and Vietnam...reflected if not his endorsement of the domino theory, then his belief that he could not yet challenge it, and by his failure to challenge it, the necessity to go along with it.


The quote comes from David Halbertam's book The Best and the Brightest (pg. 122 in my version). When I finish it, I'll post a full review.

Posted by baltar at February 2, 2005 03:13 PM | TrackBack | Posted to International Affairs

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