Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Credibility Games

"...[A] military defeat was acceptable provided Washington lost with some demonstrable cost, perhaps even after deploying 100,000 troops...[D]efeat in Vietnam would protect American credibility globally and the credibility of the Johnson administration domestically."

Gordon M Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam

That's some twisted Cold War logic: Show the world and the opposition at home that you're not soft on communism and are prepared to expend big resources (i.e. people) to show that you are not a "paper tiger." This is straight out of the futile gambits of kings recorded by Herodotus: war moves.

Of all the Vietnam War mistakes and disasters, the pursuit of "credibility" is the most repugnant in light of everything leading up to the commitment of ground forces and everything that came after. It combines in the worst way intellectual hubris, narrow political calculus, and human indifference.

On a happy note, I was pleased to read that Hubert Humphrey raised fundemental questions about the war in its early years.

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