Friday, August 25, 2006
Vietnam versus Iraq: A Fair Comparison (Part 3)
"A nation whose modern history has been an almost uninterrupted chronicle of success...should be so sure of its own power as to be capable of magnanimity."- Senator J. William Fullbright, 1967.
"There is more respect to be won in the opinion of the world by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than in the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives"- George Kennan, 1967.
The men I have quoted are thoroughly American, but to the ears of anyone attuned to the traditional rhetoric of American myth, their words will set up an immediate dissonance. One might, were it not for the derogatory connotations that cling to the word, call their pronouncements "un-American".
For anyone who seriously entertains a solution for a war other than "victory", or who admit that a grave domestic problem simply has no visible solution, is clearly marching out of tune with the chorus of the American Way. He is marching to another drum. It may be the drum of the future (and I rather suspect that it is) but not that of the past--of tradition.
In the American past, and in the predominant mind of the present as well, all wars end in victory and all problems have solutions. Both victory and solution might require some patience, but not very much.
The idea of admitting defeat and the prospect of living patiently with an unsolved social problem are...unthinkable thoughts for most Americans.
The characteristic American adjustment to the current foreign and domestic enigmas that confound our national myths has not been to abandon the myths but to reaffirm them.