Published 6 July 2020, reposted 8 July 2020:
This is a personal reminiscence/discussion, nothing to do with property, prompted by a newsletter I read shortly after posting Monday’s property report newsletter, with, at the front of my mind, the many conversations in recent months about insane political events, especially in the US.
A newsletter, Tom Dispatch from US writer Tom Engelhardt, sent me back to 1965 today, to the era of the US war on Vietnam (as distinct from the French war there and the war between North-South, South-Viet Cong).
In the newsletter, Tom has written about about-to-be-journalist Jonathan Schell, 4 years my senior, who arrived in Vietnam with, it seems, a more detached view of life than that of the regular press corps. He saw the destruction from his aerial vantage points as highly effective removal of all life on the ground, and obliteration of all structures.
What he also saw was that pulverising “the enemy” and all else to achieve a lasting peace was futile: “… our policies were destroying whatever support that [South Vietnamese] government might ever have had, which was probably about zero to begin with… The more we ‘won,’ the more we lost.”
I know when I receive these newsletters that the author opposed that war, and today opposes the Trump style of government, but I read them more for his soft, insightful style in achieving a point than for the point I know he’s going to make.
The start of the (boys’) school year in the 1960s was a week of cadets, khakis & platoons on the march for most of us, trying to hit the woodwork room roof behind the red brick rifle range (by accident, of course) on those few occasions when we were allowed to fire bullets from our .303s.
In my final year at school, then called 6A, ours was an unusual class. First, it was the biggest the school had had (the post-war boom). Second, we could opt out of cadets, certainly so if we were still privates. But we couldn’t just skive off. So, third, we had a large group of non-militarists spending the week debating a war which a majority in the country disagreed with.
This was at a time when US President Lyndon Johnson had started escalating the war effort, lifting the US military force from thousands to half a million.
In our classroom debates we saw what journalist Jonathan Schell was writing about: the domino theory applied to South-east Asia meant that if one nation fell to communism, the pressure would then increase on the next one until it fell too.
From Jonathan Schell: “Even the domino theory seemed to fall apart in the face of intense nationalism, support for reunification throughout Vietnam, and the historical conflicts between Vietnam & China.
“But the one justification that proved most durable was this idea of credibility. Fighting for American credibility was not a tangible goal; it was the defence of an image – an image of vast national strength and the will to use it.”
Jonathan Schell noted that nuclear powers couldn’t fight a war because everybody would lose, including the theoretical winner. Vietnam was a proxy, using standard weaponry, not nuclear.
Move forward to 2020, the year of supposedly super-clear vision, and what do we have?
The US still involves itself in similar wars around the world, and still foments upheaval on behalf of capitalism. Communism is still the No 1 enemy, even in the wake of the vast, socialist handout of money by the US Government in corporate welfare to avert the decline posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, though not to avert the pandemic itself.
In short: We have grown older, but not yet wiser.
Attribution: Bob Dey, Tom Engelhardt, Jonathan Schell.