La Guerre Revient Avec Robb

March 13th, 2012

Here’s Robb’s second post on Vietnam, which I think will provoke as much discussion as the first one did.


Part II

Vietnam as an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy

One of the unintended, and by far the most unfortunate, byproducts of the Vietnam War was the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge.

There was a time, several centuries ago, when Cambodia was the chief power on the Southeast Asian peninsula. Those days were long gone and by the time the Twentieth Century rolled around, Cambodia had the bad luck to find itself situated between two incredibly fierce and powerful forces: Vietnam and Thailand. Whatever happened in these two countries resonated strongly in Cambodia.

So – moving quickly – the Vietnamese, fighting a hit and run guerilla war, found it convenient to hide out in the Cambodian jungle, Nixon thought it would be a terrific idea to bomb them in situ, it wasn’t, (there are few things less effective than bombing a jungle trying to hit a soldier) Cambodia was sucked into the vortex of the war and when the dust settled, it had possibly the most savage and murderous government in human history.

Portraits from the Cambodian Killing Fields

If you read my first installment, you’ll remember that I took the position that there was some justification for the Vietnam War. Simply stated, if the communist bloc had the energy to attack every vulnerable country in the world and we had no energy to defend them, communism, with all its weaknesses could sustain itself simply through expansion and victory alone.

Disagree? That’s fine. The only position I’m willing to argue is that nobody knows. It’s possible that communism could have expanded indefinitely and collapsed anyway. It’s also possible that, seeing no resistance from the U.S. and the free world, every Asian country, indeed any country anywhere would have fallen to the ‘red menace’ or made a fatal accommodation with it. The only way to be sure of our opinions is to let history play out, then rewind the tape and do it the other way, (or any number of other ways) and see if that works better.

What’s that? We can’t do that? Bummer.

So it happened the way it did and the argument that I am willing to make is that I believe most of us have misinterpreted the result.

Which leads me back to the observation that I averred in the title of this piece: from the moment of their ‘victory’ onward, Vietnam became an instrument of American foreign policy.

Start with this. China, having sponsored the war along with the Soviets, expected gratitude and accommodation from the Vietnamese. Very little or none was forthcoming. One of the things China wanted was a strong say in the politics of Vietnam. Nope. Another was Chinese hegemony over the gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. No joy there either. The Chinese sent an army down to the border to ‘teach the Vietnamese a lesson’. What happened? The war hardened Vietnamese TOTALLY KICKED THEIR ASS. The Chinese quickly realized what a disaster a second Vietnam war would be (this time against their red brethren) and backed off, accepting their limitations. How else can you interpret this other than a victory for America?

The struggle between China and Vietnam over the gulf and other issues continues to the present moment.

Cut to Cambodia. These were the days before cell phones with cameras, the internet, Facebook, etc, but the world gradually became aware of the genocidal horror that was taking place there. I can’t imagine, and I certainly can’t understand any American who didn’t have some impulse to go in there and stop the madness, but of course, after twelve years in Vietnam, the political possibility of another land war in south Asia was zero. Even the iconic anti war senator, George McGovern confessed to this impulse while granting the impossibility of it.


And…? VIETNAM DID IT FOR US. They invaded a fellow communist state, deposed the government, threw out the murderers, bore the expense, asked nothing from us or anyone else and eventually released Cambodia to its own recognizance.

Compare that with the present situation in say… Pakistan. We pay billions every year so the Pakistanis will pretend to be our ally in ‘the war against terror’ while they channel this wealth to support the Taliban, harbor terrorists from Bin Laden on down and plot ways to destroy our ally, India.

With friends like Pakistan, who needs enemies?

With enemies like Vietnam… well, we could use a few more like ‘em.


25 Responses to “La Guerre Revient Avec Robb”

  1. EverettK Says:

    Hindsight is 20-20, but past results can not be used, of course, to predict future results from similar actions.

    For example, if we accept your theses (in these two columns, and let’s, just for argument’s sake), then one might say, “Hey, we’ve put up the good fight in Afganistan, it’s time to pull out, because then the Afgans, war-hardened, will stand up to everyone around them, go into Pakistan and kick butt against the horrible government there, and also withstand any further encroachments from Russia!”

    I know you’re not arguing that, but…

    If we’d not ‘invaded’ Vietnam, it’s quite possible the Kmer Rouge would not have risen to power in Cambodia and killed several millions of people. We’ll never know.

    But colonialism (the French, in this case, all over Indonesia) and “nation building,” throughout history, has rarely lead to the kind of success originally envisioned (other than short-term profits, which is usually what it’s all about anyway).

  2. robb royer Says:

    I usually wait for a few more comments before responding, but your toss-up, Ev, is irresistible. I know your comparison is half in jest but I expect no such benefit from Afghanistan. The difference is that Vietnam was a nationalistic movement first and a communist one only secondarily. I don’t think any of the three major powers fully recognized that at the time. We learned it later, to America’s delight and China’s dismay.

    The Taliban are not even Afghani; they are Pakistani Pashtuns. So I don’t expect them ever to be anything but an arm of Pakistani extremism, a situation that will probably exist until the Pakis (if they ever do) relinquish their obsessive hatred of India.

    Afghanistan has, however, already served as a buffer against Russian southern expansion.

  3. michael hallinan Says:

    In wars that are fought for reasons other than self defense the army is always an arm of extremism.

  4. Gary Says:

    “Unfortunate byproduct” in Cambodia? Millions dead, unthinkably barbaric torture, under the most horrific government since Hitler.

    And after creating this horrific mess, the US actually supported the right of the obscene thing called the Khmer Rouge to represent Cambodia in the UN. As an alternative to the evil invading Communist Vietnamese.

    I’ve run out of words.

  5. Philip Coggan Says:

    Gary’s second para about the US supporting the Khmer Rouge after 1989 is quite right – the support extended further than just diplomatic support, there was also covert military support.

    And it’s pretty much generally agreed that if the US hadn’t bombed Cambodia before 1975 the KR would never have come to power there.

    So the US brought the Khmer Rouge to power in Cambodia, albeit unintentionally, and then supported them later. Hardly an edifying foreign policy.

  6. robb royer Says:

    I don’t know how many of you caught it but the 27th response to my first article was from a man named Mike Schimmer, who was stationed in Thailand when Vietnam fell. He congratulates us on a reasoned and polite discussion on a complex and potentially very emotional issue.

    Therefore I was surprised (since I thought part 2 was actually less controversial) at Gary’s comments, in which his indignation fairly well crackles off the screen. Gary, you say you’ve run out of words which is probably lucky for me, for I suspect whatever words that were due to follow wouldn’t have been very complimentary.

    You criticize me for my use of the inadequate phrase ‘unfortunate byproduct’ to describe the murderous Khmer Rouge rule. I also use the words ‘genocidal horror’ and ‘madness’ a few sentences later. Perhaps you didn’t read that far.

    Be that as it may, I don’t claim to know everything and I am willing to be educated by you if you have a point, so your response set off a frenzied eight hours of net research to check out your claim of US support for the Khmer regime.

    I found a few articles. One was by Edward S. Herman, a co author of Noam Chomsky’s, who writes a predictably hysterical screed accusing us of secret aid to the KR and practically everything else you can imagine.

    The unwavering position of the Chomsky group is that the US has no right ever to project any power anywhere in the world at any time for any reason. (The only other purely bad force is apparently Israel)

    Another is by one Jack Colhoun who writes in a magazine called Covert Action under the heading ‘Third World Traveler’. Same sort of stuff.

    More credible is Jack Pilger, a highly awarded Australian writer who was one of the first to go into Cambodia after the fall the the Khmer. He has a lot of good information but, as Christopher Hitchens noted, even when you agree with his allegations you have to dance uncomfortably around his anti Americanism (in almost every sentence) to gather any useful information.

    The overriding principle is ‘anti Americanism trumps everything’. If they accidentally find themselves on the same side as the US they will abruptly switch sides even if they were passionately arguing the reverse days earlier.

    Example. Here’s Chomsky writing in Dissent magazine in 1978: ‘even if (as is highly unlikely) stories of Khmer Rouge atrocities are true, it is all America’s fault.’

    When enough left wing journalists checked in with proof of the atrocities, he completely switches his thrust and makes sweeping claims about US and KR complicity.

    Now Gary, ‘a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest’. Maybe this kind of allegation rings true for you. I tend to go with more above-ground and, from my point of view, less biased sources.

    When I say American policy opposed the KR killing fields, I am compressing: every statement from every senator or congressman I ever heard, every article I ever saw in any American newspaper or newsmagazine, or any broadcast. I never heard one word of support for the KR from any American source (except of course Chomsky.

    In fairness there are two credible comments from American Secretaries of State that surfaced years after the fall of the KR. Kissinger supposedly said to the Chinese foreign minister ‘they’re a murderous gang, we can’t support them but you can.’ Brezinski reportedly made a similar comment, in camera, but he denies it.

    These comments, if indeed made at all, stem from the way alliances fell out after the fall of Saigon. Geopolitically, the alliances that coalesced in the region were Vietnam and the Soviets on one side and the US, China and Cambodia on the other. That led to some unfortunate mealy mouthing by US reps for China’s benefit. I don’t defend this, by the way, which explains why I’m no diplomat.

    This partially explains the UN situation that you refer to. After hours of research I could find no reference to any US, or US led vote for the KR. There was a vote for a tripartite group of which the KR rump state was a third member to retain the seat at the expense of the Vietnam installed government.

    The UN as we have seen over and over can tolerate any amount of internal atrocity, but cross a border and they go nuts. That’s what is happening in Syria right now.

    I’m sure we can agree on one thing: Kissinger and Nixon were a criminal gang and a toxic combination. Yes, terrible things have happened in our name, but I do not consider them emblematic of this nation or it’s greater purpose.

  7. EverettK Says:

    Robb said: Yes, terrible things have happened in our name, but I do not consider them emblematic of this nation or it’s greater purpose.

    Agreed. In western Oregon we have a saying: If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes. The same things applies to politics and “the national mood” of pretty much any group of people large enough to matter. “This country” has done glorious, miraculous things, and has done horrible, disgusting things. That’s to be expected, any time you’re dealing with hundreds of millions of people. You’re dealing with a bell curve. Sometimes you’re lucky and hit the far right end of the curve, sometimes you’re unlucky and hit the far left. Fortunately the big fat middle is there to save us from TOO much stupidity MOST of the time.

    But people (individually and as a group) are a kind of inverse bell curve: the vast majority tend to be split into opposing camps (over any subject of your choice), either very pro- or very anti-, with only a thin slice in the middle that are willing to think, consider and act out of reason rather than reaction. With luck, the opposing camps can usually remain relatively balanced against each other, allowing that thinking, considering, reasoning ‘middle’ to make the deciding decisions (redundancy is doubly good…). The unfortunate times in our history tend to be when the ranks of one side or the other of that inverse bell-curve swell so large that it tips the ship and we all sink (to mix a few metaphors in my shot glass).

    Fortunately, on MOST things, MOST people are pretty good-hearted, as long as you can dodge and weave and duck and avoid striking their knee-jerk reaction chords.

  8. Suzanna Says:

    Hi, Robb

    Putting myself out on a limb here but it’s extremely rare that I have believed war was justified. Especially one as ridiculous as the Vietnam war. Call me naive, call me a lefty, call me a member of the Chomsky group, but I don’t believe in waging all out war on a tiny nation over ideological and political differences. Yeah, there are some lunatics out there, Hitler comes to mind, who deserved to be taken out in swift and no uncertain terms, but there are many many more instances that I believed war could have been avoided. Period.

    I like to think that sometimes politicians and historians don’t always have the best perspective on this.

    The Dalai Lama beautifully sums up what I honestly believe is a more powerful way to solve our differences. We’ve tried it the old way for so long. Really what good has come of it? Enough already.

    “Although violence and the use of force may appear powerful and decisive their benefits are short-lived. Violence can never bring a long term resolution to any problem because it is unpredictable and for every problem it seems to solve, others are created. On the other hand truth remains constant and will ultimately prevail.” — Dalai Lama

  9. munyin Says:

    Sana: Tim read your response out loud to me and I am impressed how you can say what I can’t even begin to express. I totally agree with you and thank you for writing your pov.

  10. Suzanna Says:

    Well, thanks, Mun. I suppose I had it on my mind for awhile but had to wait for the fog to lift long enough to find a way to say it.

    I feel like Kermit the Frog when I say, it’s not easy being a pacifist, but I’m heartened that there are others like yourself, out there, who believe in trying to fight for peace rather than waging war.

  11. robb royer Says:

    All I can say is, I’m a little saddened and frustrated if a fifty years after-the-fact analysis of the aftermath of a particular war was interpreted by anyone as an advocacy of war itself.

  12. Suzanna Says:

    I’m sorry if I misinterpreted your analysis, Robb, and certainly don’t want to add to your frustration level. I suppose what went wrong on my end is taking one of your first statements in this installment, “there was some justification for the Vietnam War,” and making the assumption that you supported the action taken by the United States. I certainly am willing to reread both of your entries to understand where I dropped the thread. Sorry to make you feel sad : (

  13. michael hallinan Says:

    If you are standing please sit down (ladies first) and you may want to fan yourself with old copies of the Daily Worker BUT I agree with Robb. Nowhere in our communal discussions did Robb ever promote war over peace. This is just the kind of discussion that could have deteriorated into a verbal donnybrook just in time for St Patrick’s day. (Good timing Robb!) It is a credit to all that took part that the powder keg never blew. More over Robb may be a historical revisionist but he’s OUR historical revisionist. Miceman

  14. Suzanna Says:

    I’ll be glad to see just what it is I’m agreeing or disagreeing with, Miceman, once I give it this whole thing another gander. I’ll get back to you all. I believe he promoted the idea that the action we took in Vietnam had some justification, or perhaps some benefit, not sure how that wasn’t a hint at being in some agreement with the actions taken, but I will take another look.

  15. michael hallinan Says:

    I agree with Suzanna. The artist formerly known as Miceman

  16. robb royer Says:

    Ohgodohgodohgod. Please don’t let me step on my dick here…

    … and before I say anything else, let me say how disoriented I am to be defended by Michael.

    Mice, thanks Bud but I am going to step out from under your aegis. (By defending me you fortify my suspicion that what you really are is a true contrarian).

    Yes, Suz, I did say that there was some justification to the Vietnam war. I went to huge lengths to put that comment in further perspective but obviously I was not clear enough. My fault. Let me try again.

    The (what I thought were) perspective adding comments was the whole discussion of how we don’t know, sometimes even after the fact, what were the actual results of our actions. Hindsight provides a lot but not everything. To paraphrase myself, the only way we can know if a war or any other action is wise or justified, is to roll back the clock, observe the result, and try it again any number of other ways. Even then all we may get is a muddled conclusion.

    I am certainly not an advocate of war, but I think it’s absolutely meaningless to simply say you are against war per se and not provide any other context.

    To engage in a little reductio ad absurdum:

    If a stranger was holding a knife to the throat of your child and you had a gun, would you shoot him or wait until he further clarified his intentions?

    If you said you’d shoot him, this makes you on some level, warlike and preemptive. If you said you wouldn’t, I’d call you a fool.

    This on a national level is the choice every president is faced with and he doesn’t have either hindsight or historical replays to work with.

    In hindsight the Vietnam War certainly looks shitty but the only way we can say for sure that Kennedy didn’t prevent Word War III is to roll it back and do it some other way.

    Of course I knew I’d get a lot of pushback from this (mostly liberal) group with my controversial scribblings but what bothers me is when a lot of conversational honing is skipped over and we’re left with comments like (not that this is exactly what you said) ‘I’m against war’.

    Me too. I’m against war. But what world are we living in?

    You say ‘Hitler should have been taken out in swift and uncertain terms’. When was that opportunity? Most historians would agree it was when he remilitarized the Rhineland. The French could have easily chased him off with a less than a division. Hitler was not rearmed at that point, would have had to retreat and would have been quickly deposed.

    At least fifty million lives would have been saved by a ‘warlike’ French action, but how preemptive can you get? All Hitler did was move a small army INTO AN AREA OF HIS OWN COUNTRY. Peace lovers everywhere hailed French restraint. Churchill was practically the only public voice that disagreed and he was reviled as a warmonger. The French didn’t move and look at the result.

    You feel safe in using Hitler as your one exception but I suggest to you, that is with the benefit of a hell of a lot of hindsight. I further suggest the only difference between Hitler, Pol Pot Ghaddafi, Saddam and any number of other dictators was the power of Germany.

    What Tom Brokaw described as the greatest generation, when they looked at the unspeakable destruction of World War II, asked themselves, what are the lessons here? The answer the majority came up with was: don’t retreat into isolationism and don’t let things get too far out of hand.

    Sorry, but what that means on certain occasions is preemptive conflict.

    Am I recommending fighting everyone everywhere at the drop of a hat? Of course not. When to do it is an agonizing decision every president must make. I am just trying to get people to look past safe and comfortable assumptions.

    I dearly love both you and Mun (and Mice) and I hope you don’t think I’m a warmonger.

  17. Gary Says:

    Robb, I may also be guilty of reading into your writing what isn’t there.

    For example, when you say something like “this (mostly liberal) group” I tend to interpret that as: if you’re anywhere to the left of Rush Limbaugh your (liberal) opinions are somehow of less value. [Tell me: is it only in the USA that a positive word like “liberal” has become a political term of abuse?]

    And when I read that “anti-Americanism trumps everything” it seems to me to dismiss the value of anything like Chomsky or Jack Colhoun (or a careful scholarly study such as Michael Hass’s “Cambodia, Pol Pot, and the United States: the Faustian pact”), because they show US foreign policy in a less than favorable light – and therefore they all have to be just “the same sort of stuff”.

    If that’s the paradigm I find it hard to see how we can have a balanced debate. But if I’ve misread you I apologize.

  18. Suzanna Says:

    Read your reply Robb, and going through some family stuff that requires my attention right now but please know I am very interested in trying to learn exactly what you mean and finding some context to give my point of view some more weight.

    I’m not the intellectual or historically astute match for you. I mostly just speak from the heart but I’ll give it a good old UC Berkeley try to see what I can do to honestly answer some pretty serious questions in greater context than my big old heart.

    I love you too, Robb, and you too, Mice, but that was never in question in my mind, even if we may be on opposite ends of a very interesting debate.

    Til soon!

  19. robb royer Says:

    Gary, I accept your apology.

    Let’s start.

    I am pro choice.
    I am anti drug war.
    I am for complete separation of church and state and am somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist, whatever the difference is.
    I believe in global warming and detest the weird unexplainable hate campaign against even studying the matter.
    To summarize, there is no social issue on which I am not on the liberal side.

    I worked for Kennedy, voted for Humphrey and Johnson and supported Obama (although logistics prevented me from getting to the polls that year)and plan to vote for Obama next time.

    I didn’t vote for Clinton or Gore but didn’t vote for any of their Republican opponents either.

    I think Rush Limbaugh is the biggest piece of slime that ever crawled the earth.

    My favorite news sources are CNN BBC and Huffington post (although I read most of the others).

    I think ALL the Republican candidates, not just the four remaining, are clowns and that the Republican party has lost all moderation and sailed off a cliff into the arms of the tea party and religious fanatics.

    Did you read my piece on Newt Gingrich?

    Oh yeah, and my parents met at a Communist party meeting in 1939.

    Sound like a classic right winger to you?

    I appreciate that you allowed in advance that you might be misreading me and for that I thank you. In creates an open door and gives us room to operate.

    What I really am is a true independent who throws his weight to the left or the right depending on who I think is most wrong at the time. Right now I’m way on the left.

    My particular emphasis is trying to get liberals and progressives to understand that their interests are far different than those of the classic anti-American far left.

    My background gives me a unique perspective. By the time I was cognizant my father was an ex communist liberal democrat but by then was very anti communist, knew all their tricks from having worked ten years or so in the party and was schooling me in politics from the time I could speak so I could answer my maternal grandmother, who was still a foaming at the mouth Red propagandist.

    I’m told from the age of five onward I was a pretty good political debater and drove Red Rose of Senior City nuts.

    This argument can only be mounted from a moderate left position. The right completely discount themselves with their mindless lunacy and tend to drive all people who occupy the left of center

    This is why I liked Christopher Hitchens so much. He was a Trotskyist who had a political awakening and spent the last years of his life trying to expose the far left.

    It’s not that the Chomskyists simply show the US policy in a less than favorable light they completely distort every issue to America’s detriment and have never met an anti American dictator they didn’t like. They attack Israel, defend Saddam, Stalin, the Ayatollahs et al.

    True progressives who love democracy have nothing at all in common with them
    but there are very few progressive voices who can articulately point this out and we recently lost the best of them. I try to carry on in my meager way.

    If I may suggest in all respect, it sounds like you read Chomsky and the leftists without the proper degree of skepticism. I would be glad to take up any issue with you on a case by case basis to show how they take the facts, real, partial, or of whole cloth and weave them into a fabric of deceitful anti US propaganda.

    America is far from blameless and I understand this. I could do an hour on Nixon, Kissinger and Chile.

    But ‘the world according to Chomsky is pure fiction born of some weird self hatred, American who hates America, Jew who hates the Jewish state, democrat who has defended every dictator who has ever lived.

    As long as their anti American.

    Again, thank you for the opportunity to express my view. Hope to hear from you soon.

  20. Gary Says:

    Jacob Bronowski said, standing beside a pool of human ashes at Auschwitz, that when people claim an arrogant possession of absolute truth, this is how they behave.

    Every time I walk out of my apartment in Phnom Penh I see the legacy of what Nixon did: amputees, war widows, families who lost loved ones under the Khmer Rouge. All because he was certain that the dominoes had to be stopped.

    Bronowski quoted the words of Cromwell: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” If you and I, and enough other people on this planet, can concede at least that much, there may still be a way forward.

  21. robb royer Says:



  22. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    This has been a great discussion, and what stands out most clearly to me is the undiminished incendiary power of the Vietnam War, more than fifty years later. It still ties us up in knots emotionally, sometimes making it impossible for us to look at it dispassionately.

    Not that we necessarily need to. It’s probably good that so many of us still get fired up about it and can’t separate the horrific realities of the event itself from its possible historical consequences.

    I think there are a lot of reasons for its enduring power and unfading colors. It was the first war to be televised for one thing, and the images were unforgettable. It was, arguably, the first time the United Stated lied systematically to its people for years on end–and got caught. The disconnect between the government’s announcements and the pictures on our TV screens–and between the government version and the reporting from Saigon by people like David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan–widened the “credibility gap.” And the war (here in America) was a flashpoint for other gaps: generational, political, cultural, and even racial.

    (Seems to me that the whole “Life doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to us” mindset was essentially racist, as were indiscriminate carpet-bombing, napalm, and the wholesale saturation of huge swathes of countryside with herbicides.)

    See? I’m still riled up.

    But I want to thank all of you for not venturing across the brink of reason during this discussion, and I especially want to thank Robb for getting us all so irritated in the first place.

    Next up: a blog by a really fine crime writer, Jaden Terrell.

  23. Suzanna Says:


    I finally reread both of your entries, and all of the ensuing commentary as carefully as I could, and now fully understand that your analysis and opinions were directed at the aftermath, the geopolitical implications of the Vietnam War and not a debate about war vs. peace. I appreciate the effort that you took to carefully lay out your opinion. But I continue to have a hard time dispelling my own sense of doubt about the worthiness of a war that cost so much human suffering. I personally cannot remove or separate that huge factor from the equation and just look at whether or not we’re better off because communism didn’t take hold. When I think about the aftermath of the Vietnam War there is little, if any good, that I can think of.

    I don’t have much to add to the discussion that has already transpired regarding the finer points of your analysis, and your essential belief that we “won” the war because we caused the downfall of communism. I agree with some of the others here who have already stated that communism probably would have fallen flat on its own without us ever showing up in Vietnam.

    But, again, we will never really know the answer to that, will we?

    Perhaps, it is true that unless we have a show of force as fierce as the previous wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and the current debacle in Afghanistan, that we will lose world domination. I imagine there are many who believe it is worth the loss of life, and tremendous amounts of taxpayer dollars to continue to aggressively fight wars to maintain that, in my opinion, not always honorable position.

    While I appreciate what a difficult job a President has in deciding whether or not to go to war that does not automatically excuse those who have held the office and opted not to show restraint.

    As an aside, I wonder what a different country we would be living in today if our War Presidents decided against going to war and put the money we’ve spent in our war chest to positive use instead? In my book that would mean that health care was a right not a privilege; we would choose to educate and care for children rather than build more prisons to incarcerate the ones we failed to take care of in the first place; we would invest in alternative energy sources rather than fight our way into largest share of every natural resource around the world to fuel our insatiable appetite for comfort and convenience, so forth and so on, I’m sure you get the essence of where my political leanings lie.

    At the same time, I am willing to concede that based on history human beings will never quit aggressively fighting each other for power and control, no matter what the cost. But how will we ever disprove history if we don’t try?

    On a more personal note, and in answer to a dilemma that you posed, I am not the type of pacifist who would claim that I would sit calmly by and watch while someone threatened my child’s life. I believe I stated in my previous reply that there are instances for which war is justified, and if protecting a loved one from harms way isn’t the most primal response of any good parent than I don’t know what is, and if I’m not a true pacifist because I would kill to protect my own child then so be it.

    Finally, I touted giving my reply a good old UC Berkeley try, but if this were an essay I had to turn into my professor I’m pretty sure he would not be pleased for the lack of factual and historical detail. I’d probably get a C grade if I were lucky. For that I apologize both to you, and to my beloved professor.

  24. robb royer Says:


    Well conceived, well argued. I would give you much higher grade than a ‘C’.

    I won’t go to any great length here except to reiterate that my use of the word ‘won’ was just a blunt object way of countering the equally simplistic and widely held notion that we ‘lost’, observing that subsequent events that turned in our favor would mitigate such a notion.

    I’ll use this space to note that I was surprised to see that what I intended as an intellectual argument actually seemed to cause some readers pain, and for that I’m very sorry.

    The subject that is raised, but not answered is: does one have to feel an overwhelming revulsion to wars past to know to avoid war in the future? I don’t know the answer to that but some obviously feel so.

    As far as emotional and humanistic impulses go, mine are more similar to yours than you might imagine.

  25. Suzanna Says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Robb.

    You asked, “Does one have to feel an overwhelming revulsion to wars past to know to avoid war in the future?”

    I think it’s a fascinating question, and given your capacity to research and analyze, you could find some interesting examples of how nations have shaped their foreign policy following difficult conflicts.

    A future blog post, perhaps?

    Looking forward to your next post, whatever the subject might be.

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