WORSE THAN VIETNAM
The Morning Call sees the Best and the Brightest strike out again
Back when the evacuation of Afghanistan began – which was just a couple of weeks ago but feels like years – we suggested (on Tweeter) that when all was said and done, America’s ignominious retreat from Baghdad would be several orders of magnitude worse than its ignominious retreat from Saigon.
Now, we don’t want to give you the impression that we think that this disaster is anything to get excited about, but we kinda feel it necessary to note that “we told you so.” Optics aside, the withdrawal from Saigon was actually a rather effectively executed operation. The withdrawal from Kabul was…well…not. It was a catastrophe, and there really should be no question about that.
Sadly, however, there IS a question about it, largely because the Biden folks continue to insist that all is well and that we should remain calm, even as they are crushed like Kevin Bacon under a mad rush of spectators fleeing the Faber College homecoming parade. In a sane world, Biden, et al. would be laughed out of public life. But this is not a sane world. And Americans are not a sane people. Americans are a deeply pathological people, quite frankly, and should probably be kept away from sharp knives.
The sources of the nation’s pathologies are both varied and complicated. But the source of this particular pathology, this specific neurosis – which insists that Biden did the right thing, performed nobly and effectively, and will be remembered as a great and victorious leader – is considerably less so. The blame for this bit of nuttiness falls squarely on the shoulders of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.
Seriously. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.
Longtime readers may already know where this is going: down a path we’ve trod several times before.
We’ll be blunt. Nixon was corrupt. He deserved what he got. He was not wronged or persecuted. All of that said, however, his adversaries in Watergate were less than heroic – public perception notwithstanding.
Mark Felt – i.e. Deep Throat – was a bitter, unlikable, dishonest, petty federal bureaucrat who was passed over for a job he thought he deserved (Director of the FBI) and responded by getting even.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story – were merely the conduit by which Mark Felt accomplished his task. They were his pawns, and because they were also fame-hungry, they were willing pawns.
There were no good guys in the Watergate saga.
Of course, that’s not how the story has been told. In the official Watergate tale ©, Deep Throat was a brave insider trying to take down a corrupt president. Woodward and Bernstein, for their parts, were…well…Redford and Hoffman. In real life, Bob Woodward has made a career out being the guy to whom government officials leak the stories they want sympathetically told. And Carl Bernstein has made a career out of being the guy who was assigned to work with Bob Woodward that one time. But in the movies, they were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – or…we guess…the Sundance Kid and Tootsie, more accurately.
Were it not for All the “President’s Men,” most people today would have no idea who Woodward and Bernstein are. Actually, back that up a minute. Most people today have no idea who Woodward and Bernstein are. The only people who do know are political junkies and journalists, the latter of which are all taught that they should grow up to be just like Woodward and Bernstein and who all buy into the myth and agree to grow up to be just like Woodward.
In an era in which journalists are overwhelmingly Left-leaning in their political predilections, the Bob Woodward character and the job of “heroic, counter-cultural journalist” have morphed into “heroic thorn in Republicans’ sides and defender of all that is good and righteous and Democratic.” Guys like (fittingly enough) The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler are bound and determined, during this difficult time for our nation, to ensure that internet randos are firmly put in their place and that President Biden is allowed to move past all of this with his dignity intact. They see their job as countering the “Right-wing narrative” in all cases and especially in this case. Therefore, the Kabul evacuation was a victory.
Many of you are old enough to remember David Halberstam. Like Woodward and Bernstein, Halberstam was a journalist who became a celebrity. Like Woodward and Bernstein, Halberstam was a liberal (possibly even a leftist). And like Woodward and Bernstein, Halberstam wrote about the most vital issues of his day – in his case the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.
Unlike Woodward and Bernstein, however, nobody ever made a movie about Halberstam. Unlike Woodward and Bernstein, Halberstam didn’t see it as a journalist’s job to protect one corrupt government agent in order to destroy a different government agent, one whose politics he disliked. And unliked Redford and Hoffman, Halberstam didn’t inspire a generation of young journalists to take on the daunting task of speaking truth to Republicans in power. Halberstam was unflinching in his takedowns of those who deserved to be taken down, Republican, Democrat, or other. Indeed, Halberstam’s 1972 classic The Best and the Brightest was a spectacular and even-handed demolition of the liberal-left's post-World-War-II consensus advocacy of benevolent big-government technocracy.
We seemed about to enter an Olympian age in this country, brains and intellect harnessed to great force, the better to define a common good... It seems long ago now, that excitement which swept through the country, or at least the intellectual reaches of it, that feeling that America was going to change, that the government had been handed down from the tired, flabby chamber-of-commerce mentality of the Eisenhower years to the best and brightest of a generation.
But the Fates and Nemesis came calling, as they are wont to do, and the Left’s hallowed best and brightest, in their arrogance and insularity, proceeded to destroy themselves and their ethos at the same time:
There is no small irony here: An administration which flaunted its intellectual superiority and its superior academic credentials made the most critical of decisions with virtually no input from anyone who had any expertise on the recent history of that part of the world, and it in no way factored in the entire experience of the French Indochina War. Part of the reason for this were the upheavals of the McCarthy period, but in part it was also the arrogance of men of the Atlantic; it was as if these men did not need to know about such a distant and somewhat less worthy part of the world. Lesser parts of the world attracted lesser men; years later I came upon a story which illustrated this theory perfectly. Jack Langguth, a writer and college classmate of mine, mentioned to a member of that Administration that he was thinking of going on to study Latin American history. The man had turned to him, his contempt barely concealed, and said, “Second-rate parts of the world for second-rate minds.”
If people like Glenn Kessler had been around in 1972, they’d have had dozens of columns and books about how “akshully, Vietnam was ALL Nixon’s fault and akshully Johnson was winning and akshully the Best and the Brightest never failed and akshully conservative meme-makers just want you to think they did. So…Trump sucks!”
The consensus lesson of Vietnam – thanks in part to people like David Halberstam – was that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to fight wars halfway across the globe based on analysis provided by people who neither knew much about that part of the world nor believed that they needed to. Maybe, at least some circumspection is valuable when planning military activity. The march of global soft-leftism is anything but historically guaranteed.
The consensus lesson of Afghanistan, by contrast, will be…well….there won’t be a consensus, in large part because the Redford-Hoffman journalists are unwilling to take even cursory look at the possibility that maybe “their” guy didn’t do everything perfectly and shut up, deplorables!
Vietnam killed the best and the brightest, and David Halberstam buried them.
Afghanistan SHOULD have killed nation-building, but Glenn Kessler won’t allow it to be removed from the feeding tubes and respirator until a Republican is in the White House.
Which means that we’ll be back at it again soon.
And Afghanistan will prove far worse than Vietnam.