Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Halberstam: I'm not alone

When I broke Skippy's heart, and with many feeling like he did, I was feeling kind of alone. Now, not so much - I was just on point.

A lot of people are starting to come out of the closet, via PowerLine and New Criterion there are some links to all sorts of like minded people.

On of the best is Hilton Kramer - and he did it in '93.
Halberstam was, of course, one of the Times reporters who achieved fame as a correspondent in Vietnam. (It was for his reporting of the war in 1962-64 that he won his Pulitzer.) Indeed, he was unusual in this regard in achieving not one but two reputations as a writer on the Vietnam War. The first was as a champion of the Kennedy intervention in Vietnam, the brutal and disastrous removal of the Diem regime in Saigon, and the view that the United States had an important stake in opposing Communism in Vietnam. This was still his view in The Making of a Quagmire (1965), his first book on the subject.
I believe that Vietnam is a legitimate part of that [American] global commitment [he wrote]. A strategic country in a key area, it is perhaps one of only five or six nations in the world that is truly vital to U.S. interests.
And then on the question of American withdrawal from Vietnam:
What about withdrawal? Few Americans who have served in Vietnam can stomach this idea. It means that those Vietnamese who committed themselves fully to the United States will suffer the most under a Communist government, while we lucky few with blue passports retire unharmed; it means a drab, lifeless and controlled society for a people who deserve better. Withdrawal also means that the United States’ prestige will be lowered throughout the world, and it means that the pressure of Communism on the rest of Southeast Asia will intensify. Lastly, withdrawal means that throughout the world the enemies of the West will be encouraged to try insurgencies like the one in Vietnam. Just as our commitment in Korea in 1950 has served to discourage overt Communist border crossings ever since, an anti-Communist victory in Vietnam would serve to discourage so-called wars of liberation.
This was exactly
the view of the Vietnam War in the White House in the Kennedy era—the view of “the best and the brightest” that Mr. Halberstam was soon to castigate.

It was his second reputation as a writer on Vietnam, this time as an implacable foe of the American intervention, that launched Mr. Halberstam as a best-selling author. In the voluminous pages of The Best and the Brightest (1972), he was reborn as a ferocious critic of the war and those responsible for conducting it. President Kennedy was now no longer the good guy he had once been, and his associates, who had gone on to serve under President Johnson, were even worse.

Only Bobby Kennedy, “who had been primarily responsible for the counterinsurgency enthusiasm,” as Mr. Halberstam acknowledged, was absolved from the consequences of his role because of what was said to be his “capacity to grow and change and admit error.” Between The Making of a Quagmire and The Best and the Brightest, Mr. Halberstam had taken time out to join the ranks of the Bobby Kennedy hagiographers by writing The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy; he also wrote Ho, an admiring little book about Ho Chi Minh. These smoothed the way for Mr. Halberstam’s own re-emergence as a politically correct anti-war liberal know-it-all in The Best and the Brightest.

It is in the nature of journalism, of course, for its practitioners to be allowed to reinvent themselves as events require, and Mr. Halberstam proved to be a dab hand at negotiating the terrain separating one realm of received opinion from another. It is the one talent that has never failed him.

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