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July 13, 2007

Another Echo of Vietnam
Posted by David Shorr

Made a stop at Powell's Books on my Oregon vacation and happened on a copy of Sen. William Fulbright's The Arrogance of Power (which Jim Lobe has extensively excerpted over at Common Dreams), just the kind of relic a wonk loves. We see parallels between Iraq and Vietnam all around us. Kurt Campbell and Shawn Brimley of Center for a New American Security unearthed this 1967 memo and updated it for Foreign Policy (subscription only, sorry). The following passages from Senator Fulbright's 1966 book also have some resonance:

One wonders how much the American commitment to Vietnamese freedom is also a commitment to American pride--the two seem to have become part of the same package. When we talk about the freedom of South Vietnam, we may be thinking about how disagreeable it would be to accept a solution short of victory; we may be thinking about how our pride would be injured if we settled for less than we set out to achieve; we may be thinking of our reputation as a great power, fearing that a compromise settlement would shame us before the world, marking us as a second-rate people with flagging courage and determination.

After remarking that such worries ill befit such a powerful and successful nation as ours (though he can understand why the French or Chinese might feel this way), he quotes from the following testimony by George Kennan in Fulbright's Foreign Relations Committee hearings that year:

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.


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I saw that FP article. I must say I thought the graphics and crossing out words and scribbling replacements in the margins were a bit gimmicky, but it's uncanny (and uncannily depressing) how history repeats itself.

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