Robert McNamara: A Legacy Defined By Vietnam

The legacy of Robert McNamara can’t be deduced at this early stage, and if anyone were to do it, a layman such as myself certainly wouldn’t be fit for the task. McNamara was at the levers of power during a time when the United States was embroiled in one of the most doomed enterprises of its history - the Vietnam war. In the documentary film The Fog of War, McNamara appears to lay alot of the blame at then President Lyndon Johnson’s feet, while other analysis lays the blame at the feet of technocrats like McNamara:

John Ralston Saul, in Volatire’s Bastards, makes McNamara a central character in his tale of how Western governments came to rely on a cult of credentialed, jargon-y experts to make decisions that were better left to politicians.

Like the anti-poverty policies laid out by Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam was an utter failure. It may not have been such an explosive phenomenon, leading to deaths on college campuses, Woodstock and future presidential candidate John Kerry throwing his purple hearts in public anger, if Johnson had understood what his successor Richard Nixon understood: that those kids out there protesting weren’t protesting American policy in Indochina, but were really just protesting their enlistment to fight on behalf of that policy. If a draft had been a factor during the Bush years, the bitter words hurled at Bush’s policies would have likely turned into bitter action.

Bush: Worst Ever or Just Misunderstood?

Telegraph has an article up that serves as a wrap-up analysis of the Bush presidency on the eve of his departure. There was one paragraph that really stood out:

Peter Feaver, who served as special adviser for strategic planning on Bush’s White House National Security Council, agrees: “He’s had a once-in-a-century natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, a once in a history of the Republic terrorist attack and he’s had a once-in-a-century financial crisis. Any one of those would be a pivotal moment. To have three is extraordinary.”

Liberty or Tyranny? We must decide.

Liberty or Tyranny

History is not cyclical, it is ours to make.

Our world is constantly changing. History is full of the rise and fall of empires, religious and political movements, war, conquest, commerce, and new technologies. Observing this perpetual change, certain historians of the past developed a theory that history was cyclical. According to them, regardless of our ambitions to permanence, the arc of history always revolves back to the mean. It is a theory that is tinged with determinism, because its proponents argue that an individual’s actions do not matter, as much as the historical forces within which the person lives. But while the theory may make a person feel less empowered, it also gives comfort. Because if what I do doesn’t matter, neither does what anyone does. Sometimes the good will win, and sometimes the evil, but the battle will continue, forever. Nobody and nothing wins permanently.

But many historians reject the cyclical theory. Instead they argue that the world is headed in a specific direction and is taking us somewhere new. A person who views history this way tends to believe in the power of individual action. He or she has no assurance that somehow good and evil will always battle each other. Instead he realizes with terror that evil has the potential to win, permanently, and this makes him fearful for the future. But, at the same time, he realizes, that good could win, also permanently, and this makes him hopeful and motivated.

An Open Letter to Jeffco Student Protesters Concerning History Standards

Colorado HS Student Protesters

Dear Student Protesters of Jefferson County:

I must begin with a confession. When I first learned of your student walkouts concerning some proposed changes to the AP History curriculum, I was more than a little bit cynical. These walkouts, I thought, were little more than an excuse to skip class and be ‘part of something.’ I don’t doubt that some students joined the walkouts for that reason; there are always individuals who join a cause because it seems to be the popular thing to do (I should point out that there are many people my age and older who do the very same thing so this is not a criticism of young people per se). This open letter is not intended for these students but for those of you who honestly care about the proposed changes to the history curriculum.

As I started reading about these protests it didn’t take me long to realize that you have very good reason to protest: the aims of the Jeffco School Board for the history curriculum are at best contradictory and misguided. The following paragraph in the Board Committee for Curriculum Review must be the primary reason for your protests:

Why Does 1% of History Have 99% of the Wealth?

See Video

The latest video from Learn Liberty features Professor Deirdre McCloskey answering the question: “Why does 1% of history have 99% of the wealth?”

She explains that throughout the vast majority of history, individuals earned an average of $3 a day (in today’s dollars). That is, until the 1800s, when the average earning shot up drastically. Even more incredibly, in the last 30 years, the number of people who are as badly off as our ancestors has been cut in half.

People today aren’t rich because they exploit the poor, as many on the Left like to pretend, Prof. McCloskey explains. There have always been poor people and their presence didn’t cause wealth. The wealth that we enjoy is brought about by innovation, and the economic freedom to prosper.

UPDATE: Education Department Website Quotes Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

UPDATE: Via Chris Moody of Yahoo! News, the NCES has removed the Mao Zedong quote from its website. The “Quote of the Day” section now says, “Sorry there is no quote of the [day] today.”

UPDATE II: Via Andrew Kaczynski at BuzzFeed, the NCES has now updated the website once again with a quote from Abraham Lincoln.

UPDATE III: The NCES has removed the “Quote of the Day” section from its “Kid’s Zone” website. Click here to see the latest screen shot. Andrew Kaczynski has an official statement from the Department of Education.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a part of the Department of Education, has a section on its website dedicated to kids. The site has various facts and resources that kids may find interesting. It also has a “Quote of the Day” section.

While this section may occasionally provide insightful and otherise worthwhile quotes, today’s quote is from a historical figure isn’t exactly a role model. Here’s the quote directly from the website:

“Our attitude towards ourselves should be ‘to be satiable in learning’ and towards others ‘to be tireless in teaching.’” — Mao Zedong

Libertarianism: America’s Manifesto

Libertarians’ aim is to maximize personal and inter-personal liberty. Nationally. Globally.

Freedom is the great coagulant- the way water molecules hold together drops of rain. Ironically, libertarianist philosophy is arguably the oldest of all American currents of thought: originating during the colonial Enlightenment Generation, when the old was still new enough to be considered current, but the United States was forming itself; becoming one in thought and deed.

Libertarianism existed in the minds of our colonial forefathers even before the ideas of a nation were enumerated, before they were disclaimed. Despite regional differences, colonists belonged to a place, a town maybe or an intersection. No matter what, each first and foremost belonged to himself.

The Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican ‘party’ was afflicted by and proposed along the lines of British, French, German and colonial thinking. What resulted was libertarianism. A sense of freedom given to the individual, by each own’s God. Without mediation, without government, without boundaries. Unique unto each.

Three centuries into the newly formed United States, citizens vote on the basis of who will win elections. Examples of voting extend to such extremes, that we are left with no alternative than to chose between an awful and a terrible party. While many in media and political networks might well believe that third parties are superfluous, and dangerous philosophically, it is the true patriot; who must see through the distortions and blatant lies- three centuries in the making.

Stossel: Our lack of education about freedom hurts us

Over at Reason, John Stossel chats with Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States about our collective lack of knowledge about history and the benefits of living in a free society hurts us:

What liberates oppressed people? I was taught it’s often American power. Just the threat of our military buildup defeated the Soviet Union, and our troops in the Middle East will create islands of freedom.

Unlikely, says historian Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States.

“As a matter of fact,” Russell told me, “in general American military intervention has increased anti-Americanism and hardened repressive regimes. On the other hand, American popular culture—what was often called the worst of our culture in many cases—has actually done more for liberation and our national security than anything that the 82nd Airborne could do.”

I told him that I thought that the Soviet Union collapsed because the Soviets spent so much trying to keep pace with Ronald Reagan’s military buildup

On the contrary, Russell said, “it collapsed from within. … People simply walked away from the ideology of communism. And that began especially when American popular culture—jazz and rock and roll—began infiltrating those countries after World War II.”
People want choices, and you can’t indoctrinate that out of them.

Which leads me to the most destructive myth about history: the idea that if we are to prosper, government must make smart plans for us. I was taught that in college, and despite the failure of the Soviet Union, many government leaders still believe it.

No, Mr. President, FDR was not a fiscal conservative

During a townhall last Friday, President Barack Obama told a whopper of a lie. Ever the believer in revisionist history, he claimed that Franklin D. Roosevelt was a “fiscal conservative.” Huh, come again?

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Henry Morgenthau, who served as FDR’s Treasury Secretary, famously said of their efforts to combat the Great Depression, “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.” Spending money on that level is obviously not what a fiscal conservative would do.

In 2004, a study by two UCLA economists found that FDR’s statist economic intervention, through his New Deal policies, prolonged the Great Depression by seven years, which was noted in this Reason TV video about how Obama hoped to follow in FDR’s footsteps after the 2008 financial crisis by pushing Keynesian economics:

Founding Fathers’ Facebook Statuses

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