Vietnam

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.

Tips for the Republicans

The GOP chief knows the gig is up:

In a frank and private memo sent today to Republican National Commitee members, the RNC chairman acknowledges that the GOP has grown too addicted to ideology, places politics before policy, and is bereft of ideas — and that it’s imperative that the party shift towards a genuine effort to develop concrete policy solutions to people’s problems in order to rescue itself.

I have a few quick ideas:

Reflections on Veterans Day

One of my duties as Music Associate at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, AL, is to play the organ for the annual Veterans Day service. The first of these for me was one year ago. The one part of the service that really struck me was the reading of the names of all U.S. military personnel who had died in all wars during the past year. A staggering 336 names were printed in the program and read, amidst the background of a snare drum roll, with the ominous boom of a bass drum after each name. With each boom of that drum, a penetrating, sinking feeling came over me as I thought of how the loss of that one life impacted so many loved ones. It was the longest part of the service, and it went on and on, for some 45 or 50 minutes.

The Melancholy Defeat of John McCain

By all accounts, I should be glad that John McCain lost. I didn’t vote for him, and I found his ticket to be comprised of the wrong people for the job at the wrong time. However, there is something really saddening about what happened with McCain this election.

I have years of respect for John McCain. From his inspirational behavior as a POW in Vietnam, to his courageous defiance to President Bush on torture, to his deriding of the military industrial complex in the documentary film Why We Fight, McCain is one of the truly great Americans. What happened to him and what he did in 2008 is really sad and not a suitable bookend to the career of a great American hero.

Memorial Day: A Personal Story

Lamar Pye

This was written for Memorial Day 2013. Please remember that Memorial Day isn’t about barbecues. It’s about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, including those who, like my father, eventually succumbed to the effects of Agent Orange.

Memorial Day has a surreal meaning any time when our country is involved in conflicts around the globe. While it will be celebrated with cookouts and parades, many families are still grieving for those who have died in service of their country.

My father, Lyman Lamar “Butch” Pye, served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He fought against the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive, and was wounded three times. While I don’t remember the whole story, I recall that he took shrapnel in his elbow, leg, and under his chin. He made it out of Vietnam, unlike so many, but he had a desire to be a career Marine and was seriously thinking about re-enlisting — until he got word that a close friend was killed in, if I recall, his first few days back in action.

Dad may have left Vietnam, but it didn’t leave him.

I recall that he came to my school in 4th grade to talk about some of his experiences from Vietnam, though nothing graphic. He passed around pictures and medals that he’d received. He didn’t have his Purple Hearts any more, unfortunately, as he’d sold them to keep food on the table.

Dad was distant when telling war stories. It affected him in ways that I can’t even imagine. Everything I know now, I’ve learned from conversations with mom, who recently told me, “I’ve tried to forget much of what your dad told me about Vietnam.”

Stirewalt: Ho’s regime not particularly Jeffersonian

When I saw the headline to this Chris Stirewalt piece, I thought it would be something a bit lighter and slightly humorous to take us into the weekend.

Then I read it.

It still qualifies as absurd, just not in a funny way. There’s really nothing funny after all about our increasingly diminished reputation on the world stage. It wasn’t funny when our President bowed to the Saudi king, nor when he offended England, nor when he behaved like an uncouth boor to Israel.

Now this:

It may come as some unwelcome news to the families of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.

That was the impression President Obama gave on Thursday when he spoke to the press after his meeting with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Sang brought Obama a copy of a letter sent to President Harry Truman from Ho Chi Minh in which the communist dictator spoke hopefully of cooperation with the United States.

Obama, striking a wistful tone, observed that it may have taken 67 years, but the United States and Vietnam were finally enjoying the relationship that Ho once wrote of. After all, Obama said, Ho had been ‘inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson.’

Memorial Day: A Personal Story

Memorial Day

This morning, I sat down with a cup of coffee and went through a couple different drafts of this post before deciding to write about a personal story on this Memorial Day.

Memorial Day has a surreal meaning any time when our country is involved in conflicts around the globe. While it will be celebrated with cookouts and parades, many families are still grieving for those who have died in service of their country.

My father, Lyman Lamar “Butch” Pye, served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He fought against the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive, and was wounded three times. While I don’t remember the whole story, I recall that he took shrapnel in his elbow, leg, and under his chin. He made it out of Vietnam, unlike so many, but he had a desire to be a career Marine and was seriously thinking about re-enlisting — until he got word that a close friend was killed in, if I recall, his first few days back in action.

Dad may have left Vietnam, but it didn’t leave him.

I recall that he came to my school in 4th grade to talk about some of his experiences from Vietnam, though nothing graphic. He passed around pictures and medals that he’d received. He didn’t have his Purple Hearts any more, unfortunately, as he’d sold them to keep food on the table.

Dad was distant when telling war stories. It affected him in ways that I can’t even imagine. Everything I know now, I’ve learned from conversations with mom, who recently told me, “I’ve tried to forget much of what your dad told me about Vietnam.”

Rand Paul challenges John Kerry on War Powers Act

John Kerry

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next Secretary of State, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday to discuss the administration’s foreign policy. While the confirmation hearing was mostly easy for Kerry, he did face a tough line of questioning from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

Paul, who has been a frequent critic of the prevailing foreign policy views of both parties, asked Kerry about his views regarding unilateral war, specifically regarding military action in Libya.

“I agree with candidate Barack Obama, who said in 2007 that the president doesn’t have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack,” explained Paul. “I’d like to know if you agree with candidate Barack Obama or President Barack Obama, who took us to war in Libya without congressional authority, unilaterally?”

Kerry responded, “Well, Senator Paul, one of the things this committee has spent a lot of time on is the War Powers Act, which I support, and I believe in congressional authority to go to war.” However, Kerry tried to give himself some latitude, explaining that “are occasions which I have supported which a President of the United States has to make a decision immediately and implement that decision, execute on it, immediately.” Kerry listed occasions where he has supported a president bypassing Congress, explaining that he though President Obama went with that tradition when he authorized military action in Libya.

Military coup openly discussed at Occupy DC

After spending a couple of hours at an Occupy site over the weekend, let me tell you that this “movement” is different from the Tea Party in several ways. The biggest is the respect for property, both private and public. The protesters at Tea Party rallies I went to were mostly respectful to the property they were on and those around them. Even the slight hint of criticism of the Obama Administration was classified as anti-government sentiment or hate speech.

But the Occupy site I visited in Denver, one of the organizers rallied some of his follow protesters to march on the evil corporations — including Starbucks and McDonald — at the 16th Street Mall. After all, the employees at those locations are evil bourgeois pigs that should be taken away from the fry line by the proletariat and dragged through the streets of Red Square!

But imagine if tea partyers were discussing taking over the government with aid from members of the military or speaking approvingly about soldiers in Vietnam shooting their superior officers. That’s exactly what was discussed in a meeting at Occupy DC, via Adam Kokesh:

Ron Paul: “He Served”

Ron Paul is headed back to the airwaves with a million dollar ad buy in four states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. The ad, which hits back at the notion that Paul is anti-military, notes his own military service and respect for veterans, providing testimony from brave men that fought in Vietnam.

Here’s the very well done ad:

USA Today published at an excellent editorial from Paul, who took Mitt Romney to task for his health reform plan — the blueprint of ObamaCare:

The idea that more government involvement in health care is the solution, especially at a time when the nation is dealing with record deficits and debt, is preposterous. And the promised effectiveness of forced mandate health care is easily disproven by looking at how such a system has worked in Massachusetts.


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