Again, leading with my apologia. I have not been active on this blog for a while, and don't I know it? The novel I have been working on, Comanche Country, picked up so much momentum and whipsawed its own plot with so many surprises that it absorbed my days and nights until I finally finished it last week. All you aficianados can get a running start toward this last book in the Landau saga by ordering a copy of the first book in the trilogy, The Hedge Fund, either from Amazon or by buying it directly -- and inexpensively -- at Haslams in St. Petersburg, FL or Gibsons in Concord, NH. If you want to understand, grinning all the way, why what happens happens let the misadventures of the Landaus clue you in.
What prompts this outburst today is word in The New York Times this morning that the administration is considering supplying "lethal weaponry" to the Ukraine government in Kiev. However duplicitous the involvement of Moscow in Ukraine may be, there is a large population in the Eastern section of the country that prefers to rejoin Russia, and what is playing out there is in essence a civil war. Meddling in other peoples' civil wars has cost us heavily and set us back throughout most of the last half century, and before we back ourselves into another disaster we ought to reconsider.
I remember well the heartbreaking background details of our misadventure in Viet Nam. Pushed through by John Foster Dulles, whose evangelistic imperialism inclined him to want to send troops into the Hungarian revolution and the collapsing French efforts in Viet Nam until Eisenhower stepped on both proposals, a program was developed that led to the dispatch of the U.S. Navy to cart over a million North Vietnamese Catholics down the coast to Saigon once the provisional peace treaty was signed in 1954. Dulles had agreed to abide by the countrywide vote scheduled for 1956, which installed Ho Chi Minh. Dulles reneged. Instead, prodded by Cardinal Spellman, the Diems, strict Catholics, were pushed into office by American planners and replaced the local Buddhist administrators all over South Vietnam with Catholic refugees from the north, The Buddhists were incensed and began to form the cadre of what became the Viet Cong. I got a lot of this from my friend Nick Natsios, who was the CIA station chief in Saigon before we began to intervene militarily.
Civil war broke out. I remember how angry President Kennedy was at David Halberstam, the N.Y. Times upstart in country and a classmate of mine in college, when he began to report on the "Buddhist barbecues" -- self-immolations -- and the corruption of the Diems, longtime Kennedy family friends. When another of my classmates and a personal friend, Sam Adams, a CIA analyst, concluded that there were many times as many Viet Cong around as our projections would admit he was bounced from that Agency. To admit that would have meant hugely augmenting U. S. troops on the ground, politically unacceptable for Lyndon Johnson. Years later Richard Helms, head of CIA operations at the time, told me that Adams was right, but who wanted to confront LBJ with those numbers?
As it all played out there were millions of Vietnamese killed, 60,000 U.S. dead, hundreds of thousands of GIs permanently ruined, if not with wounds with drugs, and a national debt it took decades to pay down, at the expense of all public services and efforts to rebuild the national infrastructure. And still, we lost, utterly. Their little civil war set us back a generation. And obviously the same can be said of our stumbling around in Iraq and Afghanistan. Must we do this again? So soon, so avoidably? We ought to be very, very careful about electing a warhawk to the presidency if a cold-blooded peacenik like Obama is tempted to intervene in Ukraine.
Think about all that. Meanwhile, if you live in or are visiting the Tampa Bay Area I would be very pleased to meet any of y'all at the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs, presented on the St. Petersburg campus of the University of Southern Florida. University Student Center, 200 Sixth Ave. S. I will be on a panel on Friday, February 27 at 9 AM on the subject: Can We Keep Our Rights and Protect Our Country Too?
Meanwhile, buy The Hedge Fund. It will be the best $13 you ever spent.