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It is Crucial to Focus on Simple, Heart-of-the-Matter Points, Instead of Trying to Complicate the Simple.

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            The government, politicians, the media and camp followers try to avoid simple central points by attempting to make simple things complex.

  

June 7, 2007

 Re:  It is Crucial to Focus on Simple, Heart-of-the Matter Points, Instead of Trying to Complicate the Simple. From: Dean Lawrence R. VelvelVelvelOnNationalAffairs.com  

Dear Colleagues:

 

            You can depend on it: politicians, pundits, professors, et. al. will almost always say that things are complex.  As a corollary, they will say that our times are very complicated.  How often, after all, have you heard them say that things are simple or uncomplicated?

 

            Yet it often seems to me that things are simple.  People try to make them complicated by ignoring the central overriding point(s), by bringing up peripheral matters, or by using other techniques.  Not infrequently, people make them complex because focusing on the central point(s), focusing on the heart of the matter, would force one to go in a direction that one does not wish to pursue.

 

            Let me give you an example from the early part of the Vietnam War, from the first half of 1966.  You will recollect that it was considered essential, if we were to succeed, to cut off the supply of men and materiel coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  It was recognized that, if the supply could not be cut off, there might be no end to the war and/or we would lose.  So we had B52’s bombing the daylights out of the Trail.  New records of tonnages were set in the war as a whole, with much of the tonnage being dropped on the Trail.

 

Yet one kept reading in the New York Times that more and more men and supplies were constantly coming down the Trail despite the outlandish amount of bombing.  When the government was asked about this, its only reply was that we were making it harder for the North Vietnamese.

 

            Right then one knew that the war was doomed to failure.  The logic, the heart of the matter, was simple.  If we had to curtail the movement of men and supplies down the Trail in order to succeed, but the North was moving ever more men and supplies down the Trail despite our record setting bombing, which could accomplish nothing more than to make it harder for the North to do what it nonetheless was doing in ever greater amounts, then we were doomed to failure.  This logic was simple.  You could try to complicate the matter all you want, as our government and its hack supporters did by talk of domino theories, protected hamlet programs, training the South Vietnamese army, creating a stable South Vietnamese government, a bloodbath if we withdrew, or what have you, but the talk was empty and inconsequential.  The heart of the problem was simple and fundamental: we could not interdict the flow of men and supplies down the Trail -- we could not do what was essential if we were to win.

 

            Iraq today provides other examples of matters that are simple, but which the government, politicians, the media, and fools who support Bush seek to complicate because, like their counterparts in Viet Nam days, they cannot face the fact that America is going to lose outright or at minimum is going to be thwarted.  Iraq has populations which have detested and killed each other for over a thousand years.  There is no way they are going to live together in peace now that the cruel autocrat who kept the lid on has been hung.  The only way to avoid or curtail a murderous civil war in these circumstances is to separate the groups, is to give each its own separate enclave.  This is the simple central point, is the simple heart of the matter (and has been urged here for years).

 

            But, for whatever reason(s), our government, media and pols have never wanted to accept this simple central point and still do not want to accept it.  It is beyond me as to whether this refusal of acceptance is because it would thwart the stupid Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz attempts to create a democracy in the Arab Middle East, would somehow gum up these “leaders” sordid drive to obtain Iraqi oil, gives the lie to the numerous ignorant statements over time of the media and pols, or is due to some other reason.  Whatever the reason(s) for the refusal to accept the heart of the matter, Bush/Cheney and their various groups of camp followers, in order to obfuscate the situation, try to make it complicated instead of simple -- just as occurred in Viet Nam.  They talk about creating a stable government, about bloodbaths if we leave (although one is occurring right now), about training an Iraqi army, about surges, about the supposed difficulty of divvying up the oil.  They talk about everything under the sun to avoid a simple central point: the three major groups in Iraq are not going to live together in peace and must be separated if there is to be peace.

 

              Here are two other simple central points that Bush/Cheney and their camp followers want to avoid talking about at all costs, and that they therefore try to make very complicated.  One is that, as true in any of life’s endeavors, when you have tried something for years with the result being continuous failure, you quit doing it.  This is called cutting your losses, or don’t keep throwing good money after bad.  This simple point means (as it meant in Viet Nam):  get out of Iraq.  Four years of failures and deaths are enough. 

 

The other central point is that cutting off funds to fight the war will not leave troops unprotected, because the cut off bill will provide that funds can be used for the protection of troops during withdrawal (not to mention that ultimately the best protection for the troops is to get them out of the place where they are being killed).

 

             But Bush/Cheney and their acolytes don’t want to hear these simple heart-of-the-matter points, because the points would compel a change in policies.  So they try, again as occurred regarding Viet Nam, to complicate the simple by adverting to the same matters mentioned above:  a stable Iraqi government, a better Iraqi army, a post-departure bloodbath, etc., etc., and for good measure they throw in losses to American credibility which, as in Viet Nam days, could hardly sink further than it has already.

 

            Out of all this, I note, comes another simple heart-of-the-matter point which people don’t want to accept and therefore try to complicate.  This simple central point is that it is necessary to have leaders who are smart and who, while determined enough to steadfastly pursue intelligent courses of action, are also flexible enough to change when it has become plain that a course of action is heading for or is in the midst of failure.  People don’t like to hear this central point.  So they introduce complications:  how do you determine if someone is smart, or steadfast, or flexible?  Shall we look at records in academia, records in business, records elsewhere?  Doesn’t the central idea mean, undemocratically, that -- pace Roman Hruska -- mental mediocrity is not entitled to be present in the high reaches of government?  Well, people can introduce purported complications all they want.  The fact remains -- a simple central point, the heart of the matter, remains -- that we will be in trouble until we get leaders who are smart.

 

And by the way -- yet another central point, one made here quite often -- smart needs to be coupled with honesty.  This is yet another lesson of Viet Nam and Iraq.  McNamara was very smart, Nixon and Kissinger were smart.  But all were vastly dishonest.  Of course, Bush is merely dishonest.*

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Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.
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