There he goes again, the old thin-skinned warhorse Henry Kissinger, still sniping at the antiwar left after all these years.
This week in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece titled “Vietnam’s lessons,” the former Secretary of State compares the military and political dynamics of Vietnam and Iraq. He concludes that rapid, unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster.
In paragraph two of his article, Kissinger sets the stage for a denial of his own incompetence. He claims that, “A point was reached during the Vietnam War when the domestic debate became so bitter as to preclude rational discussions of hard choices.” How could the poor man think straight with all those crazy antiwar lunatics swearing in the streets?
Unwittingly, Mr. K incriminates himself. Despite the temper of those times, we must assume that a former Harvard professor turned celebrity powerbroker could engage in rational discussions. That was his job, to be rational and wise no matter how “bitter” the debate or how hard the choices.
Contrary to Kissinger’s lament about “American disunity,” the period of the Vietnam War was truly a time of rational discourse. Yes, a lot of emotional outbursts accompanied the debate, but emotional disruptions, whether personal or social, are often essential for achieving progress or healing. If our deepest needs erupt with a roar, more power to us for displaying our ferocious determination to uncover truth and reality.
Kissinger says in the next sentence (still in paragraph two), “Administrations of both political parties perceived the survival of South Vietnam as a significant national interest.” How diabolically clever of you, Mr. K, to infer in that statement that those opposed to the Vietnam War were against the survival of South Vietnam. You sly fiend! Your artful prose also suggests that only fools would challenge the combined wisdom of Democrats and Republicans.
Isn’t that phrase, “the SURVIVAL of South Vietnam,” a bit preposterous? Was some country planning on dropping nuclear bombs on South Vietnam? Did we rush in to SAVE the country and its people from obliteration, like we SAVED Iraqis from tyranny? How noble! Maybe the GOP can start to worry a bit about the survival of the American middle class, or maybe even the survival of the world.
Slogging along through paragraph two (the article comprises 16 paragraphs), the reader next encounters this statement: “They [the American administrations] were opposed by a protest movement that coalesced behind the conviction that the war reflected an amorality that had to be purged by confrontational methods.” Quite a few of those protesters regarded the Vietnam War as a reflection of our government’s immorality, not amorality. Compared with evil immorality, being amoral is more like being naughty. That let’s Henry off the hook. Unfortunately, that evil immorality that skulked about in the Nixon White House has returned to its old haunts as the Ghost of Vietnam Past.
Kissinger says Vietnam War protesters resorted to “confrontational methods.” Is Mr. K telling us that confrontational methods (such as calling him names and forming a human chain around the Pentagon) are bad? Wait a minute! No, he seems to be saying that confrontational methods are actually good as long as the right people are doing the confronting. Would that be the Pentagon gearing up for perpetual war?
Finally, Kissinger concludes his infamous paragraph two with these bold words, “This impasse doomed the U.S. effort in Vietnam; it must not be repeated over Iraq.” According to Kissinger, Americans speaking out for truth, justice, and sanity constitute an “impasse.” This impasse “doomed the United States EFFORT in Vietnam.” What was that effort, exactly? Was it to experiment with napalm? Was the idea to fight the Cold War indirectly, over the bodies of independence-minded Asians? Was it to prove to the previous occupiers, the French who were defeated there in the 1950s, how much tougher we were? Why that effort anyway, and not an effort to invade Cuba or North Korea?
Kissinger says the IMPASSE “must not be repeated in Iraq.” Perhaps Mr. K can write another op-ed piece, titled “Articles of Acceptable Discourse Concerning Iraq,” in which he instructs us on how to fulfill our citizenship responsibilities. If there’s an impasse, it’s the choking feeling we get trying to swallow his words.
Near the end of his op-ed piece, which blames everyone but himself for failure, we find a few more words to gag on: “The imperatives of domestic debate [over Vietnam] took precedence over geopolitical necessities.” Let’s try to rewrite that weird statement in a way that’s not so un-American: “Geopolitical considerations depend for their guidance on domestic debate.” We can add, “May our leaders have the humility to acknowledge the truth, the courage to accept reality, and the decency to express fitting remorse when their actions produce calamity.”
Kissinger says in his concluding words: “What we need most is a rebuilding of bipartisanship in both this presidency and in the next.” Is the man psychic? He’s predicting continuing domestic disunity—the continuation into the next presidency of troublesome partisanship. I would have thought that, having SURVIVED Bush, we would in gratitude join hands in a hallelujah chorus and swear off political backstabbing for at least four years.
Fortunately, Kissinger’s words can be fought off with a bit of reason, along with a Star Wars light saber. He apparently got straight A’s for essays like this as a student at Harvard. Here he gets a notice that his dark-ages mentality has long expired.