Prague Twin

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lessons Not Learned

You have probably heard about president Bush's recent speech which is, in my view, an astounding misinterpretation of history's lessons, even for president Bush. I think this analysis cuts to the quick on Bush's mistakes and motives.

Bush's consistent critics didn't waste any time hammering him for his clear desperation. I particularly enjoyed reading Vietnam's official reaction to this train-wreck of a speech. They make it clear that their resistance to the Americans was justified. They hope for the best for Iraq but do not say the insurgents are unjustified in their struggle. I wonder if they think the Americans should not have pulled out. I wonder, would the struggle still be going on today had they not? Would that be a better version of history than our present one?

And speaking of Vietnam, I have to say that the one analogy that president Bush employed which struck me as particularly strange is the reference to Alden Pyle in Graham Greene's classic The Quiet American. If you haven't read the book, you may have missed the reference as being as naive and misguided as, well, Alden Pyle. Here you can read a very good analysis of why this comparison is so hopelessly misguided.

I'm not sure what is sadder: the politicians who conjure up this type of drivel, or the masses who consume it as if it was fine wine.


  • There certainly are some parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. "There's light at the end of the tunnel" = "the insurgency is on its last legs."

    Who Hijacked Our Country

    By Blogger Tom Harper, at 12:24 AM  

  • This president seems to be in a major meltdown and these are scary times.

    By Anonymous rockync, at 2:12 AM  

  • Tom,

    Yeah, the delusion seems to be equal to the task.


    I am a bit afraid of what comes in the next 1.5 years. It could certainly get worse.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 4:37 AM  

  • Of course this is what happens when History is taught with an agenda to young minds; it becomes malleable.

    That you are willing to take Matthew Yglesias’ statement “in fact, it seems rather doubtful that any substantial body of opinion actually did argue this about Japan” without providing any substantiating it is proof.

    Bush quotes John Dower by saying “Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage”

    Yglasias – Staff writer at the American Prospect – vs. John Dower – Professor at MIT and author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. (A really good read if you are interested in the non-politicized history of Japan post WWII) Which should we believe?

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 3:04 AM  

  • You lefties are the ones who seem deluded about history. Mike, I have a longish post on this ( and would appreciate the feedback, I'll look at the links you post and write more. My recall of the quiet American was that he was a manipulative CIA type. Is my memory faulty?

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 4:27 PM  

  • Lysander,

    Please, spare me the patronization.

    Nice find on the Yglesias quote. It was the weakest part of all of the arguments presented in all of links I provided. Still, I'd like to get some more evidence on this point. You mention "erstwile experts" but that doesn't really equate to a "substantial body of opinion."

    Care to take up anything else?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 6:44 PM  

  • Roger,

    Will do. Yes, Pyle was a naive manipulator that made a bad situation worse. The irony of GWB invoking him to support his Iraq strategy is nearly unfathomable.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 6:47 PM  

  • “The weakest point”? How about out & out lie? Using the words of other people to try and prove your point is one thing. Pointing me in the direction of someone who hasn’t a clue is another.

    I'm afraid that your handle on WWII history is lacking, until such time as you have a better understanding of it, we will just have to talk about things you actually know about. I will leave it to Roger to school you here.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 4:06 AM  

  • Was Korea a victory? Don't we still have troops on the Demilitarized Zone? Thats what I'm thinking will be going on in Iraq in 50+ years.

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

    By Blogger David Schantz, at 9:07 PM  

  • Lysander,

    I linked at least 4 articles. You are focusing on one statement that may or may not be true. Honestly, I don't know, but since you are so sure of yourself, why not provide some evidence. Clearly you have it at your fingertips.

    Roger apparently doesn't have time to come and school me. Or maybe he did some research and found that the out and out lying can be more easily found in Bush's speech.

    Care to take up the Viet Nam issues? Thats what I though.


    Yeah, we would be there for 50 years if we could afford to be.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 10:30 PM  

  • I suggested a book to you. It won a Pulitzer Prize and was written by John Dower, PhD and professor of Japanese history @ MIT.

    As to Vietnam, you know that I - unlike Roger - believe we had no business being in S.E. Asia. That being said, I also believe - as did the N. - that victory was still possible for the U.S.

    Not enough focus was/is given to bloodletting after the Democrat congress defended the S. and it is likely that we would see such a bloodletting should there be a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq.

    The Surrender Monkeys are not liberals at all. In fact they are selfish political whores who would trade human life to see Bush shamed. I know you are still on the fence, but the similarities should be clear to you and your position, as someone who is "green" should be consistent with value of human life over political theater.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 11:35 PM  

  • SORRY,,, should say de-funded and NOT defended.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 11:36 PM  

  • I'd like to know who these "erstwhile experts" were, and what kind of numbers they represent. Are we talking about a few, a lot, or a majority of the thinkers of the time.

    Can you compare those numbers to the present day experts that doubt the success of democracy in Iraq?

    Can you compare the diverse ethnic and religious fabric of the present day Iraqi society to the rather homogeneous fabric of the erstwhile Japanese society?

    There are critics of every plan. The question is who they were at the time, and what kind of intellectual fortitude they possessed.

    Indeed I believe in the value of human life over theater, which is why it makes me sick to have watched Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, et al. favor political theater over human life for the last 4 and a half years. And although as I think you know, I don't favor a pull out at this point, within a year, what choice will we have?

    Indeed, a call for a full pull out is likely intended to affect a draw-down, kind of like an opening bid at a street market.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:26 AM  

  • I'd just like to elaborate on the question of "what choice will we have" from the previous comment.

    You and I know that the men and women who are serving in Iraqi largely consist of those on their 3rd, 4th, or 5th tour. Tours are now 15 months. The "surge" can only be sustained under the current system until next spring.

    In the meantime, the ability of the American armed forces to react to any potential emergency in the future is severely reduced, so much so that the top-bass are becoming more vocally opposed to the current plan (how it relates specifically to Iraq notwithstanding) by the day.

    So if you believe that the troop levels should be kept up, how, my friend, do you suggest that should be done looking ahead to 2009 and beyond?

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:31 AM  

  • Right on que

    AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (Reuters) - President George W. Bush raised the prospect of troop cuts in Iraq after meeting top commanders at a desert air base on Monday but said any reduction must be made from a position of strength.

    "Those decisions (on troop levels) will be based on a calm assessment by military commanders on conditions on the ground, not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results and the media," he told hundreds of cheering Marines.

    As if it matters why the troops are being reduced. This is all political theater.

    The fact is, they have to reduce the troop levels because they have no choice. The Democrats have nothing to do with it.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:34 AM  

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