Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Best and the Brightest

David Halberstam (b. NYC, 4/10/1934-d. Menlo Park, CA, 4/23/2007), RIP. The prolific author of fat books wrote particularly well about the Vietnam War in The Making of a Quagmire (1965) and The Best and the Brightest (1972). Problem is, those who should have read these books probably never have and never will. Indeed, I just heard President G.W. Bush insist that he "will not let politics and impatience determine the course of the war" or something very close to that. (Was not his very decision to invade Iraq an act of politics and impatience?)

Halberstam, on Vietnam War policymakers: Nor had they, leaders of a democracy, bothered to involve the people of their country in the course they had chosen: they knew the right path and they knew how much could be revealed, step by step along the way.

They had manipulated the public, the Congress and the press from the start, told half truths about why we were going in, how deeply we were going in, how much we were spending, and how long we were in for.

When their predictions turned out to be hopelessly inaccurate, and when the public and the Congress, annoyed at being manipulated, soured on the war, then the architects had been aggrieved.

They had turned on those very symbols of the democratic society they had once manipulated, criticizing them for their lack of fiber, stamina and belief.

Why weren't the journalists more supportive? How could you make public policy with television cameras everywhere? (The Best and the Brightest, pages 655-656; one big paragraph in the original).

Today's Rune: Strength.

Birthdays: Vincent de Paul, Anthony Trollope, Shirley MacLaine, Véronique Sanson.


JR's Thumbprints said...

Halberstam's comments certainly can be applied to our current situation. I wonder if President Bush thinks, "what if I had waited, what if I hadn't rushed into making a decision, what if... what would my approval ratings be?"

Anonymous said...

Erik, I read Halberstam's "The Making of a Quagmire" in school while I watched the birthday draft lottery. My brother and I were sure we would be drafted. I think it should have been required reading and maybe we would not be making the same mistakes today. But then again, would the President have read it. Better yet, would he have understood the dynamic. To answer your last post: Those making claims of abduction. Enjoyed the read. MW

Ralph Nadir said...

He wrote a book on the decline of the American auto industry called "The Reckoning." It's ironic that a few days after his passing we find out Toyota has eclipsed General Motors as the United States' number one manufacturer of autos.