Jonathan E. Hillman: The Fog of More
Jonathan E. Hillman is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Looking back on the Vietnam War, which ended thirty-seven years ago today, former secretary of defense Robert McNamara remarked, "There’s a wonderful phrase: the fog of war." He explained: "War is so complex it’s beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily."
If the twenty-first century is any guide, McNamara’s attempt to solve the riddle of Vietnam was distinctly, and tragically, American. With enemy body counts as his compass, McNamara directed an escalation of U.S. troop levels, airpower and aid after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident. As the North Vietnamese fought on, defying American assumptions, McNamara championed requests for more soldiers, bombs and dollars until resigning in late 1967.
Thirty-seven years since the fall of Saigon, the fog has not lifted, and McNamara’s ghost haunts the recent landscape of U.S. foreign policy. Today, Afghanistan’s fate remains as uncertain as before President Obama upped U.S. troop levels to six figures. Impatience with sanctions, aid and diplomacy give way to calls for military action as the United States debates entering a civil war in Syria and attacking Iran...
comments powered by Disqus
- Revised AP U.S. History Standards Will Emphasize American Exceptionalism
- In a county that tried to amend U.S. history course, a lesson in politics
- Overhauling La Guardia, an Airport With a Historical Name but a Tarnished Image
- Now it can be told: The weakening of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the crowning achievement of GOP partisans who detested the law
- Japanese textbooks may sanitize history, but comic art books don't
- Historians Against the War gathering signatures for new resolution to AHA on alleged violations of academic freedom in Israel
- Academic Seeks Death Certificate for Outlaw Billy the Kid
- Murderer of historian of Czech Jewry goes on trial
- Election results are in for the American Historical Association
- Nial Ferguson warns Obama’s bet on Iran has low odds of success