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
- 'Sexist' Paris streets renamed in the name of feminism
- NYT profiles a path-breaking transgender pioneer who became a judge
- CIA Plans Huge Release of Top-Secret Reports From the 1960s
- South Dakota drops history as a high school requirement
- The Forgotten History Of 'Violent Displacement' That Helped Create The National Parks
- Historian author Antony Beevor says his new World War 2 book may anger Americans
- Ron Radosh and Allis Radosh plan to defend Warren Harding in a new book
- Historians tackle America’s mass incarceration problem
- Report: Russian studies in crisis
- Ken Burns: Donald Trump’s birtherism — a “politer way of saying the ‘N-word'” — proves America isn’t remotely “post-racial”