Ronald Radosh: Complains about slanted NYT coverage

Historians in the News

Dear Mr. Hoyt:

I am writing in regard to the article by Thom Shanker that appeared on Aug.23rd. The headline says "Historians Question Bush's Reading of Lessons of Vietnam War for Iraq" Mr. Shanker writes that "President Bush is right on the factual record, according to historians. But many of them also quarreled with his drawing analogies[to Vietnam] predict what might happen in Iraq should the United States withdraw."

The article suggests that Mr. Shanker spoke to "many" historians. How many did he actually speak to? Are there really no historians, including those in specialized in Vietnam, who hold a different point of view? The answer, as you might expect, is yes. Mr. Shanker obviously chose not to speak to them. The article therefore gives the impression that President Bush's analogy is wrong. I could immediately list a lot of respected academics in history and international affairs who might have a different perspective on that question. The first is Stephen Morris of SAIS, who wrote a book "Why Vietnam Invaded Cambodia" and is a noted specialist on the Vietnamese war and U.S. foreign policy. He might have called Robert J. Lieber of Georgetown University, who wrote a recently published book, "The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century," Prof. Lieber's well received book is a reevaluation and critical analysis written by a liberal Democrat who nevertheless supports much of what has been called the Bush Doctrine. And why did he not phone the highly respected historian of U.S. foreign policy, John L. Gaddis of Yale University? Is it perhaps because Prof. Gaddis was one of the historians invited to the White House by the President to discuss U.S. policy and to present his insights on history?

As the article appears, it reads more appropriately as yet another Op Ed piece opposed to the President's policies, rather than a "news analysis." The New York Times should be more careful when it runs articles like this.

Ronald Radosh
Prof. Emeritus of History, CUNY
Adjunct Fellow, The Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C.

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