Sunday, December 21, 2008

What the General Did Not Say

Wesley Clark has an op-ed piece in the Washington Post today about relations between Democrats and the military. One passage caught my eye:
Finally, let's put aside the partisan legacy of Vietnam once and for all. We all grieve for the losses there and for the needy, homeless vets today. But almost no one now in uniform served in that conflict, and most of the Democrats who will be moving into offices at the National Security Council, the Pentagon and in Congress are too young to have been part of the bitter national debates over the war. Iraq just isn't Vietnam, and the debates over a U.S. withdrawal need not tear the country apart -- especially if we in the military recognize that the Democratic Party that I have been associated with is every bit as patriotic and service-oriented as any other group in the United States. (italics added)

The general is correct that re-playing history into the present does not constitute serious discussion of contemporary challenges; we should certainly not allow ourselves to be trapped into some ironclad historical model.

That's why I say that if we want to put the partisan debate about Vietnam behind us, we also must discard the polarizing specter of Munich and the even more damaging concepts of American Exceptionalism and Triumphalism. Munich tells us that all negotiation with an adversary is appeasement, that adversaries are always evil and that evil only responds to force. is the only real solution. Exceptionalism and Triumphalism insist the United States exists on its own plane with rights, privileges and exemptions from the lessons of history.

General Clark offers good advice about ways Democrats and the military can work together to serve America. As far as thad advice goes, it's a positive step. An even greater step would be for Americans to discard our myths and fears about our place in the world and to learn how to compete in the world as it is and will be.

The piece is also notable for acknowledging the passing of the Vietnam Generation. We're almost history and certainly the rancorous legacy of that war should be forever interred. But I for one will not go quietly if I think the grievous errors, lies and distortions are not exorcised from our national debates as part of that interment. I earned that right and that duty in Vietnam

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home