Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Afghan Question, Part I

Taking pleasure in others' misery is, no doubt, a bit of a sin. There's a German word for it, which I certainly couldn't spell. Nevertheless, I couldn't keep from chucking a little when I heard that GM had sold the Hummer label to a Chinese company.

Now to our title subject, this time by an indirect route. What gives me, who have never been in any war in any capacity, to comment at all on this subject, which is currently soaking up so much brainpower in Washington?
What indeed, other than living in a free society in which uninformed or outright ridiculous ideas have no legal restriction, allows me to comment on anything with any expectation that others might read and agree?
Indulge me for a bit as we return to that cauldron of controversy, the 1960s. My father had a Ph.D. in Chemistry, and my mother was trained as an R.N. Even so, both had small town backgrounds and shared the massive blind spot of that generation regarding how citizens with different backgrounds should treat one another. As I grew, it seemed that their indifference to the Civil Right issue especially called into question the validity of ALL their views. I wasn't a rebel in any real way, but started to check other sources of information, which I became more familiar with as a member of the Debate Club in high school, which was a bigger deal than you might think, at least to me.
Of course, this didn't happen all at once. Lyndon Johnson had put U.S. combat troops in Vietnam two full years before I started paying much attention. The prospect of the military draft tends to put one's thoughts into focus as few other things would.
So I turned to the scholars seeking information I could put some faith in. Scholars and journalists, it seemed to me, were less liable to be "mobbed up" with the dopes who had been wrong on Civil Rights. I strongly wanted to be a scholar myself at the time. Who could have foreseen the beating the scholars would take in society in subsequent years, when the phrase "Can you get a job with that?" became the poor man's shortcut to wisdom?
Taking this approach, it wasn't hard to conclude that Johnson, using all the brainy guys Kennedy had left behind, along with the hubris-infected military brass, who knew little or nothing about the whole Southeast Asian subcontinent and, worse, didn't even know the depths of their own ignorance, could not have been more wrong about Vietnam. My hindsight was 20-20, naturally, and I've come to think now that Kennedy may have made the same blunders, had he lived, as Johnson.
The next entry here will finally tackle the Afghan question, but I thought it might be helpful to get some personal background before I simply blurt out how I feel without any explanation. Sure, all this so far was forty plus years ago, but that doesn't make it irrelevant to today's choices.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The german word is Schadenfreude. It means the joy one feels at another's person's misfortune.

2:52 PM  

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