Madlib Wars

I think the principal lesson I would draw from that was perhaps twofold. One was that it is not really possible, no matter what the skill, nor the size, nor the effectiveness of he American forces, to fight a war that does not have the understanding of the American people and the support of the American people. And I think another perhaps subsidiary lesson from that would be that we cannot and should not enter a war that it is not vital for our national security to enter, and we should never enter a war that we don not intend to win or in which we do not expend every single effort of every weapon and every facility that we have to win.

If we have to be in a war, then it has to be, in my opinion serious enough and severe enough for our national survival so that we should not be asked to fight – none of the men involved should be asked to fight – under any circumstances than the maximum employment of every strength that we have as a Nation.

And I think that was one of the problems we had… We went into it on kind of a dragged in sort of basis over the years. We never had a formal kind of declaration. For a long time… we attempted to fight a major war without admitting it and without any of the civilian sacrifices that are necessary for a major war…

It was not the kind of situation we should be in again because it was not the kind of struggle that was essential for our national survival, and we did not enter that war with any intention apparently of winning it. And that to my mind is a very serious indictment of what was done because of the effect on the man and women who were asked to participate in that kind of conflict. We lost thousands of lives, and we at no time made clear to the American people, the vital necessity of it or the fact that because we were participating, it was a war that we did have to win, in which we were willing to expend all of our efforts and all of our skills and all of our resources. And that I would hope would never happen again.

A sober assessment of our situation in Afghanistan. Or was it Iraq? In any case, these dovish and defeatist statement were clearly written by a liberal Democrat or Huffington Post blogger.

In fact, these words were spoken by Caspar Weinberger, as he reflected on Vietnam during 1981 Congressional hearings over his nomination as Defense Secretary in the Reagan administration. Once upon a time there were Republicans who spoke candidly and did not belong to the Defeat-at-Any-Cost camp. Such lucidity does not absolve “Cap” of his involvement in the Iran-Contra and Star Wars fiascos, but his plain talk would be nice to hear nowadays, as our new Vietnams play out in slow motion, out of sight and out of mind for much of the American population.

Author: Alex Sayf Cummings

Alex Sayf Cummings is an associate professor of history at Georgia State University, whose work deals with technology, law, public policy, and the political culture of the modern United States. Alex's writing has appeared in Salon, the Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of American History, the Journal of Urban History, Al Jazeera, and Southern Cultures, among other publications, and the book Democracy of Sound was published by Oxford University Press in 2013 (paperback, 2017). Alex can be followed on Twitter at @akbarjenkins.

4 thoughts

  1. But… wasn't Weinberger invoking the case of Vietnam to justify an enormous military buildup? As in, no more of McNamara's gradual escalation; bring on the overwhelming force and shock and awe? The exact Weinberger/Powell "doctrine" that was invoked at the start of the current Iraq War?

  2. oh my goody-ness. i heard ryan reft looks like charles rangel's eyebrows + nancy pelosi's botoxed tush, or is it bobby jindal's jaws + justice john roberts' dreamy eyes?can the internet be this informative?

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