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Today's quote:

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Best and the Brightest

Start listening to David Halberstam from 15:52


Not until I had read an article headed "A Mournful Legacy", had I ever heard of David Halberstam and his massive (over 800 pages) and massively influential account of America’s ill-fated war in Vietnam, "The Best and the Brightest".

Since Vietnam we've had Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and many other military posturings, right down to the current crisis over Ukraine, and, as the article "A Mournful Legacy" suggests, President Joe Biden would do well to check out "The Best and the Brightest" at his local library.

The title of the book refers to some of the best and brightest men of that time — John F. Kennedy, Walt Whitman Rostow, the Bundy brothers, Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, numerous other political illuminati of the '60s —and they were all chewed up by an army dressed up in pyjamas and sandals. As Halberstam concludes, "There was, Americans were finding, no light at the end of the tunnel, only greater darkness."

I've started reading "The Best and the Brightest" which, despite it feeling almost like watching an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, is slow going. You may get a quicker grip on the subject by listening to the above clip or, better still, by watching this documentary of the Vietnam War:

The article "A Mournful Legacy" ends with, "Moral realism suggests the possibility of a similar outcome for Ukraine: neutralization to transform it into a buffer between Russia and NATO while providing for the essential security and well-being of the Ukrainian people. A perfect solution? No, and hawkish critics will scream appeasement. But such an outcome will be infinitely preferable to a major (and potentially nuclear) armed conflict or to Ukraine remaining a perpetual flashpoint. And let’s face it: given the precarious state of their own democracy, Americans today have more pressing concerns to deal with than Eastern European border security. "

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P.S. I've just realised that it's not so much my never having heard of David Halberstam as my having forgotten about him, because many years ago I read his book "The Reckoning" which is still in my library.