Lessons from History, Personal and Political

The Times has a lengthy article on John McCain’s 1974 thesis on lessons of Vietnam.

Adm. Jim Stockdale wrote that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was based on completely false impressions (not deliberately so, but false nonetheless).  He also thought that the US should have bombed the dickens out of Hanoi, and, like McCain in his thesis, argued that congressmen who opposed the war were rooting for failure and surrender.

Lord knows that they earned all manner of admiration for their toughness and defiance in the Hanoi Hilton.  That doesn’t mean that they drew the right lessons for US policy, though. Strategy has to involve some awareness of costs and benefits, and you just don’t get it from McCain, not on Vietnam, and not on Iraq.

He did have some concept of it on Somalia, though.  Was it that he connected the Vietnam war to the threat from communism, and the Iraq occupation to the threat from terrorism?  That conservative Republicans tended to support both of them, but not Somalia?  Who knows.


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