What Would JFK Have Done in Vietnam After 1963?

w1056This is rather fascinating. In it, JFK comes across as more of a smart realist than anything else. Getting caught in a situation where all choices are bad, like the Congo, he appears to have his head on pretty straight, I doubt many of us would have done better.

By Sheldon Stern, who is “the author of numerous articles and “’: John F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings” (2003), “The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Averting ‘the Final FailureSecret Cuban Missile Crisis” (2005), and “The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory: Myths vs. Reality” (2012), all in the Stanford University Press Nuclear Age Series. He was Historian at the Kennedy Library from 1977 to 2000.”

For five decades, historians have debated one of the most intriguing “what ifs” about the presidency of John F. Kennedy: would he, like Lyndon Johnson, have committed hundreds of thousands of American military forces in Vietnam? My view, rooted in the documents and tape recordings at the JFK Library, does not support the conclusions of either Kennedy advocates or critics. The former insist that he had already decided to withdraw American troops, no later than after the 1964 election; the latter point to the fact that he was a committed cold warrior and that the principal architects of escalation—Robert McNamara, McGeorge Bundy, Walt Rostow and Dean Rusk—were all Kennedy appointees. However, the primary sources often suggest that JFK had not made up his mind about Vietnam and was pursuing parallel paths which would enable him to make a decision when and if necessary. If he had been asked about Vietnam in Fort Worth on the last morning of his life, he would likely have responded by essentially saying, “I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do in Vietnam.”

My books on the Cuban missile crisis tape recordings plainly document Kennedy’s profound skepticism about military solutions to political problems in the nuclear age. But, it is likely misleading to jump to conclusions about JFK and Vietnam based on decisions made during an unprecedented global crisis shaped by 13 days of around-the-clock dread of an imminent nuclear holocaust. The missile crisis was unique and, as Barton Bernstein argues, too concentrated and intense for reliable generalizations that “would fit more normal times and situations.” The remaining Kennedy recordings, particularly those dealing with ‘more normal’ crises, may actually be more instructive for thinking about JFK’s possible course in Vietnam.

In 1960, the former Belgian Congo gained its independence and was promptly torn apart by civil, political, and tribal violence. By late 1962, a UN peacekeeping force was struggling to save the government of Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, especially after Katanga province, led by Moise Tshombe, declared its own independence and sought Soviet military and technical aid. President Kennedy convened his advisers to consider American options. …

via History News Network | What Would JFK Have Done in Vietnam After 1963?

See what I mean, pretty interesting, both in whatKennedy thought and how wary of getting our people involved he was. I have little insight here, I was in grade school at the time, and haven’t really studied the period, but unless Stern is spinning the information out of all recognition, and I strongly doubt that he is, JFK comes across as a pretty solid guy, not much given to posturing, grounded in reality type of guy.

We could use another JFK, in either party about now, I think.

‘Mad as hell’?

Mad as hell

There is a palpable anger in our politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the UK, one Labour MP was shot recently, and others have been threatened. This verbal violence is happening in the Labour Party, which preaches equality and social justice. It did not happen under Miliband, Brown and Blair, but it does under Corbyn, who, of course denounces it, but seems incurious about why it is happening on his watch, and quite unable to stop it. One of the problems with being a social justice warrior seems to be that the end justifies the means; demonise your opponents, and then you can treat them as demons; it is not a good way to do politics. There were some ugly scenes and the RNC last week, and there will be at the DNC this week. Meanwhile across the Channel, there have been attacks in Nice, Munich and other places, and the authorities, presumably trying not to stir things up, play down any religious motive in them, which, alas, simply makes ordinary people even more suspicious about what is going on. All of this increases the sense many ordinary people have that politics has become a place where the elites enrich themselves at our expense – and to steal a phrase, it makes many ‘mad as hell’ and they ‘don’t want to take it’.

In the UK the opinion formers and the media were confident that ‘Remain’, their side, would win, and as a ‘Remainer’ I hoped it would. But they ran an ugly and negative campaign, mainly around economics, warning us of the consequences of failing to vote the right way. What they failed to understand was that millions already feel penalised by the system, so they didn’t really see it getting much worse for them personally; the alienated, the simply fed up and grumpy, and the ardent ‘leavers’ were sufficient to overturn conventional wisdom and the predictions of the pollsters, and so the ‘Remain’ side lost.

This time last year we were confidently being told Trump would not survive the summer; then it was the autumn he wouldn’t survive; then it was ‘Super Tuesday’ that would bury him; then it was an agreement among his challengers which would finish him off; then he became the nominee. The media don’t ‘get it’. He does not follow the Clinton playbook. We shall see, with Hillary whether that one still works, but it does not work with the millions who are sick to their back teeth of self-serving, venal and lying politicians. Sure, Trump’s a load mouth, sure he’s rich, but the Americans have never minded rich men, it is politicians enriching themselves to which objection is taken; Trump’s riches mean he can’t be bought; if Hillary were a listed company she’d have a who board of directors running her.

Here in the UK, the new PM, Theresa May, came in talking of her sense of public duty and acknowledging that many people felt they were being left behind; these are good words, but they need to be followed by delivery. There is a palpable sense that the anger currently felt begins to threaten the system itself. The political system is not an end in itself, but it seems to have become one for the politicians and the lobbyists; unless it begins to fulfil the ends for which it exists – the public good  – the public may decide to end it – and if that happens, it won’t be pretty. We need to rediscover a sense of duty and morality in public life – we have gone on too long as though those were mere words – well words alone no longer suffice.

Critics of “Gays for Trump” Party Miss the Point |

An interesting follow-on from the GOP convention, and many bad things happening in the world.

Gay rights activists have not traditionally found a political home on the right. Yet gay activist and alternative-right icon Milo Yiannopoulus wants to change that, arguing that while the Republican party may not love homosexuality, Islam wants gays dead, and therefore gay people should support Trump (who Milo calls “Daddy”).

This was the theme of “WAKE UP,” billed as “the most fab party at the RNC,” which brought Milo together with controversial activist Pamela Geller who has gained notoriety for her “Draw Mohammed”cartoon competition as well as billboards in New York which read: “In the war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The event was panned by media outlets such as Salon in a piece which shrugged off the event as a “virulently anti-Islam party at the RNC” and The Nation, which slammed it as “Islamophobes, White Supremacists, and Gays for Trump—the Alt-Right Arrives at the RNC.”

Teen Vogue said the event “perpetuates Islamophobia.” The Nation’s piece revealed the alarmingly open presence of white nationalists at the event and the seemingly small numbers of gay people who showed up.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who spoke at the event, referred to Europe as “Eurabia” and said, “Islam is the problem.”

If they would have looked to France, they would have seen that gay support for the far right has already happened there. In 2015 a national scandal occurred when it emerged that the winner of France’s largest gay magazine’s beauty contest was an outspoken supporter of France’s right wing Front Nationale.

As early as 2012, 26% of the gay community in Paris supported the Front Nationale, as opposed to 16% of straight people.

The rationale is startlingly simple. Milo’s cult status as an online provocateur has been generated by making controversial statements and pushing the accepted boundaries of discussion. He has been able to tap into the large and growing alt-right movement — a disparate collection of mostly young white males who support socially liberal policies but who hold the left in contempt for their perceived abandonment of liberal values when it comes to human rights abuses committed in the name of Islam.

Because of this, Milo and others make the argument that only the right will stand up to defend gay people against Islamist extremism.

The movement also partially consists of white nationalists and racists, who are able to maintain their foothold because they have consistently spoken out against radical Islam (and indeed Islam in general.)

Put simply, people would rather be racist than dead.

That’s very true, of course, even very socially conservatives don’t want to kill gays. They may want to ‘cure’ them or ‘convert’ them or something of that nature, but they universally realize that conversion at the muzzle of a gun is likely to be insincere, and invalid.

Personally, I would be more pleased if the gay activists would realize that many of us, on the right, simply don’t care, in civil manners about any groups, our quest is for individual rights for each and every one. What Martin Luther King referred to as the content of the character, rather than the color of the skin (and we could easily add sexual preference to that). That underpins all of our belief structure, including the free market.

However the ideology in question is not Islam, as Geert Wilders would argue, but is Islamism, the theocratic political project which seeks to impose the religion of Islam over everyone in the world and implementsharia governance, complete with hudud punishments. This ideology does threaten the freedoms of all Americans.

Tarring all Muslims with the same brush is not only morally wrong, but also facilitates the very thinking propagated by the Islamic State and other Islamist groups –- by dividing the world into two camps, Muslims and non-Muslims.

However, the refusal of the elites around the world — with a few notable exceptions such as the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron — to correctly name and challenge the issue has created a vacuum.

People know there is a problem and know that it needs to be tackled.

When the Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) object to billboards calling on Muslims to talk to the FBI if they become suspicious of terrorism, when President Obama and Hillary Clinton point blank refuse to name the ideology at fault, people will start to draw their own conclusions about who is to blame and take action accordingly.

via Critics of “Gays for Trump” Party Miss the Point |

And so our elites themselves have prepared the battleground for the battle between the west, and not our real enemy radical Islam, but Islam itself, and quite possibly our own elites, as well. But we should forestall that, for defeating the wrong army is not victory. We need discernment in our leaders as much as we need courage enough to see and identify the enemy. And yes, there is one, and no it is not Islam. It is radical Islam, and when we fight this battle, we will do enough inadvertent damage to Islam, without confusing Islam itself with it in our minds.

This is the mistake that our political leadership (all across the west) makes. The west will be defended in the end, but there should be enough leadership to show that proper targeting will save many, many lives, on both sides.

I see little reason to fear radical Islam once proper defense measures are put in place, ones that do not overly infringe on our desiderata: individual freedom. But we have leadership that appears to be using radical Islam as a means to control their own populations, rather than defend our civilization. That is unlikely to end well for them, for us, or for Islam.

And then There was One

35C6061F00000578-0-image-a-7_1467192492398From the £ Daily Mail. And why, pray tell, are we dependent on a British paper for this story? In any case, Staff Sergeant David Johnathan Thatcher, died last week, leaving Lieutenant Colonel Richard ‘Dick’ Cole as the last man standing. We’ve talked about some of their traditions before, and you can read that here, as well. Here is some of the Mail’s article.

The final Doolittle Raider, who was one of 80 fliers to take off on the first bombing attack of mainland Japan following Pearl Harbor, attended the funeral of his last remaining comrade-in-arms. 

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Richard ‘Dick’ Cole, from Comfort, Texas, is now the last of the brave airmen who took off from the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942. 

He stood beside his comrade, and friend retired Staff Sergeant David Johnathan Thatcher, who died in Missoula hospital in Montana last week. The 94-year-old former airman suffered a stroke before dying.

35C177B000000578-0-image-a-1_1467191620985The Doolittle Flyers were trained in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor for a top secret mission, known only to a few people. 

The men were told that the mission would be ‘extremely hazardous’ and were told at the beginning, this was the time to back out.

The audacious plan, developed by Lt Col James ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle, would see 16, B-25 bombers attack sites on mainland Japan – even though no body had managed to launch an aircraft that size from an aircraft carrier.

via Montana funeral for Doolittle Raider who helped mission on Japan following Pearl Harbor | Daily Mail Online

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan dies at age 85

81369015-chicago-bears-defensive-coordinator-buddy-ryan-super-bowl-xx-850x560A sad day indeed. I think all of us remember if we’re old enough when pro football was fun. Yeah, we all cared you who won and lost, that’s what competition is all about but we also knew that other things were more important than football. I grew up around Chicago, in Northwest Indiana, and I can remember a bunch of us who played high school football, going down to Rensselaer, Indiana to watch the Bears summer camp. I can also remember Walter Peyton, Sweetness himself, running up and down the dunes at Dunes State Park, in full pads, for hours. If you wonder why his knees held out for all those years, well, a lot of it was conditioning.

But in ’85, as we watched daBears, we had a saying, “If they don’t score, we can’t lose”. We said that because the Bears had quite likely the best defense ever seen, anywhere, and a lot of that was Buddy Ryan. Yep, he had trouble getting along with Ditka. Talk about two strong personalities yoked unwillingly together! But they managed, somehow.

And the lessons they taught, first they taught us to work hard and win, that we had to really want to succeed, and do it right, and with discipline and teamwork. They also taught us to relish the fight and to have fun while we did it. Looking back, there was something very American indeed, about that team, some of them just plain didn’t like each other, but when the ball kicked off, that simply didn’t matter, it was time to play the game, and to win it. A lesson many of us need to learn again. It wouldn’t hurt if we also relearned the lesson about leaving the game on the field.

Buddy died last Tuesday, from cancer, and something in me died with him. When I played the game, I was a defensive tackle, and watching how his teams did it was inspirational.

From NFL.com

Oklahoma born and bred, Ryan entered the coaching profession in 1961 with the University of Buffalo following his service in the military. From there, a career as a defensive troubadour began, winding its way through New York, Minnesota, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and Arizona.

“Without Buddy Ryan … I’m just a guy,” legendary Bears linebacker Mike Singletary said on an ESPN documentary about the 1985 Bears. “He’s someone that you meet, and you think he’s the toughest, meanest guy that you’ll ever meet. But he loves you. He just doesn’t know how to express it. But you know it when he looks at you.”

Added Mike Ditka, the head coach of the 1985 Bears, on Tuesday morning: “Buddy was such an integral part of the Chicago Bears and the ’85 Bears, it was unbelievable.

“There’s no way we win anything without that defense, without his coaching and I think everybody understands that. We won because of our defense, we can never forget that. That’s just the way it was.”

Ryan turned conventional football wisdom on its head early on in his career. He never understood the coddling of NFL quarterbacks, and famously surmised that “a quarterback has never completed a pass when he was flat on his back.” He believed that quarterbacks made too much money, attracted too much attention and acted with an unfair sense of entitlement — and he spent nearly his entire career torturing them.

Bears chairman George H. McCaskey issued the following sentiment:

“Buddy Ryan was the architect of the greatest defense our league has seen. He was brilliant when it came to the X’s and O’s of the game, but what made him special was his ability to create an unwavering confidence in the players he coached. From the day he was hired in 1978, his defenses bought into more than the scheme, they bought into him and took on his personality. Buddy was brash, intelligent and tough. He was a perfect match for our city and team, which is why George Halas took the extraordinary step of keeping him at the behest of his defensive players while transitioning to a new coaching staff in 1982. We will always be grateful for Buddy’s contribution to the Bears. He is one of the team’s all-time greats. Our prayers are with his family.”

via Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan dies at age 85 – NFL.com

So are mine, He was one of the greats, to be associated in our minds forever with the likes of Sweetness, Papa Bear, Ditka, Mike Singletary, and the rest of those guys who we simply loved watching, and you know, we met a surprising number of them, and they were pretty great guys as well. And even more, they gave back to the community, and they had fun through it all.

See your later, Coach, and rest in peace.

Brexit won’t hand victory to the SNP. A unionists’ breakdown just might.

From the Spectator’s Coffee House Blog.

There’s a lot going on the UK right now, much of it has to do with the Tories looking around trying to find something approaching a leader, while labor is having a fairly civil war on itself. That means that Nicola Sturgeon is making hay while the sun shines, pushing for another referendum on Scotland leaving the Union. That this is on the face of it, ludicrous, makes no difference at all. First, how likely is the EU to welcome another failed state? Spain has already said they’ll veto. Then there is the fact that England has subsidised Scotland since, I don’t know, 1707 maybe. Anyway, here’s the article.

Over the last few years, Scots have had to get used to Nicola Sturgeon telling them what they think. When the SNP had its majority (one the voters stripped away in this year’s Holyrood election) she was keen to present herself as the voice of the country: l’Ecosse, c’est moi. If the SNP wants X, then Scotland wants X. She’s at it again, saying that the UK has voted out of the European Union and Scotland has voted in – so the UK was voting ‘against the interests of the Scottish people’ and finally provided the provocation needed to launch a new referendum.

In fact, two-in-five Scots – and even a third of SNP voters – supported Brexit. Last week, a TNS poll suggested that 72 per cent of Scots would vote to Remain: the end result was 62 per cent. Yes, far higher than the 48 per cent in England. But it does not automatically follow that Scotland loves Brussels so much that she’d break the Union with England to stay in the European Union. A Sunday Times poll today, taken after the Brexit vote, shows 52 per cent of Scots would vote to Leave. That figure would need to be consistently at 60 per cent for Sturgeon to risk a second referendum, as she has always said. As Hamish Macdonnell tells me in our Coffee House shots podcast (below), Brexit may have changed her calculation. But it absolutely does not follow that Brexit means the SNP triumphing in a new referendum.

Before last week, there were eight polls asking Scots if they’d want to separate from the UK in the event of Brexit. As the below chart shows, it’s far from conclusive: Brexit made ‘yes’ a bit more likely (on average, increasing ‘yes’ by about four points) but it’s just not a transformation. As John Curtice says, these eight polls were dealing with a hypothetical: now, it’s real – and that could change things. A Sunday Post poll today, for example, puts support for separation at 59 per cent.

But Sturgeon is one of the most formidable politicians in Europe, let alone Britain. She senses that she can change the political weather, especially given that almost all her main opponents were against Brexit. And that a lot of people in London are going a little bit mad right now. The whole vibe of Andrew Cooper’s Project Fear meant that David Cameron and others had to predict the end of the union, amongst other signs of societal collapse, if Britain voted out. It’s now as if they’re half-willing it to be true.

Cameron’s unexpected decision to quit on Friday, rather than stay on for longer and provide a period of stability, has created a vacuum in Westminster. It’s a stunning development, which nationalists in Scotland and Ireland are now exploiting. A lot of Remainers, even in the Cabinet, are now actively on the lookout for the meltdown that they promised: keen to point to the arrival of the plague of locusts, etc. Many Scottish unionist politicians commentators, who also were strongly against Brexit, locked themselves into the same line of argument. So now, it’s as if some of them would half-welcome a nationalist residence as vindication.

via Brexit won’t hand victory to the SNP. A unionists’ breakdown just might. | Coffee House

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