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The End of an Uncivil War (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 6/11/02, NY Times)
The historical mutual sneering between America's soldiers and its universities is coming to an end.

One of the scars from Vietnam was this reciprocal contempt, leading each side to despise a caricature of the other: redneck, baby-killing, misogynous storm troopers with the ethical sensitivity of Nazis; and arrogant, long-haired America-hating rebels, all wimps and probably mostly gay feminist Communists as well. [...]

Boomers like myself are, belatedly, shedding a vision of the military shaped largely by Vietnam and are beginning to realize that almost no American institution has such humanitarian potential as the armed forces.

While ice-hearted hawks helped cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia in the 1960's, mush-hearted doves helped kill--by failing to push for military force--hundreds of thousands in places like Rwanda in the 1990's.

This essay nicely captures the profound schizophrenic tendencies of a NY Times columnist trying to go straight. Mr. Kristof has been looking in the mirror lately and apparently not much liking what he sees there. In a recent column he boldly accepted blame on behalf of liberals generally for the opposition to criminal profiling that may have contributed to the events of 9-11. Here he nearly succeeds in accepting the blame on behalf of liberals for the vile way they have treated the military for the past forty years--but only nearly.

In the end he can't quite bring himself to shoulder the lion's share of the blame on this one. Note that the sneering and contempt were mutual and apparently mutually wrong, that both despised mere caricatures, and that the military is apparently solely responsible for the deaths that occurred in Vietnam, deaths which it is appropriate to compare to the genocide in Rwanda. All of this is ridiculous, if not slanderous.

As his own piece suggests, the liberals on campus richly deserved the contempt of the military, which has been perhaps the most important force for human rights in world history. He pretty clearly shows that the "caricature" of the Boomers was not a caricature at all but was accurate. They did hate America and its institutions, like the armed forces, did want the communist North Vietnamese to win, were feminists, and as he goes on to say later in the column, favored gay rights. The arrogance is evident in the column.

The comparison of Vietnam to Rwanda is particularly objectionable. In the first place, it was liberal icons like the Kennedy brothers and LBJ who started and escalated American participation in a shooting war in Vietnam. Second, though the war may not have worked out as we would have hoped, there's no evidence that those who pursued the war had anything other than good intentions--specifically, safeguarding the people of South Vietnam from a brutal communist takeover (here's a href=>recent story about how those former allies actually feel about our military). The military was certainly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of these North Vietnamese aggressors and South Vietnamese terrorists, but it is liberals who must take exclusive blame for the hundreds of thousands of deaths which followed the North Vietnamese victory that they made possible. But most importantly, the people who perpetrated the Rwandan mass murders acted out of ethnic hatred. The nearly fifty thousand American military men who
died in Vietnam gave their lives for noble American ideals. What comparison can there be between the two?

Perhaps we would do well to consider Mr. Kristof to be embarked on the first tentative stages of a Twelve Step program :

1. We admitted we were powerless over liberalism - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [fellow liberals] and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

He's taken step one, but now he's struggling with steps four and five. This is entirely predictable. Addictions are extraordinarily hard to overcome and we have to expect backsliding. He deserves our admiration for embarking on the journey and our encouragement as he walks the tough road. But he also requires some tough love and today's column, in its refusal to accept full responsibility for one's own actions and its attempt to blame others, is an unfortunate sign of recidivism. Ah well, one day at a time.


Grade: (F)


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