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August 03, 2013

The Implications of "Our Nixon" and Beyond

For weeks, CNN had been touting a 2 hour special on Richard Nixon, my personal candidate for worst-ever American President. When it finally aired last Thursday (to mixed reviews). I was disappointed- but hardly surprised- that it made no mention of the drug war that has become Nixon's most pernicious legacy (but is not recognized as such for a variety of devious reasons I hope to discuss sometime in the near future).

Ironically, all Nixon himself may have ever craved was approval, but he must have been terribly frustrated in 1968 when, after finally arriving at the ultimate American pinnacle against long odds, he found himself being targeted by young "Hippies" demanding an end to the failing war in Vietnam, a quagmire that had evolved steadily from Truman's offhand offer of "assistance" in 1952 to later become a MAAG under Eisenhower; a unit my younger brother became part of as a draftee in 1960 and described to me in considerable detail in September 1961 when I met him for the first time since we both graduated in 1957; him from college and me from medical school.

What my brother- now sadly, deceased- told me was that the South Vietnamese were slowly losing their war in 1961 and we'd probably become involved as we had in Korea. One thing he was wrong about was China; he thought our presence would pull them in as it had in Korea. He couldn't have known that North Vietnam, liberally supplied with Russian weapons, would stymie our best military efforts until Tet made it clear to all but the most irrational hawks that the cost of "victory" was beyond what most Americans were willing to pay. Nixon's strategy of "Vietnamization' was thus obviated and his 1972 trip to China was after the fact so far as Vietnam was concerned. North Vietnam had outlasted its would-be colonizers, just as it had the French before us.

Every subsequent American president, from Eisenhower forward, had increased our presence in Vietnam until an attack on the Pleiku Barracks suckered LBJ into drastically raising the ante. What we also know about Johnson is that by focusing on domestic issues and allowing Robert McNamara to run things in Viet Nam, he'd set himself up for a forced withdrawal from the 1968 campaign. Thus began the "perfect storm" that allowed Nixon to squeak to a narrow victory over Humphrey in the pivotal 1968 Election.

Thus do mere mortals make critical mistakes based on false assumptions. At least the inescapable reality of failure in Vietnam brought a halt to our efforts to "win" short of using nuclear weapons.

Ironically, we might have learned another lesson from the French failure, one related to their (and our CIA's) use of the heroin market as a clandestine resource. Unfortunately we failed to heed that lesson as well and would only compound the damage after Nixon succeeded in punishing the Hippies with his Controlled Substances Act.

For those who agree that our "security" requires us to punish Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden severely for telling the truth,I have only two words: Daniel Ellsberg.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 3, 2013 06:01 PM