Although North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho signed the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973, he and his colleagues on the North Vietnamese Politburo remained committed to toppling the Saigon regime. Evidence of Hanoi’s intentions toward South Vietnam were not hard to discern – they were easily visible across the South Vietnamese landscape. Continue Reading »
A Review of “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Harvard University Press. 2016. 384 pages.
Nothing Ever Dies is a good book, but a difficult read. It is difficult read for three reasons. One. The subject matter. It’s about war and war is never pretty. Two. The prose. It’s dense, sometimes dry, and repetitive. Third. The book’s organization. It is all over the place. And subjects sometimes strike the reader so fast and so furious that he or she is left reeling.
This is a book that requires deep concentration, discipline, and a willingness to slog through the tangled organization and plodding academic language to arrive at its ideas. But those ideas are worth the effort.
A Review. “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century,” by George Packer. Alfred A. Knopf. 592 pages.
George Packer’s Our Man is occasionally insightful, at times gossipy, and nearly always disturbing.
Packer argues that Holbrooke’s diplomatic accomplishments stemmed, in part, from his personal failings as father, friend, and husband. In other words, the traits that made Holbrooke so unlikable to so many – his ambition, arrogance, personal insecurity, self-absorption, deceitfulness, and shameless self-promotion – also made it possible for him to attain institutional stature and power. He then used his influence to do good, bringing peace to the Balkans, establishing an American cultural center in Berlin, and ensuring that the United States paid its overdue financial obligations to the U.N. According to Packer, only someone as shady and shifty as Holbrooke could have successfully negotiated a peace deal among the murderous warlords of Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. And it was Holbrooke’s idealism, which was the ying to his narcissistic yang, that put the cultural center in the German capital and saved the U.N. from financial ruin and irrelevance. Continue Reading »
Strands of moss twisting in the current
Big-lipped carp greedily sucking in dead mayflies in the foam
Layers of gravel in a steep cutbank – laid down by a long-ago deluge
A mule deer mother and her yearling atop a high ridgeline, ears up and alert
Osprey screeching above the cliffs, bound for downriver
Deep water pushes heavily against a bluff, turns back on itself, and slips away
Water-worn stones reveal the implacable past
Pelicans riding thermals, so high their white undersides resemble distant jetliners
Silence, then a breeze, and the sound of sheets being removed from a bed, it’s the leaves
Silver flashes in amongst the cottonwoods
A brown spider walks across my bare foot, a butterfly lands on my chest
Wind coming up, temperature cooling down, time for dinner
The Army Corps of Engineers and the environmentalists got a bad rap during the recent Missouri River flood. Specifically, Missouri Valley farmers blamed the flood on the Army’s supposed mismanagement of the Dakota dams as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s program of habitat restoration in the valley south of Yankton, South Dakota. The accusations, and their promotion by a sympathetic Midwestern media apparatus, are just not true. As a matter of fact, farmers are the ones who contributed the most to the recent flood.
Agriculture has the greatest influence on runoff into the Missouri and its tributaries. The reason for this is obvious – farmers own most of the land within the Missouri River’s drainage basin. Consequently, what farmers do with their land has a profound effect on the Missouri’s hydraulic regime. Continue Reading »
In August 1965, while General William C. Westmoreland’s finalized the details of his ground war strategy, 700 skytroopers from the 1st Cavalry Division disembarked from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Boxer at the port of Qui Nhon, South Vietnam. At the time, international military analysts considered the 1st Cavalry (whose troopers called themselves the “First Team”) to be the most technologically sophisticated ground combat unit in the world. The 1st Cavalry’s large contingent of helicopters, including the new UH-1 Huey and twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook, provided the skytroopers unprecedented mobility; and in modern warfare, mobility translated into killing power. Continue Reading »
On June 28, 1965, President Johnson gave General William C. Westmoreland the authority to commence offensive ground operations against the Vietcong and North Vietnamese across all of South Vietnam. Although Westmoreland now had a green light to wage a ground war, he still had not firmed up his strategy, or concept of operations, for the employment of U.S. troops. Nevertheless, the MACV chief did have an idea of how he wanted to use the ever-increasing number of U.S. combat troops then entering South Vietnam. In a telegram to the Commander-In-Chief, Pacific, Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Westmoreland revealed his understanding of the nature of the war in South Vietnam and how he wanted to deploy U.S. combat troops. Continue Reading »
The United States began its involvement in the ground war in South Vietnam with an enclave strategy. That strategy had a short life. It started with the landing of the Marines at Danang in early March and ended less than four months later. Continue Reading »