The Lies of Vietnam

Source: National Archives and Records Administration.
President Lyndon B. Johnson in Vietnam: With General William Westmoreland, Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Thieu, Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky (South Vietnam). Source: National Archives and Records Administration.

Rarely have accomplishments turned out so totally at variance with intended objectives. The war did not save South Vietnam, it did not deter future aggression, it did not enhance the credibility of United States commitments elsewhere in the world, it did not prevent recriminations at home …

The American defeat there grew out of assumptions derived quite logically from th[e] strategy [of “flexible response”]: that the defense of Southeast Asia was crucial to the maintenance of world order; that force could be applied in Vietnam with precision and discrimination; that the means existed to evaluate performance accurately; and that success would enhance American power, prestige, and credibility in the world. These assumptions in turn reflected a curiously myopic preoccupation with process—a disproportionate fascination with means at the expense of ends—so that a strategy designed to produce a precise correspondence between intentions and accomplishments in fact produced just the opposite.1

But there is an even profounder understanding of history … [that] recognizes that injustice flows from the same source from which justice comes … This indictment may be regarded not only as a shrewd expression of the moral ambiguity of all government, as both an instrument of, and a peril to justice; it is, more profoundly considered, a recognition of the basic paradox of history. It recognizes that the creative and destructive possibilities of human history are inextricably intermingled. The very power which organizes human society and establishes justice, also generates injustice by its preponderance of power.2

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War is extraordinary.

The immersive, 18-hour documentary captures the complexities, consequences, and emotions of the war, while placing today’s societal divisions in historical context. It mercilessly lays bare the unconscionable lies of U.S. statesmen and generals, and their betrayal of the country’s citizens, values, and decency.

You should watch it. (more…)

How Will You Spend Your Energy?

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the things I’ve learned since becoming a father is that energy is a precious and exhaustible resource. In BCE (“Before Child Era”), recovering from a long day at work, intercontinental flights, or other enervating activities was fairly straightforward: grab a cerveza and read a book. Restoration achieved.

In CE, particularly upon entering the bipedal (i.e., toddler) period, carving out 30 minutes of reading time has proven to be a high hurdle. I’ve read 465 pages in the last four months.1

Rejuvenating weekends have gone the way of the dodo, as has the memory of routinely getting more than six hours of sleep. With a wife working grueling hours as a physician in residency, there simply has been very little time to recharge. I don’t know how single parents do it.

I don’t remember exactly when the epiphany hit me, but it was preceded by burnout and a rut; a hectic stretch of business travel; coming home to a couple weeks of watching the kid solo; and learning that one of our family members had been diagnosed with terminal cancer at an unjustly young age; that I realized I could no longer put off answering one question: how will you spend your energy? (more…)

Verisimilitude

The following motion picture is based on first hand accounts of actual events.

In the opening scene to Zero Dark Thirty, the quote listed above fades, and recordings of actual 911 calls from September 11th play to a black screen. It’s unsettling—some might say unethical—and it sets the stage to say: this is how history went down.

When I saw the movie a few years ago, I left the theater uneasy about the blending of fact with fiction in what would ostensibly come to be viewed as the “true story” about the hunt for Bin Laden.  Of course, as we know, it’s not how it went down.

But that opening scene encapsulates a feature that seems to be appearing with more frequency—at least in the handful of shows and movies I’ve watched recently: verisimilitude. (more…)

A Quick Take on Farhad Manjoo’s Piece About the Public / Private Market Conundrum

Farhad Manjoo has a thought-provoking piece on tech companies staying private. This is a dynamic that Benedict Anderson recently highlighted in an Andreessen Horowitz presentation on the state of U.S. Venture Capital / Tech Funding that deservedly generated a lot of buzz (see: US Tech Funding).  Both are worth reading if you’re into these sorts of things.

In a rare hour of silence I took to the blog to jot down some thoughts / questions that occurred to me while reading the article. (more…)

Life To Come

Sometime within the next three months I shall become a father.  So begins the last big adventure, a maelstrom of unequal parts agency and cupidity.  On the one hand lies the opportunity to help mold a decent human being, showering him1 with love, and equipping him with the values, traits, tenacity and moral fiber required to live a good, meaningful life.  On the other lies the awareness that I am incapable of sheltering him from all of life’s cruelties, tribulations, hopelessness and pain; a realization that parenthood entails a degree of submission to the crude determinism of biology and the randomness of fate. (more…)

Practice Heroes

For people who played football1 growing up, on every team there were bound to be players who memorized both offensive and defensive playbooks and knew where to be to make a play against his teammates. These players tended to garner the coaches’ favor because they were excellent at doing what the coaches wanted them to do. But as most kids learn, these players tended to be studs on the practice field and complete soup sandwiches come game time. They were practice heroes. (more…)