Drezner Defends Schelling:

Dan Drezner is happy Thomas Schelling won the economics Nobel, and cheerfully defends Schelling's reputation against charges he encouraged "controlled escalation" and "punitive bombing" in Vietnam.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Drezner Defends Schelling:
  2. The Econ Nobels:
Roach (mail) (www):
Defended from the charge we didn't employ carpet bombing earlier?

Since when do our attacks on the Communist North Vietnamese need defending?
10.13.2005 11:33am
Anonchap (mail):
Roach: How many civilians, including thousands of children, are you willing to kill because somebody tells you they are ewilkommernists? It is comments like yours which give credence to the notion of the ignorant self-righteous American.

For everyone else, Dan Drezner's post is trully excellent and very much worth reading.
10.13.2005 12:13pm
Sigivald (mail):
Anon: I hate to tell you this, but Hanoi really was the capitol city of a real Communist nation. Shocking, but there it is.

Ho Chi Minh really was a Communist, and the post-takeover bloodbath/purges/"re-education camps" are pretty good evidence of the "evil" involved. This is not a matter of "somebody" telling him that the North Vietnamese government and forces were "evil communists", but of them being so, at least if the terms "communist" and "evil" have meaning.

Perhaps you should stick to "is it ever okay to bomb a city because it's the capitol of an evil communist nation you're at war with, knowing that bombing will kill many civilians who have no choice in being part of said evil communist state (since Communist states are not, of course, democratically run)?", which is a decent and reasonably thoughtful question, rather than implying that there was neither communism nor the attendant evil thereof involved?

(And let's not forget the problems of bombing a city where military installations are simply interspersed with civilian facilities...)
10.13.2005 1:23pm
Per Son:
Well said Sig:

I was thinking the same thing. The issue of whether we should have been there is one thing. Tactics is another issue. I will not get on the debate train for either issue, but I just wanted to give you a big up for pointing out that this could be handled in an intellectual manner.
10.13.2005 2:02pm
Anonchap (mail):
Sigivald: Could you kindly let me know where I questioned that North Vietnam was communist or evil or whatnot? Instead I attacked the notion that because a country / city / hamlet is ruled by communists it is somehow self-evident that it is ok to CARPET BOMB the place and kill thousands of perfectly innocent civilians, as was suggested by Roach in the first comment.

The North Vietnamese communists were undoubtedly bad, which is an observation deduced from how they treated their own civilian population. It is indeed self-righteous, ignorant, and unfortunately all too common in certain conservative circles to conclude that murdering the very same civil population through indiscriminate warfare was justified. One has to have a special kind of mind to believe that the communists are evil because they kill and torture, and that this somehow justifies our own attempts to kill the civilians before the communists manage to get to them.
10.13.2005 2:14pm
Houston Law Student (mail):
Many will tell you that it's intent that matters. That is, the nominal intent in Vietnam and in Iraq isn't to kill innocents, it just happens that this is what happens. It's forseeable and predictable, but not intentional.

It's my own opinion that this distinction is very much lost on the dead people.
10.13.2005 2:21pm
Per Son:

Reckless disregard is essentially the same as intentional.
10.13.2005 3:07pm
Roach (mail) (www):
We were in the right in Vietnam and our weak-willed tactics and failure to bomb more targets more widely in North Vietnam earlier is one reason we lost. We should have not had any bombing pauses and destroyed every military and industrial target in the north. Instead we would pause our bombing for years at a time in a loopy negotiating tactic.
10.13.2005 3:08pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"because somebody tells you they are ewilkommernists?"

This clearly implies that you do not believe they are evil or communists.

Perhaps if you laid off the sarcasm, people wouldn't misinterpret you.
10.13.2005 3:28pm
Houston Lawyer:
It's amazing to me that our attacks against an avowed enemy with no scruples (like Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, North Vietnam, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq) are vilified within this country. History has shown that those populations beaten by the United States in war over the last several decades are far better off after the war than they were before or during it. These same critics show no concern whatsoever for the genocide and similar mass crimes being perpetrated against these same civilian populations prior to our arrival. So, in this logic, all of our attacks are immoral, because some innocent civilians may be killed. And yet, who do you think would scream loudest if we followed a policy of targeted assassination?
10.13.2005 3:28pm
Michael B (mail):
"It's my own opinion that this distinction is very much lost on the dead people." Houston Law Student

At least as stated this is similar to Anonchap's professedly innocent surmisings as well. Problem is there's a very dark and an exceedingly nasty flip side to that coin. For one, as has already been indicated, what of the dead which resulted from the North's various purges? Those already mentioned above refer to the purges which took place post-1975. But, vide this site. E.g., purges which took place circa 1953/4, labeled "land reforms" (think of Mao's land reforms since they were modeled after Mao's purges); or purges, assassinations, etc., circa 1958/59/60 which took place in the South - and instigated by the North - to cull the South of nationalists who were not loyal to Uncle Ho (and which precipitated President Kennedy's further involvement and which similar justifications precipitated Johnson's as well).

Funny how Dan Rather and Uncle Walter never reported on those mass murders, purges, etc. So funny. A real knee slapper.

Our initiative in Vietnam was ill conceived in several ways and certainly subject to some warranted critiques. But unexamined and poorly examined politically correct pontifications do not represent critiques, they merely represent genuflections in the direction of the ideological religionists of the Left and the carefully edited, elided and occluded "histories" they have produced.
10.13.2005 3:39pm
Anonchap (mail):
Daniel Chapman: I do indeed not believe that the vast majority of the people killed in the carpet bombings were evil communists. Which is a fact pretty much anyone with knowledge of the military history of the Vietnam War agrees with.

Houston Lawyer: How many of "these same critics" do you actually know? I know a few, and they do happen to show a lot of concern for genocide and other mass crimes. And kindly point out where anyone argued that "all attackes are immoral because some innocent civilians may be killed". If you honestly believe that our conduct in the Vietnam War can be described as trying to achieve our goals while minimizing civial casualties then you really need to read up on the military history of this conflict.
10.13.2005 3:41pm
Houston Law Student (mail):
It is a terrible power we wield when we decide it is useful for civilians in another country to withstand our clumsy stabs at deliverance as we rescue them from our enemies.

To the extent that we have a proven track record of "fixing-up" countries (and I would suggest a history that includes our political forays into Latin America and the Middle East would be less than impressive), It still seems that we offer oppressed peoples a difficult imposition without much choice in the matter.

To us, American-led liberation often seems like something too good to be refused. But we make that decision without bearing much of the risk. Civilian families in the invaded nations, on the other hand, bear the risk that their entire family will be destroyed and impoverished even further. We ask them to weigh this risk against a brighter future that includes the hope of economic prosperity and freedom. We implore them to take a longer view of the situation. But we don't let them choose. Not until after the damage is done, anyway.

Instead, we say, "trust us." Are we growing more or less trustworthy?
10.13.2005 3:54pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Anonchap: I wouldn't dream of arguing otherwise. Just like you probably wouldn't dream of arguing that the United States intervened in Vietnam with the purpose of killing non-evil, non-communist civilians. My point was merely that you beg to be misinterpretted when you say things like that, and it doesn't add much to the conversation.
10.13.2005 4:15pm
Houston Lawyer:
I don't believe I ever posited the idea that the Vietnam War was fought with the goal of limiting civilian casualties. To the extent you fight a war that way, you increase the casualty rate among your own troops. We certainly didn't fight prior wars that way and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan certainly saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.

Many critics of the current war have stated that the Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein. They have also complained loudly about the civilian casualties in Iraq while working to downplay the daily slaughter that was going on while he was in charge. Before the latest shooting started, critics were actively working to get the existing sanctions lifted all the while blaming the sanctions, not the regime, for the suffering of the Iraqis. No matter what happens, the US is always the bad guy.
10.13.2005 5:38pm
Per Son:
Problem is is that many of those critics are Iraqis themselves. The US never asked the everyday Iraqi. Instead they relied on the exile Congress and that dupe Chalabi.
10.13.2005 5:58pm
Michael B (mail):
In fact we did ask many everyday Iraqis and/or their representatives. Most obviously we did so via the Kurdish population but also the Shiite population, many among the latter had particularly expressed their disappointment we did not march into Baghdad during the initial campaign of the war, circa '91. Members among the Sunni as well expressed grievances against Saddam &Sons.

The current difficulties are undeniably monstrous and neither we nor the Iraqis are going to turn the country into a bucolic idyll anytime soon. On the other hand one would need to take the commentary of a Michael Moore, David Letterman, Howard Dean, Jon Stewart, et al. seriously in order to believe the same types of myths the Left perpetrated vis-a-vis Vietnam and are attempting to forward today. Yes, that's a generalization, but it focuses on salient truths nonetheless. It is only an analogy, thus susceptible to the same caveats any generalization is susceptible to, but we or Britain or France would have gone through similarly difficult struggles and self-doubts if we would have militarily interceded with Nazi Germany circa 1937/8 (or earlier!).
10.13.2005 7:24pm
Michael B (mail):
Well, perhaps many have seen this, but as follow-up and for emphasis, this letter from al-Zawahiri, a couple of the key quotes:

"More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media ..."

"The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam — and how they ran and left their agents — is noteworthy. ... We must be ready starting now."

Zawahiri's letter in full (small pdf).

h/t: WindsOfChange
10.14.2005 6:21pm
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10.25.2005 7:12am