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Firing Up Fred

Beefs about where's the beef? Also: Vietnam and Iraq -- facts and figures. Mao and opium addicts. Punk musicality. Plus more.

10.5.07

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PAIN IN THE BELLY
Re: Quin Hillyer's Open Letter to Fred Thompson:

Right on, Quin! I've been wondering for quite a while when a piece like this would appear in TAS. We who write LTEs, are only responders, and this needed to be said.

You only get one chance at this, Fred, ONE CHANCE! It's not 1976. You won't have 1980 to try again. So, tell Jeri to put a little jalapeno in your orange juice, 'cause it ain't workin' neat.
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

To date, it's been more like "jelly in the belly."

What happened to the Lincoln-Douglas debates Fred proposed a month or two ago? Gov. Huckabee replied "game on," but Fred juked and waffled -- and left nothing but vapor trails in the distance.

What happened to a "different kind of campaign"? Is this it? Is this what I have been keeping my powder dry for?

Fred, how exactly do you plan on "taking power from the politicians" -- does this mean you support H.R. 25, or not?

Sean served up some pretty fat softballs on H&C last night -- I didn't see any get knocked out of the park. I didn't even see a ground-rule double.

WHERE'S THE BEEF ???
-- Owen H. Carneal
Yorktown, Virginia

Amen to Quin Hillyer's open letter to Fred Thompson. Fred has so much to offer but needs to work much harder at connecting with voters wherever he campaigns.

I could submit a couple of paragraphs on his religious views, about which he seemed too sensitive in last night's interview with Sean Hannity.

I know he felt abandoned by the non-instrumental Church of Christ of his upbringing after his divorce. But he can get past that and re-establish affiliation with a considerate church so that evangelicals and fundamentals feel more comfortable with his basic beliefs and can see he has a relationship with God (invisible to James Dobson, apparently).
-- Tal Campbell
Beaumont, California

You, sir, sound like a spoiled brat. You want instant gratification? Would you like Thompson to promise a Rolls in every garage? Filet Mignon on every plate? There is lots of time until the election. Lots of things that are important and lots of things that simply aren't. Please don't get your knickers in a wad because of what he hasn't said, there's plenty of time for you to get to know him.
-- Jack Suhr

Not only does Fred Thompson appear uninformed, he fails to understand that to communicate in a political environment, a candidate must create controversy and conflict. The media may disapprove of what is said, but voters tend to respect an outspoken candidate.
-- Kenneth A. Cory
China, Michigan

Saves me the trouble of having to say it...Thanks Quin.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

MATTER OF FACT
Re: William Tucker's The Real Lesson of Vietnam:

America has exactly the same problem in Iraq as it did in Vietnam -- it can't define what exactly winning means and how the public will recognize it. Until this happens, forget about getting the support of the home front and the Rosie the Riveters who helped win World War 2. In that war, victory was unmistakable -- the Russians had stormed Berlin and planted their flag on the Brandenburg Gate, Hitler was a pile of ashes, every Japanese city had been burnt to the ground and the Japanese had surrendered on the decks of the USS Missouri. Victory was unmistakable even to those who lost. There was no equivalent in Vietnam and no one has even tried to say what winning in Iraq looks like. It is the worst display of utterly incompetent war leadership imaginable.

The American people, faced with a war in Iraq that they don't understand and that has never been explained to them, are simply doing what most people do when dealing with untrustworthy politicians and unproven products -- they want to see the money first. It is a criminal failure of leadership of the worst sort that the Bush administration and the congress expect them to do otherwise. Do they really think that their own people are that stupid? It sure looks like it. Until the President and the congress begin to show even the faintest understanding of what war fighting and war leadership requires then everyone except the Islamists and the terrorists can forget about winning in Iraq. They will win simply because we aren't bothering to even try, we can't even say what the hell we are doing over there.
-- Christopher Holland
Canberra, Australia

William Tucker was somewhat careless with his facts in "The Real Lesson of Vietnam," published October 4.

Some of the problems are minor details, as when Tucker writes that General Creighton Adams was appointed by President Richard Nixon to command the U.S. forces in Vietnam. The general's name was Abrams, and he was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson well before the election that made Nixon president.

Others are more important, as when Tucker writes, "By 1971, an entire American division was living in villages in the Mekong Delta." This is so untrue that I cannot even figure out what might have led Tucker
to this error.

The South Vietnamese government was not, at the beginning of 1974, still "protected by American air and naval support." Nor did the elections of 1974 give the Democrats "their largest majorities in Congress since World War II" (the 1964 elections had given the Democrats larger majorities in both the House and the Senate).

Finally, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 did not rule that all military assistance to South Vietnam must end by July 1976. What it did was to rule that after June 30, 1976, military aid for South Vietnam could only be allocated through the Foreign Assistance Act and the Foreign Military Sales Act. The money appropriated for military aid through these major appropriations bills could no longer be supplemented by little bits and pieces hidden in various other odd sections of the budget.

If we are to make useful comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq, it will help if we get the facts about Vietnam accurate.
-- Edwin E. Moise, Ph.D
Professor of History, Clemson University

The phrase, "war-weary" public, is perhaps the most overused I've seen concerning any serious discussions about our adventure in Iraq. There are two problems with that phrase, the first is that we aren't in a "war" and second the public is not "weary" of the "war."

To make the point crystal clear that we aren't in a war (I did not say someone wasn't at war with us) a few simple comparisons to other conflicts we have also called wars. At our current annual loss rate, say 800 KIA a year, it will be another 18 years before we surpass the losses the British suffered on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, another 37 years before we surpass our losses in the Korean Conflict, another 68 years before we surpass our losses in the Vietnam Police Action, another 477 years before we surpass our losses in WWII, 746 years before we surpass our losses in the Civil War. It's going to be a few more years before we exceed our losses on D-Day 1944 or get near our losses in the Battle of the Bulge. If you adjust these comparisons for proportionate populations of the times, what is already ridiculous goes right off the chart. You really don't want to see what a proportionate comparison to our Revolutionary War losses is. To the miniscule portion of our adult population "at war" in Iraq and elsewhere this is just a real as anything that has come before but to the Nation as a whole this isn't a flee on the back of an Elephant by comparison to what a real war could look like. A single crude nuclear device exploded on the ground in some U.S. population center will make all this rhetoric about "war" seem trite by comparison. We are not at war; someone is at war with us.

The second part "weary" glosses over the fact that a genuine 50% of our voting population are cowards to the bone, afraid of lifting a finger to do anything that threatens their narcissistic, welfare state existence. What these people are "weary" of is 4+ years of 24/7 one-sided defeatist propaganda coming from the domestic friends of those at war with us. Those waging a war against us get away with murder, both literally and figuratively by not having to spend the funds necessary to fuel their own propaganda machine. A Nation at War does not let the enemy within get a free ride if it takes itself seriously. FDR seemed to understand this. I suspect he thought the Japanese and Germans might be serious about War after 12/07/1941. I could be wrong about that however. It is pretty clear the bulk of our population doesn't take any of this seriously and talk is in incredibly cheap in this matter.

While William Tucker makes some valid points about Vietnam he misses the larger lesson about both Vietnam and its template Korea. If you kill enough of the enemy fast enough it takes a generation before the threat can return. South Vietnam would have probably fallen even if we had provided assistance. Air Power did not dominate the ground war in Vietnam. It might have stopped them in 1975 but South Vietnam was far from being able to stand on its own with North Vietnam still being able to fight like it did. If you want to win a war you first got to be in one. Serious people understand this.
-- Thom Bateman
Newport News, Virginia

Concerning Tucker's otherwise good article: Westmoreland's successor was, uh... Creighton Abrams. They named a tank after him. Good tank, too.
-- Bill Luckhurst

SOLID GOLD
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Death of a Champion:

Thank you for the article noting the death of Al Oerter.

Perhaps next to Bob Beamon's long jump in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, I've long felt that Al Oerter's achievement was the greatest in all of sports. But I did not know that Oerter competed until 1987, and reached the finals of the 1984 Olympic trials at 47 years of age. Stunning.

Had it not been for your article, I would not have heard of Al Oerter's passing. Requiescat in Pace.

Thank you again.
-- Dan Martin
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

REAL ESTATE ON THE MOVE
Re: Barron Thomas's A Guide to 2008 Real Estate Profits:

Great article. I'd like to add that, when reporting on economic news, it is my observation the MSM lags about a year behind the start of any trend. For those following the market, we all noticed that house prices began to drop in the spring of 2006. Now there is anecdotal evidence that housing markets in San Diego and New York are beginning to take off again. If this is the beginning of a trend, don't expect the MSM to catch on until the fall of next year.
-- Paul Doolittle

DUKE OF ANGUISH
Re: Jack Purdy's letter (under "Duke of Dodge") in Reader Mail's Punks of All Types and Larry Thornberry's Listen to This, Pilgrim::

Mr. Thornberry's point is well taken about John Wayne the actor. I remember my own father talking under his breath about how he was at the front while "this guy" was making movies in Hollywood. Nevertheless, I am reminded of Cary Grant. Grant noted a difference between Cary Grant on the screen and the man in real life. Cary Grant the actor hoped that one day he would be more like that Cary Grant on the screen. No doubt the real Marion Michael Morrison could not live up to that towering Duke on film. Still, the Duke most of us ever saw was an ideal of manhood many of us hoped to become. The Duke, however, was more than that. He was a personification of what is quintessentially American forged on the frontier and birthed in freedom. He was a noble, courageous and very human man -- even when the story scripted him to be in the wrong. And we knew under that hard exterior that there was a warm heart.

There is a scene in Sands of Iwo Jimawhere Sgt. Stryker was holding a forward line under the darkness of night. Then a voice in front of them called. He claimed to be badly wounded and pleaded for help. A few of his men started to rush to his aid when Stryker pulled them back. He tersely told them it could be an enemy ambush and so they were maintaining their position. At first he appeared to be heartless, but as the scene dissolved the "wounded man" called for Stryker to save him. At that point, we saw in his eyes that the possibility the voice really was a wounded soldier pleading for his help torn him up inside. At times duty overrules human compassion. One's duty is very clear but that doesn't take away the anguish inside. Sometimes it is the little things we see that tell us what being a man really means.
-- Michael Dooley
Indianapolis, Indiana

THE CLINTON ATTENTION-GRAB
Re: George H. Wittman's Bill Clinton, World Regent:

An excellent article, though I would take issue with the last part: "One thing is certain: Without a boost from Hillary's presidential ambitions, Bill Clinton will soon find fewer and fewer high level potentates coming to his spectaculars. Of course there will always be Bono."

I'm not as certain; after all, we continue to be afflicted with Jimmy Carter on the world stage even absent any input from the rest of the Carter family.
-- Scott C. Pandich
Oneonta, New York

MAO AND THE ADDICTS
Re: Christopher Orlet's Draining the Romance Out of Drugs:

In his essay on Dalrymple's book Mr. Orlet writes:

"Mao Tse-tung managed to get 20 million Chinese off opium by executing dealers and threatening to shoot those who continued using. Chairman Mao -- "the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history" -- understood that opium use was a lifestyle choice -- not an epidemic like the plague -- and while one may disagree with his methods, one cannot quibble over the results."

The question I raised in my review of Romancing the Opiates is, How does an open society obtain Mao's result without resorting to his methods? The Taliban eliminated the poppy industry in Afghanistan, which is now flourishing again. Again one cannot quibble over the results of their method -- but their method was just as brutal as Mao's. The whole point of my review was that liberal societies simply cannot resort to these methods, as both you and Dalrymple would agree. We all know this, so what is the point of praising Mao as "the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history" if we all agree that we cannot follow his example? And if we cannot use Mao's method, then what method can we use? To lecture weak-willed people that they should be stronger-willed sounds fine, but we all know that this doesn't work, otherwise Dalrymple would have taken over Mao's place as the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history.

Where do I argue that drug addicts need "more sympathy and compassion"? I made it clear in my review that I agree with Dalrymple that human beings, including drug addicts, should feel that they are responsible for their actions; my question was, How do we get them take such responsibility? To argue that the improvident will take responsibility for their own lives if they have to suffer terrible consequences overlooks the fact that the improvident have always suffered terrible consequences from their own improvidence, but this seems to have absolutely no effect on them. They don't connect their own irresponsible behavior with the negative consequences that follow from them, so that the negative consequences in the past have no effect whatsoever on deterring irresponsible behavior in the future. (The Micawber Syndrome.)

I am a social conservative, but I am also a pragmatist. To write articles and books about how people should behave is one thing; to get them to behave that way is quite another. It is silly to talk about how Mao's methods worked as if this had some relevance to question of how open societies can deal with drug addiction. His methods have no relevance to us, and it is a bit disingenuous to suppose otherwise.
-- Lee Harris

Christopher Orlet replies::
Mr. Dalrymple's point, I think, is that it is possible to kick the opiate habit given the proper motivation. The method need not be as severe as Mao's. Dalrymple suggests bringing back stigmatization, and an end to the addiction bureaucracy that makes the addict's lifestyle choice tolerable. Last, but not least, society must stop viewing the opiate addict as one suffering from some communicable disease. You may recall the lyrics from Lou Reed's "Heroin":

When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' son

Who wouldn't want to feel like Jesus' son? But most of us have responsibilities and a job. This character doesn't need sympathy or compassion. He needs to get off the dole.

PUNK FOR ROCK'S SAKE
Re: Mike Dooley's letter (under "Album Cover") in Reader Mail's Punks of All Types:

Mike Dooley's remark that; "Punk could dish it out, but not deliver the musical goods" has a bit of truth to it...just a bit. Punk was and still is a reminder that rock music isn't about the establishment of artistry reminiscent of a Hendrix or Clapton. Punk was and is; rock for rock's sake.

What EMO and so much today's grunge types fail to deliver on (that the Sex Pistols, etc. did offer) is senseless good times. Rock has had many respectable and well composed moments, but in commercial terms, the simplest messages sell the best, take up the least amount of space (FM air-time) and are the most memorable. Hence, they get repeated via-heavy rotation. I ain't crazy about that format either, preferring (more often) Yes' Starship Trooper amongst the other prog-blues based stuff that's typical of classic rock.

Punk reminded some rockers and rock fans of what rock music was: rebellion without apology. I dig good music, but rock is more about a good time. If the song also turns out to be catchy, and some musicianship accidentally makes its way into the mix, it's merely a plus.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

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