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Nixon Is the Norm

Here’s the opening paragraph of a report in today’s Washington Post:

President Richard Nixon believed that years of aerial bombing in Southeast Asia to pressure North Vietnam achieved “zilch” even as he publicly declared it was effective and ordered more bombing while running for reelection in 1972, according to a handwritten note from Nixon disclosed in a new book by Bob Woodward.

Nothing about this revelation is revealing – or, rather, nothing about it should be revealing to anyone who thinks realistically (rather than romantically) about politics and politicians.  The president of the United States, knowing that certain military maneuvers were achieving no desirable military goals, nevertheless continued those maneuvers, as well as lied to the public about their effectiveness, simply to improve his re-election chances.

To my friends who believe that the U.S. government is to be trusted to deploy its military might across the globe, I ask: How do you square the reality of such an action by a U.S. Commander-in-Chief with your trust that American politicians in positions of high power will generally use their military power wisely and in the best interest of the public?  Do you think that Nixon was an outlier?  Do you think that this instance in which Nixon made military decisions based exclusively on political considerations was an outlier for Nixon?  Do you, instead, think that this report is false or misleading?  Or do you perhaps believe that no matter how blatantly political American politicians behave when making military decisions that the results of such decisions are somehow generally superior to what the results would be if Uncle Sam kept its military here at home and didn’t involve it in – didn’t intrude it into – the affairs of other governments and peoples?

When the likes of Hillary Clinton makes a raw and inexcusable political maneuver regarding a non-military issue – for example, H. Clinton’s recent spineless flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord – you rightly criticize such political decision-making because, in part, you understand that people who are so hungry for power that they will lie to get and to keep it are the last people on earth who are to be trusted with power.  And you rightly recognize that the official decisions and statements made by such politicians are far too likely to generate net harm than net benefit.  So what explains your blindness to this very same reality when the decisions politicians are making are to further increase the size of Uncle Sam’s military and to spread and to intensify the use of that military abroad?


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