Friday, May 12, 2017

Trump’s Vietnam

Book Review
Vietnam: The History of the War
Russell Freedman


I’ve been on a Russell Freedman kick lately. I love his histories filled with interesting pictures. The books might be classified as picture books for young adults. Indeed, his Lincoln: A Photobiography won the Newbery Award.

A few years back I read his book on the Wright Brothers—probably because I’m from Dayton, Ohio and as a schoolchild I visited many of the historic sites where the brothers lived and practiced flying. (Though their bike shop is in Greenfield Village, scooped up by Henry Ford and displaced to Dearborn, Michigan). Anyway, it is somewhat a miracle that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Of course, I always feel like that when boarding a plane. How does this work! What keep this thing from falling from the sky?!

Only one of the brothers bothered finishing high school. They started first with the printing press, selling broadsides etc. Then saw the rage for bicycling and moved on to that. But by this time they were also curious about flying and contacted the Smithsonian for information. They were very methodical in their research and what looked like risk was, in fact, well calculated.

Just like Freedman when preparing his picto-biographies.

Vietnam is his latest contribution to non-fiction literature. Now there was an ill-thought-out war. A perfect example of Anglo/Western hubris. It’s what happens when countries invade other countries and think it’s going to be easy. Probably every decision made in the US involvement in Vietnam turned out wrong—beginning with the horse we choose to back: a corrupt Ngo Dinh Diem to head South Vietnam a newly divided country. [Note to policy makers: partitions are not always the lasting answer to internal conflict.]

So much of the history of US involvement in Vietnam sounds familiar. But I also took away some warning signs for the present.

From the book:
“But Diem’s reputation as a miracle man rested on a shaky foundation. The massive American aid that kept him in power was a substitute for his woeful lack of public support. Members of Diem’s immediate family, devoted to their own self-interest, held key positions in his regime.”

Does this sound familiar? Recently Trump signed a law making it easier for investors to get what is called a Golden Ticket. In exchange for investing a substantial sum of money in a business and creating at least 10 permanent jobs for U.S. workers, which benefits the economy and local communities, wealthy foreigners are granted green cards by the government. The EB-5 visa. Congress just extended the program until September 30th.

The U.S. government program is again drawing scrutiny after Nicole Kushner Meyer, the sister of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, last weekend touted the fast-track to legal status as part of a real estate pitch to Chinese investors in which her family's company has a stake. Meyer reportedly was selling investments in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex as part of an effort to raise $150 million in funding for the project.

Here is an example of a corrupt government: where officials use policy to personally benefit. And, why can’t a potential terrorist just buy a visa and enter the States. Osama Bin Laden’s Saudi family owned a multi-billion dollar construction company with international contracts including the US—today they could buy a visa for Osama.

Furthermore, now there’s this:

Now there’s a black hole where already countless civilians and over 8,000 troops have been killed and close to 500 billion sunk. The Soviets couldn’t occupy and neither could the British (The First Anglo-Afghan War  also known as the great disaster was fought between British imperial India and the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842. The war is famous for the loss of 4,500 British and Indian soldiers, plus 12,000 of their camp followers).


Does history teach us nothing?

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