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Re: E-mail Correspondence with Captain Byron King of the United States Navy Reserve (6/26)

Viet Nam....


VN is the haunting spectre within the mind of almost every senior officer I know or have ever met.  There are still a few old salts in uniform who were "there."  VN is part of their DNA.  The people who entered the military post-VN (1970s & 80s) grew up in a rather stilted culture of VN-remembrance.  "All happy families are the same," said Leo Tolstoy.  Unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways.  Very unhappy families include people who live with a legacy of VN.

The Junior Officers today appear not to know much about VN from their schooling (much of what they do know is wrong), and seem to think that waging war is supposed to be Desert Storm redux.  In the senior leadership roles, we try to disabuse the juniors of those fantasies.  Still, it is hard to undo the processes of America's modern, broken school system.  VN gets a thorough going-over at the various service War Colleges, but again it is hard to recreate the emotion of what transpired.  The young officers coming back from Iraq certainly have their own new set of demons with which to wrestle.

I am still not quite sure where you are coming from, Dean...  I cannot speak a universal truth, applicable to every soul, but my belief is that you do not have to worry about the future of the country or the world due to what transpires on the uniformed side of the stage.  The people who really need the VN lessons (we can start to call them Iraq lessons, now) drilled into their collective heads are the political masters, of both dysfunctional and intellectually bankrupt political parties.  They just don't know...  they just don't understand...  they just don't get it.  

I asked a lot of fundamental, strategic oriented questions towards the end of my email to you.  No offense intended, no disrespect in any way.  Just you & me exchanging some thoughts.  We should not have to be asking such questions at this stage of a war.  Had those questions really been asked & answered some time back, we would probably not be having this conversation.

Best wishes to you,
BWK [Byron King]


Dear Captain King:

Thank you for the email, which I strongly agree with.  Let me say that the failure to know history, and the belief in American omnipotence (“Desert Storm redux”), are disasters for this country, in my judgment. 

I would add, though, that if Viet Nam is a spectre haunting much of the senior officer corps, they have a duty to speak out in legitimate ways, precisely because the politicians are “both dysfunctional and intellectually bankrupt” not to mention that some are persons who, in the recent words of a columnist, and fitting one definition of coward, ran and hid from the last war, while now blithely sending members of other people’s families off to this one).  To disobey orders and violate the principle of civilian control would be disastrous.  Speaking out publicly, on the other hand, in service of the old military tradition of honesty, even if one is forced to resign, would be of unquestionable value to the public and Congress.  So few have spoken out, however.  The habit of keeping it all “within channels” and not letting Congress and the public know the truth has not served the country well during Nam or Gulf II. 

I shall post your excellent email.

Sincerely yours,
Lawrence Velvel

Re: Potpourri of June 26th

Ernest writes that "the Israelis have the bad habit of shooting rockets into Gaza streets..."  He forgot to add that the Palestinians have the bad habit of shooting rockets into Israeli towns.  To his credit, he does not pretend that his reflections on Israel and Palestine represent objective reporting.

Jerry Richard

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