Effendi, What Shall We Do About the Levant?

In my last paper as a couch war correspondent — “If At First You Don’t Fail, Try, Try Again” — in which I pondered where we were going as our president seemed to be boarding us on the magic carpet to a continuous war, I happened to mention the word “Vietnam.” I immediately lost most of my young readers.

It’s amazing that we have several generations that don’t remember the Vietnam War, only the longest war in our history (17 years, 1956-1973), except in a historical sense—like some of us might recall the Spanish –American War.

We live in a quick-to-forget time. Young people today barely know about World War II. A graduating scholar at Tappan Zee H.S. told my granddaughter as they went off to university, the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

Of course, they don’t need to know history. They can look it up on Google.

Vietnam was our version of the Peloponnesian War. But that is going to be a bowl of pho compared to Gulf War III which could be what George Orwell was writing about in his “1984” vision of civilization perpetually at war.

Vietnam preoccupied, no obsessed, four presidencies, Eisenhower through Nixon, retarding the nation’s growth and destroying reputations. LBJ, for example, would have been in the Pantheon of all-time great presidents with his Great Society (his Civil Rights Act, Medicare, the war on poverty) if he didn’t go all in on Vietnam. The same way our current president, despite his many achievements, may go down in history as the Mad Bomber.

Vietnam, as some may have forgotten, was a by-product of the Domino Theory, one of two contributions to civilization of legendary Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (the other being the airport in his name). Formulated at the start of the Eisenhower administration in 1954, the Domino Theory speculated that if one state, like Indochina, went communist, so would go Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, India, and so forth, all the way to East Hampton.

Everybody knew John Foster was right about the falling dominos. After all, the theory was based on intelligence supplied by the CIA, the director happening to be his brother, Allen Dulles, who later oversaw the Bay of Pigs invasion.

And we all know what happened. Ask those capitalists in China about the Dulles boys’ prediction. Ye of little faith!

Fans of bombing as policy got a lot to like in the Vietnam War. Between 1968 and 1972, I was reading in Richard Reeves’ magnificent “ Richard Nixon: Alone in the White House,” we had dropped 150,000 tons of bombs on the Vietnam domino. A member of the fighting Quaker wing of the faith, Nixon’s B-52s had flown more than 1,200 sorties in a six thousand square mile triangle encompassing Hanoi, Haiphong and the port of Thanh Hoa.

My favorite sortie was the Christmas 1972 bombing run. No more Mister Nice Guy, President Nixon sent in the first wave from Guam and Thailand, including 129 B-52’s, along with hundreds of F-111 fighter-bombers and Navy A-6 attack bombers from the two aircraft carriers off shore, and 750 land -based planes. Collateral damage in neighborhoods included the embassies of India, Cuba and Egypt.

Now that’s what I call an air strike!

And when we weren’t dropping bombs, you may recall, we were spraying Agent Orange, defoliating the jungle.

Boots on the ground fans also got a lot to cheer about in the Vietnam War. In eleven years of serious fighting, Reeves estimates, more than 8.7 million Americans had landed, 58,151 died, along with 2.1 million Vietnamese civilians and Viet Cong Charlies. And all of this began with a small group of advisers Pres. Eisenhower sent in to help South Vietnam train troops to stop the red hordes from the north.

The Caliphate fits a modern domino theory. It threatens to expand, if unchecked. These guys have been brooding about getting even ever since Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1096.

So I ask, effendi, should we be carpet bombing the desert, even though they say you can’t bomb them into the Stone Age since they are already there. Should we be following our major Republican party’s brain-in-residence, John Boehner’s advice and send in boots on the ground?

Soon, the generals will be telling us victory is just around the corner, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In Vietnam, it always turned out to be a train coming from the other end. If only we could send in our secret weapon, Henry Kissinger, to add to his laurels by negotiating a peace with honor with these ISIL madmen.

Next to come in the Vietnamization is playing the blame game. It’s already begun with CIA being awarded the Pin-the-Tail- on- the Donkey prize by the administration, blaming the agency for not informing them of the imminence of the ISIL threat. Au contraire, CIA is saying, the White House ignored their warnings. Curiously, this is the same debate President Nixon had, blaming it all on CIA, under judging Charlie’s will to survive. He said we needed to stop hiring all those Skull-and-Bones guys from Yale as our spies.

So, as I was asking, effendi, what can we do?

“I doubt if we will live to see the day,” theorized a fellow at the Santa Monica School of Advance Studies in Irreproducible Results, “but when will the U.S. hand off responsibility as world cop to the next empire? We got Vietnam from the French, of course, but most of the white man’s burden we now bear comes directly from the Brits. We should be looking to hand this off to the Chinese because I can’t think of any other suckers who would take it. But I believe they would if there was a fair an honest auction for the rights.”


Marvin Kitman
Oct. 1, 2014

Marvin Kitman was the media critic at Newsday. His column, “The Marvin Kitman Show,” began on Dec. 7, 1969, a day that still lives in infamy, according to network executives. On April 1, 2005, he stepped down from his position of power. As he explained, “Newsday gave me a tryout, and after 35 years we decided it wasn’t working out.” He is the author of nine books.