Les Gelb on Vietnam, a comment by Political Reporter

Ironic: Vietnam decision-making system worked

‘Les Gelb, a former Brookings fellow and co-author of the 1979 Brookings Institution Press book The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked—which is being re-released this month as a Brookings Classic—discusses the influence the Vietnam War has had on how the U.S. handles wars and the need for American pragmatism in foreign policy decision-making today. “What made this country great was Americans using their pragmatism, solving problems, and realizing there were certain problems they couldn’t solve–at least, not solve them right away,” Gelb says.’


Listen to this brief podcast and wonder at the above quote about American pragmatism, problem solving etc. It was Daniel Elsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers, not Les Gelb who supervised the Pentagon Papers project, who stood by, who did nothing like the good,loyal technocrat: he assures the listener that he is not infected by politics. Except for his unstinting advocacy for Mrs. Clinton when he worked for The Daily Beast, I regularly read his essays.

There is no Irony here, but plenty of self-apologetics in the guise of the musings of an old policy hand. Here an example of Mr. Gelb’s irony & pragmatism in another key:

4 decades after war ended, Agent Orange still ravaging Vietnamese

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over parts of southern Vietnam and along the borders of neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The herbicides were contaminated with dioxin, a deadly compound that remains toxic for decades and causes birth defects, cancer and other illnesses. To this day, dioxin continues to poison the land and the people. The U.S. has never accepted responsibility for these victims, and it’s unclear when this chain of misery will end.


Political Reporter

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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