Just As I Thought

Powell’s prescient words

Colbert King today peppers his column about the Iraq War with quotes from Colin Powell about Vietnam that are eerily apropos in the face of what’s happening over there. It makes me wonder what Colin’s true feelings about this war are, and how he manages to work it into his philosophy. King’s column itself draws parallels to Vietnam that are pretty much indisputable, from the lack of a strategy to the lack of understanding of the people and culture. We never learn from the past, do we?

” ‘No one starts a war, or rather no one in his senses should do so,’ Clausewitz wrote, ‘without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to achieve it.’ Mistake number one in Vietnam. Which led to Clausewitz’s rule number two. Political leaders must set a war’s objectives, while armies achieve them. In Vietnam, one seemed to be looking to the other for the answers that never came.”
— “My American Journey,” by Colin Powell

“I recently reread Bernard Fall’s book on Vietnam, ‘Street Without Joy.’ Fall makes painfully clear that we had almost no understanding of what we had gotten ourselves into. I cannot help thinking that if President Kennedy or President Johnson had spent a quiet weekend at Camp David reading that perceptive book, they would have returned to the White House Monday morning and immediately started to figure out a way to extricate us from the quicksand of Vietnam.”

“I had gone off to Vietnam in 1962 standing on a bedrock of principle and convictions. And I had watched that foundation eroded by euphemisms, lies, and deception.”

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