A friend asked me to compare Vietnam and
Afghanistan. I would like to do this in a highly personal way
because I am not an historian or war correspondent. I majored
in Asian Studies and then got a master's degree in development
economics in 1964. My mother and I visited Vietnam in 1963 when
the monks were immolating themselves, and I worked for the State
Department in Vietnam from late 1966 to mid-1968. Later in 1968,
I drove a Land Rover from England to India and spent a month
in Afghanistan en route. Like many others who have visited Afghanistan,
I fell in love with the country and its peoples. I drove through
Afghanistan two more times in 1970-71.
We are now in a muddle over pump prices,
but we are told Europeans have been paying much more for years.
Is this true? Has anyone bothered to add the cost of taxes
to build weapons and wage war to the sticker price at the pump?
People wanted to know which stock to buy if the
Pope approved birth control. I spent long hours in the company
library reading the files of every company that produced a
birth control contraption or pill.
"plan" the US was using in Vietnam had been tried
in Laos. It failed, but the people to implement the doomed
plan were trained so they would use that "plan" whether
it worked or not. There was apparently no effort to determine
why it failed in Laos nor any effort to perfect it so it might
Snow More Memories
What is relevant about this and the current world
situation is that what we see at press conferences and most of
what is on the news is a photo op. It is an opportunity to state
simple thoughts in a few words that are easy to remember.
Political Capital and Goodwill
My personal opinion is that the war in Vietnam
could never have been won because the prerequisites for victory
were absent. Even if there had been a determined effort to win,
it would still have been impossible because we, the U.S., were
losing the propaganda war. The battle had many fronts. In Vietnam
proper, the irrefutable argument was that Vietnamese are not
dropping bombs on Washington, D.C., so why is the U.S. dropping
bombs on Hanoi?
In writing these reminiscences, I am becoming
aware of how unusual my life has been and also of my naïveté.
I should have realized back then that the pictures we see in
newspapers and on television are all choreographed so as to make
Every conflict is an opportunity to create harmony
and every waste of such opportunity merely ups the ante so that
each subsequent effort to establish some meeting of the minds
(and hearts) requires more effort because there are more issues
to address and redress.
We proposed a system of taxation based on consumption
rather than income. Basic necessities would be exempt from taxation:
rice and medicine. It's equitable since it is based on the ability
to spend and there are no shelters for the rich.