Your RDA of Irony

Confessions of a Pubescent Neo-Con

I am old enough to remember Viet Nam…as well as the Third Punic War.

The teenage Eugene was a hawk, ready to fight any manifestation of Soviet Imperialism. I was willing to serve my country, although I could never understand why J. Edgar Hoover needed a nude photo of me.

At the time I believed that we had to fight Communist aggression in South East Asia, lest the dominos begin to topple. By the mid-sixties, however, any reasonable person could dismiss the fantasy that we were defending the democracy of South Viet Nam. Its government was a revolving door of graft-grasping, epauletted little thugs. Our national policy had long since reconciled to allying ourselves with reasonably well-behaved fascists; they presumably were the lesser of two evils. And there seemed a genuine danger if Cam Rahn Bay became Vladivostok South.

So, we (and the occasional South Vietnamese) would do the fighting. At least, the war was going well. The Pentagon assured us of that. On a weekly basis, we were wiping out 97 percent of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. Why, the enemy would need all of their Buddhist reincarnations to keep up the fight.

Then, Tet happened.

The “exhausted, depleted, demoralized” enemy was rampaging throughout the country. They took major cities. They shot their way into the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Yes, we eventually retook the cities and our own embassy; but the one irretrievable loss was the public’s confidence in our government’s competence and credibility. Victory was no longer a certainty; in fact, it no longer seemed a possibility.

The “New” Richard Nixon campaigned that he “had a plan to end the war.” Notice that he didn’t promise to win it. And 39 years later, we are still trying to figure out what his plan was. (Was Robert Vesco supposed to deliver a briefcase of cash to General Giap?) More likely, Nixon realized that the combined prowess of Lieut. Bush and Cpl. Finerman would topple the Communist Monolith. Unfortunately, the Pentagon forgot to draft me, and Lieut. Bush was preoccupied with fighting the Viet Cong in the bars of Texas and Alabama.

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