December 18th, 2012


Monthly Topic: What If?‏

There is no division in America as broad and deep as the war in Vietnam. It has usurped the role of the war between the states as the great rift that distinguishes one group from another. When we probe more thoroughly we find that the war itself is not as critical as how we experience the war and the tint on the spectacles with which we view the world. Those value differences determine our attitudes toward the topic at hand.

Mark Moyar is an historian who openly states his value bias right up front. As a Pentagon employee he also has a professional bias that led him down a particular path of historic interpretation. If he had any doubts about the virtue of the American military mission, he would not have sought out that professional relationship to begin with. For him the American imperium is above criticism. The imperium defines his life and his work.

Moyar gives us insight into why some people are dissatisfied with liberal journalism. He targets the press as the culprit in the deterioration of conditions in Vietnam. If Halberstam and company had been more responsible in their reporting Diem would not have fallen out of favor in Washington. Without a coup against Diem, the Vietnamese military would have defeated the Communist insurgency. If only Halberstam et al shared Moyar's values for authoritarian command and control the world would be a better place today. The journalists would have seen through the facade of Communist influence of the Buddhist demonstrations. They would have backed Madame Nhu in her puritanical endeavors to put Saigon on a war footing by banning divorce. They would not have been conned by the glory seeking upstart, John Vann, in his campaign to besmirch the quality of Vietnamese martial prowess. Moyar lumps them in with other dupes of totalitarian subversion in the press who formed negative opinions of Chiang Kai-shek and Fulgencio Batista. If Moyar was truly honest with us he would show us how Hitler got a bum rap from bleeding heart liberal journalists.

I agree with Moyar that American imperialism is a noble pursuit, but only within a framework of very limited values. Once we free ourselves of the chains of those primitive precepts we can see how pathetic that "nobility" really is. It becomes like a child's toy that amuses in youth but seems trivial in old age. The Pentagon Papers showed us the reality behind the facade of altruism that captivates the immature minds of people like Moyar. Moyar goes out of his way to denigrate the honesty of John McNaughton's famous 70/20/10 rationale for the war that shows up in the Pentagon Papers. The imperium is self-serving but it is also self-destructive. Without the imperium, Halberstam would have had no war on which to misreport in the first place.

What if...?

Links: Mark Moyar on the war in Vietnam. David Halberstam on the same topic. Other historians on Mark Moyar. Time article on the Pentagon Papers and the 70/20/10 rationale.
Godzilla, default

Another Alternate History Scenario: Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Raghib Al-Nahashibi:

In the 1921 election for Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the guy who's now infamous as one of Hitler's propaganda bosses came in fourth. This scenario would be if the Nahashibis, the alternative to the Husseinis, had managed to be the ones to build the prototypical Palestinian leadership. Relative to the Husseinis the Nahashibis were more in tune with geopolitical pragmatism, and if a Palestinian leadership had arisen that did show an interest in a partition of Palestine in order to force the Zionists to recognize that at least something of an Arab presence in Palestine had always been there, what would have happened? Herbert Samuels chose Al-Husseini for the reason that an incompetent leader would be worse for the Palestinians than one who might be competent, so since he was free to disregard the will of the Muslims in Palestine historically, this scenario relies on him adhering to it.

To me I think that a more rational Palestinian leadership would have had a number of impacts that would have been to the good of Palestinians. Imposing the likes of Husseini and Shuqeri on them ensured that an incompetent thug like Arafat, the only guy who bothered to be obviously not beholden to someone else or with a power base that amounted to that, was to assume power in the 1960s. I'm not saying that this would necessarily prevent the rise of *an* Israel of some sort. David Ben Gurion and his like had a lot going for them. It would be extremely unlikely that a change within the Mandate of Palestine butterflies away either Hitler or Stalin, though it would be more interesting if it did (though the conceptual leaps here escape me). But in this context, ironically, the British would have for once done something in tune with the will of the Arabs in a region and thus less likely to backfire on them and on the post-colonial order in the region in the long term.

What do you guys think? Do you think that if Palestinian history had begun with a Mufti named Nahashibi instead of Husseini that the sad history of Israel and the Palestinians would have been different in a bbetter way, a worse way, or about the same?