Sunday, June 01, 2008

Credibility gap

This sure sounds awfully familiar. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., wrote in The Crisis of Confidence: Ideas, Power and Violence in America (1969):

One of the oddities of the Vietnam period was the reverence accorded General Westmoreland by the American press as well as by the President of the United States. Westmoreland's assessments of the Vietnam problem are worth recalling: "I am optimistic and we are making good progress" (June 20, 1964); "I believe the whole operation is moving in our favor" (July 8, 1964); "This is the time to be more aggressive and take the offensive" (April 14, 1965); "It is doubtful if we will ever have anything in the way of opposing land forces as in the Korean War" (July 9, 1965); "Backed at home by resolve, confidence, patience, determination and continued support, we will prevail in Vietnam over the Communist aggressor" (April 28, 1967); "We have achieved all our objectives, while the enemy has failed dismally" (July 13, 1967); "[Neocon guru] Senator Henry Jackson said that Westmoreland ... 'feels quite confident. He sees the enemy losing steadily and continuously' " (November 17, 1967); "I am absolutely certain that, whereas in 1945 the enemy was winning, today he is certainly losing. ... In general he can fight his large forces only at the edges of his sanctuaries. ... His guerrilla force is declining at a steady rate. ... I see progress as I travel all over Vietnam. ... The enemy's hopes are bankrupt" (November 22, 1967); ...(my emphasis)

... "Through careful exploitation of the enemy's vulnerabilities and application of our superior firepower and mobility, we should expect our gains of 1967 to be increased manyfold in 1968" (January 1, 1968); "Although the enemy has achieved some temporary psychological advantage, he suffered a military defeat. ... I do not believe Hanoi can hold up under a long war" (February 26, 1968); "Militarily we have never been in a better relative position in South Vietnam. ... The spirit of the offensive is now prevalent throughout Vietnam" (April 8, 1968); "The enemy seems to be approaching a point of desperation. His forces are deteriorating in strength and quality. ... Time is on our side" (May 30,1968); "The enemy is getting nowhere militarily. ... He is frustrated to the point where he is desperate" (Jun 9, 1968).

What an astonishing record of misconception and misjudgment! If someone had complied this record in business, where money is involved, he would have long since been fired. But if he is a general and only spends lives, he is decorated and promoted. (my emphasis)
And then our glorious generals wonder why they develop a credibility gap.

It's painfully obvious that our officer corps didn't learn that lesson from Vietnam. Instead, they "learned" that if they were a bit more slick with their propaganda and controlled information more thoroughly, then there happy-talk would never get exposed for the nonsense it is.

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