Here's a quick experiment. Click here and when the page comes up, do a Ctrl-F. Then type (not case-sensitive) "Nixon". Your browser (I'm using IE here) will return something to the effect of "Finished searching the document." I'm rather enjoying David Brooks's descent into incoherence on the NYT Op-ed page and this latest missive struggles mightily to grab and hold on to reality. Alas it fails, if not spectacularly, then well and truly. "Let's talk about the meaning of the Vietnam War, and what lessons each party has drawn from that disaster." Now certainly our country's involvement in Indo-China and the lessons each major political party drew from it is a topic far, far too vast for a 700-word column, but David is a hearty writer and does not shrink from any writing task, no matter how Herculean.
Unfortunately, while David does not shrink from his task, it totally overwhelms him. While many people forget that Vietnam was much more LBJ's war than Nixon's, one cannot simply gloss over Nixon's prosecuting of the war and the effect such things as the Cambodia bombings had on both Democratic and Republican understanding of the lessons of Vietnam. Reading Brooks, it is not at all clear that the Republican party ever held office in the 1970's, that Ronald Reagan was a stout Republican during the 1960's never mind when he decided to run for President in 1979, that Dr. Stangelove was put out in 1964 rather than in the 70's, and that "[m]ost Americans decided that Reagan was right about the world, and that the Democrats were naive." This is surely Brooks's second weirdest statement in a weird column. From where does Brooks divine such a sure understanding of the common American mind circa 1986? Did they agree with the ideas of Iran-Contra?
Brooks's weirdest statement is this one: "in the midst of the war against Islamic totalitarianism." Is that what'soccurringg now? If so, Brooks should commit his future columns to explaining why the US just toppled a secular Arab dictatorship rather than its neighboring Islamic totalitarian regime. Indeed one of the prime complaints from Democrats these days is that Bush simply doesn't understand the war against Islamism. That the enemy is al Qaida primarily and the governments that foster fundamentalist Islam secondarily. For all Brooks's wishing it to be so, Saddam was not in league with al Qaida, nor did he support Islamic fundamentalists. Indeed, the basis for Reagan's shameful support of Saddam in the 80's was based on those facts. Saddam, while unsavory, was seen as an effective secular counterweight to the mullahs in Iran.
Brooks asserts that John Kerry is confused about foreign policy. That he's not sure to what use the US should put its awesome military power in the world. Kerry's nuanced position on the Iraq fiasco is supposedly evidence of this. Sad for Brooks that most Americans genuinely seem to agree with Kerry's record on Iraq. That Bush should have been given the authority to deal with Saddam, but that he has failed to effectively use that authority and as a result our troops are being killed and maimed in a country that is devolving into a civil war. A civil war that would have been prevented had a more competent C in C been given the authority Bush was given by the Congress. I didn't trust Bush from the beginning and felt that his hands should have been tied to whatever multi-lateral support he could muster from the UN or, at the very least, NATO; but most Americans, like Kerry, felt Bush should have a freer hand. While Brooks sees Kerry, "floating toward whatever is expedient at the moment," non-deluded Americans see him assessing the situation based on the facts on the ground; something they wished Bush would do.