April 4, 2017

50 years ago today: Martin Luther King Jr. — in his fieriest speech — denounces the war in Vietnam.

The NYT remembers... including the part where...
The New York Times called Dr. King’s remarks both “facile” and “slander.” It said the moral issues in Vietnam “are less clear-cut than he suggests” and warned that “to divert the energies of the civil rights movement to the Vietnam issue is both wasteful and self-defeating,” given how the movement needed to confront what the paper called “the intractability of slum mores and habits.”
MLK — at Riverside Church in NYC — exhibited stark anger:
Dr. King... insisted that “we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam” and that “we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam.” He alleged that the United States tested its latest weapons on Vietnamese peasants “just as the Germans tested out new medicines and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe,” and he decried “the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets” in South Vietnam....

[T]he war wasn’t just a mistake; it was “a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.” Civil rights, inequality and American policy in Southeast Asia were all of a larger piece. When “profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” He concluded by calling for “a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.”
You can listen to the audio here.

86 comments:

Balfegor said...

I can only say I am grateful that these people weren't around when it was my ancestors who faced the grim spectre of Communism in the Korean War. If they had their way my grandparents would have been shot and buried in a mass grave.

Or, well, they'd probably have become refugees in Japan or something, since both my grandmother and my grandfather were relocated from Seoul to Busan with the universities, close enough that they could probably have been evacuated to Tsushima. If they were lucky. But it would have been horrible. Even more people would have died in the war, and millions more would be starving under the Communist yoke even today. Unlike South Vietnam (which only collapsed after we slashed funding), there's no way South Korea could have stood if the US withdrew.

David said...

"a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation."

long time ago.

The Godfather said...

MLK was a great man. That doesn't mean that he wasn't terribly wrong sometimes, particularly about things he knew nothing about. I think we would better honor his memory by passing by these lapses with averted eyes.

Bob Boyd said...

"The New York Times called Dr. King’s remarks..."

There was a Democrat in the White House.

MayBee said...

I'm glad JFK was keeping tabs on MLK's communist ties.

Michael K said...

I thought at the time that this was a huge mistake on his part.

He was at the peak of his effectiveness in Civil Rights.

This raised the entire matter of communists around him and how much influence they had.

He should not have done it. It diluted his message,.

readering said...

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of US combat deaths in Indochina were suffered after MLK's speech. The New York Times has been running a series of interesting articles about aspects of the Vietnam War 50 years after the events.

Of course we're getting ready to observe the 100 year anniversary of US entry into World War One, the war to end wars. Not that many more combat deaths than Vietnam, but twice as many deaths overall, even though we didn't really join the fighting on land for twelve months.

Quayle said...

"the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

I especially note the degree of success the New York City left has been in conquering materialism.

Rob said...

Bob Boyd has it exactly right. King was criticizing Lyin' B. Johnson, and as far as The New York Times was concerned, that made him downright uppity.

Bob Ellison said...

"...incapable of being conquered" is terrible writing. He should have said "cannot be conquered" or simply "unconquerable", but he needed something that made these obtuse concepts the villains, and that somehow suggested that we could, in reality, prove him wrong. Bad speaking from a great speaker.

Etienne said...

I remember as a teen, when they had 50 years ago articles in the paper, and I was always amazed at how stupid people were, 50 years before.

I think the new teens reading that stuff must feel the same way.

Wait! You mean we killed people for wanting to be communists? I don't believe it.

Wait! Should we kill all the Progressives in America? No, we are smarter now. Those people 50 years ago were absolute morons.

Francisco D said...

What The Godfather and Michael K. said.

mockturtle said...

And he was right. What an utter waste of human lives and resources!

Mary E. Glynn said...

Those were "deplorables" who died in Vietnam.

We're busy forgetting them as we conquer the world in our new wars, where no soldiers have to die, only civilians.

Ain't progress grand?

Luke Lea said...

"[T]he war wasn’t just a mistake; it was “a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.” Civil rights, inequality and American policy in Southeast Asia were all of a larger piece. When “profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people. . ." And now we have a different malady. Or is it the same one? I'm thinking of America's trade and immigration policies and what they are doing to the poorest, least-skilled, and most vulnerable segments of our population -- i.e. the bottom half to two-thirds.

David Begley said...

Didn't the FBI wiretap and bug MLK? And didn't Hoover pass that info to JFK and LBJ? Not too different than Obama and Rice listening in on Trump.

MikeD said...

MLK pretty much went the full "Soviet" in his later years!

Mary E. Glynn said...

MikeD said...
MLK pretty much went the full "Soviet" in his later years!
------------------

Yeah, he was advocating for union garbagemen when he died...
Imagine: looking at people by class issues, not racial issues.

Clearly that time has passed.
Show Me the Money, baby!

William said...

Chile vs Venezuela. Taiwan vs China. South Korea vs North Korea. West vs East Germany. The historical record is not in complete agreement with Dr. King's findings. Sometimes you climb the mountain, and sometimes you proffer a mountain of crap.

eddie willers said...

MLK pretty much went the full "Soviet" in his later years!

By winning civil rights, he put himself out of a job.

So he became a leftist, where protesting is an honorable profession.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

And he was right. What an utter waste of human lives and resources!

If only Republicans would learn to avoid the folly of wasting human lives and resources today.

rcocean said...

I've never thought MLK was a "great man", he comments on matters not pertaining to Civil Rights were pretty Left-wing and uninteresting.

RFK had King bugged for a good reason, he surrounded himself with Communists. RFK and Hoover warned King about the Communists using him for their own benefit, but King didn't care - he thought the Commies were helping his cause.

Interestingly enough, Jackie hated Martin Luther King, you can google it. Now, he's basically just a civil rights icon, and there's nothing wrong with that. The real, historical man, doesn't matter anymore.

Steven said...

The defense of the profit motive and private property is the defense of liberty and life. The correct response to a Communist with a gun in his hands is the same as with any other thug; shoot first, shoot straight, and shoot until he's dead.

Michael K said...

Vietnam was a complicated story, too complicated for a few here.

Eisenhower turned the French down where they asked for help. All he would do was try to help with the end of the French war,

Kennedy, who thought Eisenhower too stodgy, bought the theories of Maxwell Taylor and thought he could do a war on the cheap with Special Forces advisors. Then he learned a basic lesson about helping people who want your money but not your advice.

Johnson, with his usual blunderbuss approach to problems. sent 500,000 draftees and volunteers who had no experience into battle.

Nixon and Kissinger, far more wily than any Democrat, tried to extract us with some semblance of pride but were opposed at every turn and vilified by Democrats who, as usual, wanted to go home as soon as things got ugly.

Watergate was a fake scandal run by Mark Felt who managed to overthrow the government, something Jefferson Davis could not do.

Now, we have Democrats trying to do it again but Trump is more savvy than Nixon was and will fight with quiet weapons.

Nixon was undone by his ethics.

Birkel said...

@ TTR

Republicans like LBJ are the worst, right?

mockturtle said...

Kennedy, who thought Eisenhower too stodgy, bought the theories of Maxwell Taylor and thought he could do a war on the cheap with Special Forces advisors. Then he learned a basic lesson about helping people who want your money but not your advice.
[italics mine]

Did he learn it? I don't think any of our elected leaders have learned it, still. If we want to invade a country, we should damn well invade it. Or, if necessary, bomb the shit out of it. Instead, we pretend to train the natives so they can fight for our cause. It never works.

mockturtle said...

No matter how ones looks at it, the Vietnam War was a colossal failure, militarily and politically.

traditionalguy said...

I get it. MLK is proven to have been an evil outsider because he had actual contacts with Russians who sought him out to support his movement. That ends all discussion about LBJ's Viet Nam insanity and J Edgar Hoover's lifetime of criminal activities culminating with helping LBJ cover up Kennedy's murder team in Dallas.

Sebastian said...

“a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.” Right, the kind that flourished as soon as we left and the war ended, a fellowship radiating out from Hanoi and Phnom Penh, the kind still being promoted by Black Lives Matter regardless of tribe and race.

Bay Area Guy said...

No mention of how murderous the North Vietnam regime was? No mention of Pol Pot's murderous Commie regime in Cambodia (I guess he came after King)

When it mattered, the Left was indifferent to the evils of Communist Russia. Now, when it doesn't matter, they're getting all fussy.

mccullough said...

The propensity to tie every societal ill together persists. The stupidity of Viet Nam had nothing to do with civil rights or poverty in the US. King was mad that the US was interfering with the glories of communism as he was a third rate thinker who had to plagiarize his phd. He became the face of a movement with many brave people who didn't spout commie tripe.

mockturtle said...

Bay Area Guy proposes: When it mattered, the Left was indifferent to the evils of Communist Russia.

And our involvement in Vietnam had what impact on Communist Russia?

Rich Rostrom said...

"And our involvement in Vietnam had what impact on Communist Russia?"

It was to prevent the evils of Communism (as practiced in the USSR, and in North Vietnam by a disciple of Stalin) from being spread to yet another country.

MLK's anti-Vietnam-warism is understandable; the fashionable Left at that time was blind to the crimes of "Third World" Communists like Ho and Castro, and there were plenty of criticisms to be made of the South Vietnamese government and U.S. military operations there.

However, there's a bottom-line statistic which reveals a lot. In 1967, the U.S. had about 500,000 troops in Vietnam - and ARVN also had about 500,000 under arms. If those men had been as hostile to the U.S. as the Left insisted essentially all Vietnamese were, the U.S. forces could never have held off the attacks of the North Vietnamese army and the Viet Cong.

rhhardin said...

Named almost as many streets as Robert Byrd.

YoungHegelian said...

@mockturtle,

And our involvement in Vietnam had what impact on Communist Russia?

I suspect that you mean in terms of improving the lives of Soviet citizens, in which case it had almost none.

But our involvement in Vietnam had lots of impact on the Soviet Union's foreign policy. For one thing, they didn't want to be there either, but after the debacle of Korea (& the Korean War was internally seen by the Soviet & Chinese Politburos as a debacle), they could not let a communist regime fall to the forces of the US without a major fight. The USSR was stung by how its reputation had fallen in favor of the PRC among the worldwide Left after Korea, & it felt it could not, under any circumstances, back down. Thus, the USSR, like the USA, got dragged into a war that sucked up a huge amount of military hardware, going to a country (Vietnam) that couldn't afford to pay for it, & being routed through a despised neighbor (China) who stole everything that struck their fancy as the trains rolled through.

The Soviet's primary interest was always Europe, especially Germany. Third world adventures on the cheap, especially that didn't involve any chance of contact with American forces, were okay. Massive commitments of materiel & prestige to Southeast Asia were not.

So, the Vietnamese, Chinese, & Soviets were stuck in an unpleasant menage-a-trois in opposition to us. The Soviets & Chinese handled it with all the heavy-handedness their foreign policy was known for. The Soviets went into it hating the Chinese & the Chinese hating them. The Vietnamese hated the Chinese. By the end of it, the Vietnamese & Soviets hated each other, too.

sinz52 said...

Sebastian: "Right, the kind that flourished as soon as we left and the war ended, a fellowship radiating out from Hanoi and Phnom Penh"

Times change.

Vietnam now has a thriving private sector.

I've bought smartphone apps from Vietnamese startup companies.

Vietnam isn't bitter over a war that ended 40 years ago.
Why should you be?

mockturtle said...

It was to prevent the evils of Communism (as practiced in the USSR, and in North Vietnam by a disciple of Stalin) from being spread to yet another country.

I am well aware of the vaunted 'domino theory'. My brother's experience in 'Nam was that the South Vietnamese had no will to fight nor did they give a fat rat's ass whether they lived under Communism or 'Democracy'. This was painfully apparent when we moved our troops out and the Commies took over immediately and with impunity. Sounds a bit like Iraq, doesn't it?

Wars should be fought to win, not to contain. Wars of containment usually fail.

Douglas said...

Dr. King was wrong about the war. We fought the Vietnam War for entirely honorable reasons - to keep the communists in North Vietnam from conquering South Vietnam. It was exactly the same as the Korean War. If we had won, today Vietnam would be rich and free, like South Korea or Taiwan. We didn't and it's not.

steve uhr said...

Traditional guy - Can you point me to a book re Hoover and Johnson working together re JFK's assassination? Sounds interesting. Thanks.

Laslo Spatula said...

I don't care what James Earl Ray thought about Vietnam.

In case anyone was asking.

I am Laslo.

traditionalguy said...

@ Steve uhr... A good author narrated lawyer's point of view is Barr McClellan's Blood, Money and Power. The role of Hoover was as always to know what was going on, and lend his assistance to the powerful. In this case, he was indispensable in the cover up, without which it would not have worked at all for LBJ to win the prize.

And it was a heck of a cover up. But that skill in deception among the CIA family would lead directly to LBJ attacking Vietnam Nam with impunity believing he could get away with anything. But MLK was not easy to fool.

buwaya said...

The commies took over four years after the Americans left, after a series of great battles. South Vietnam died hard, much harder than South Korea would have in 1950.

Anyway, much of the larger argument over Vietnam followed the thinking of George Kennan. He argued against fighting over the third world, Korea, Vietnam, the lot, even Japan, as it all was simply a resource sink. The US should concern itself about Europe.

To a great degree he was proven right, in that the Soviets wasted a great deal of their resources taking and holding what amounted to a global empire, with client states in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Note that most of these conquests came after the fall of South Vietnam, as it was commonly thought that the US would no longer effectively oppose Communist expansion. Even India became an open Soviet ally. The Soviets however became badly overextended and failed to make their clients pay for themselves.

On the other hand Kennan was badly wrong about much of it, as many of these places (that the communists didnt take) became "tigers", adding to the economic resources of the American "Empire" (think of it more like the Athenian Delian League).

It was an American global system that defeated Communism, not least the proven examples of development from the third-world to the first-world. A lot of smart people figured that capitalist prosperity wasnt just a white mans thing. That, by say 1980, Bangkok was demonstrably better off than Hanoi, or Singapore than Shanghai, changed a lot of minds.

Holding Vietnam kept many of these proto-Tigers in the US orbit and economic system, and made them powerful allies adjacent to Soviet and Soviet-allied lands. Many others were lost due to the ultimate American failure, but fewer than those at risk in 1964. Vietnam in particular was and to a degree still is a potential "Tiger", and a great loss.

buwaya said...

People forget that the Cold War was effectively a religious war. Ideology made fanatics. That was an immense military advantage of the North Vietnamese, and all other communist movements. Bernard Fall noted the selfless zeal of the Viet Minh, calling them "monks". This was not unique to them, I saw much the same thing when I was involuntarily associating with the Maoist New Peoples Army in the early 80's. Those people were very much like a cult.

Its no wonder that the normal feudal-Asian South Vietnamese were outclassed without heavy external aid.

Browndog said...

All men are flawed.

MLK, Jefferson, Gandhi, Einstein.

Some men do great things in particular arenas, some men do good things in many arenas.

No many does great things in every arena.

I find King's views on Vietnam as interesting as Jefferson's on animal husbandry.

David said...

The worst part about the Vietnam war was the way we left it. Not the withdrawal of our troops and the transfer of the war to the South Vietnamese, but the subsequent refusal to provide the support and equipment to allow them a chance to fight on their own. We had made very clear promises to do this, and at the time these promises were not opposed by the American left, because they were part of the withdrawal of troops. But when the left took control of the American government, it cut off all aid to our former ally. We left our allies to be captured, tortured and killed at the whim of the North Vietnamese, and offered no assistance to allow the most vulnerable to flee. It was a shameful moment, symbolized by the photo of the American helicopter hovering over the top of our embassy, while we literally kicked terrified Vietnamese who had worked for us off the ladder leading to the top. A sickening small moment in a larger betrayal. You don't see that photo anymore. It's very inconvenient to show it.

Browndog said...

David said...

The worst part about the Vietnam war was the way we left it.


We left it that way because the democrats in Congress cut off funding.

buwaya said...

Oh, and if you want to blame someone for the Vietnam war, you can start with Napoleon III, who ordered its conquest and started that whole mess with the French. And to some degree me, via my ggggpa, who in 1859 gave Napoleon Saigon, leading an assault column of Filipino soldiers over the walls of the citadel.

Old Nappy gave ggggpa the cross of a Chevalier of the Legion D'Honneur for it. I wish we still had that. But the Japs burned it in a later war.

Browndog said...

I'm not sure when the cause of the Viet Nam War stopped being about stopping the spread of Communism.

n.n said...

Whether it's a war or a social justice adventure, there must be a commitment to mitigate reprisals and CAIR (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Immigration Reform), respectively.

buwaya said...

Ah, sorry, the Legion D'Honneur is not a cross, it has five lobes, not four. Damned French. If we still had ours I would know that better. Damned Japs.

n.n said...

He also advised to judge people by the content of their character (e.g. principles), not the "color of their skin" (e.g. race, sex). The progress has been notably negative on all fronts.

Browndog said...

buwaya said...

The commies took over four years after the Americans left, after a series of great battles. South Vietnam died hard, much harder than South Korea would have in 1950.

Anyway, much of the larger argument over Vietnam followed the thinking of George Kennan. He argued against fighting over the third world, Korea, Vietnam, the lot, even Japan, as it all was simply a resource sink. The US should concern itself about Europe.


Interesting post. Enjoyed reading it. Just wondering how you escaped the rise of communist China and their Geo-political influence over Indo-China in the late '50's.

Curious omission.

Michael K said...

So, the Vietnamese, Chinese, & Soviets were stuck in an unpleasant menage-a-trois in opposition to us. The Soviets & Chinese handled it with all the heavy-handedness their foreign policy was known for.

The Soviets thought history was on their side, much like Obama thought so and Bernie thinks so.

It isn't. They never learned the Second Law of Thermodynamics. History is on the side of chaos.

Vietnam was a final step in the war against chaos but we held out long enough to affect the trend.

Was it worth it ? I doubt it but LBJ was very clumsy and ineffective, as most leftists are.

Qwinn said...

Yes, that evil son of a bitch J. Edgar Hoover. You know. The single loudest voice in the country opposing FDR's internment of the Japanese during WW2.

The bastard.

Sebastian said...

"Vietnam isn't bitter over a war that ended 40 years ago. Why should you be?" I'm too cynical to be "bitter," but of course my point was to call BS on King's global brotherhood shtick at a time when the communists were in no mood to spread Kingian good cheer. I confess I am a tad bitter about what the commies did to the South and the Khmer Rouge to Cambodia, but I realize that getting worked up over a thousand deaths here, a million there is a little passé today, especially since they are useless deaths that cannot be exploited for any current domestic purpose.

Browndog said...

Question everything-

McCarthy was on a baseless witch hunt, Nixon was a crook; hell, even a river in Ohio caught on fire due to pollution; all the things we were taught as fact as kids.

Incredible.

buwaya said...

The Japanese internment is a matter that was heavily used for domestic purposes, and continues to be. Its truly bizarre how much academic space this trivial episode occupies in history curricula.
WWII is, in High School histories, rarely much beyond the Japanese internment, the Jewish Holocaust and the Atomic bomb.

Valentine Smith said...

King needed to retrieve the laurel appropriated by Cassius Clay.

0_0 said...

I'd rather still have MLK than those who pass for black "leaders" today.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Owen said...

Michael K and buwaya: love your comments.

MLK Jr's speech made me think of the line in "Becket," "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"

Brando said...

One thing I wonder about that war is whether it was possible for us to have "won" it (defining "winning" as leaving a viable South Vietnamese state at least until the two sides worked out a peaceful settlement). We did kill a lot of NVA and VC and dropped enough destruction on NV that any more bombing and killing would not have made a difference. But about two years after our ceasefire the North pretty quickly overran the South. It's been argued that Congress should have approved the funding request Ford asked for in '75, but would extra funds for SV have made the difference at that point? Was it that their armed forces were too few, too poorly trained or motivated, or too undersupplied? How after ten years of major U.S. involvement did we not leave an ARVN force strong enough to resist NV? We had plenty of time to train and advise them, and delivered a pounding to the army that would eventually overrun them.

I'm wondering what alternatives might have left SV more like South Korea today.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug said...

The propensity to tie every societal ill together persists. When the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem resembles a nail.

sinz52 said...

"I'm wondering what alternatives might have left SV more like South Korea today."

The two are not comparable.

South Korea wasn't facing a major guerrilla war within its own borders, being fed by supplies coming in from neighboring countries, as South Vietnam was.

The subsequent history of the Cold War proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the US should have made its best deal with Ho Chi Minh back in the late 1950s. Vietnam would have ended up far less of an irritant to America than Cuba did, given that it's on the other side of the world and it was always fiercely independent. Indochina would have essentially ended up as the Asian equivalent of Yugoslavia.

The US mistake was figuring that Communism had to be resisted everywhere.

sinz52 said...

Sebastian: "I am a tad bitter about what the commies did to the South"

"Commies"?

You're dating yourself.

"Commies," "ChiComs," it's all from a different era.

The Vietnam War is as remote to today's young Americans and young Vietnamese as World War I was to my generation.

Like I said, the Vietnamese aren't bitter about Agent Orange or B-52 bombing. Just like we're not bitter about the British actions in the War of 1812. It's just history.

Don't be like the Left, constantly rubbing its nose in America's past.

It's a new century, and the Cold War has been over for 25 years.
Move on.

Jon Burack said...

I see a lot of comments along this line: "MLK pretty much went the full "Soviet" in his later years!"

Silly. Also a lot of comments trying to rescue the Vietnam War from opprobrium in one way or another. Most fail to understand that those who engineered the war and got us into it in fact knew fairly well from the start that it was unwinnable in the way they went into it. To knowingly fight that way was profoundly immoral, and all of us in the streets about it back then were absolutely right. Yes, some in the streets were Communists or Communist sympathizers. Most were not, including the greatest of them all, MLK. Those who engineered the war being Kennedy under the guidance of McNamara, Bundy, Rusk, Wheeler, Taylor, et al. LBJ kept them all on in the hope he could finesse Vietnam and use "graduated, calibrated" force to send "messages" to Ho to the effect of "Hey, come on, pretty please, negotiate with us - so I can get on with my great War on Poverty fantasies, okay?" Winning was never an option. Too expensive. Too dangerous.

Our current National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster has it all outlined in his "Dereliction of Duty," which I recommend to anyone interested in a hard-headed military man's take - which confirms fully every word MLK said. I am very happy we have McMaster in a place to influence policy and thinking. Good for Trump in choosing him.

Brando said...

"The two are not comparable."

I'm aware of the differences, but I meant in terms of whether SV ever could have survived. Was it always unwinnable, or destined to be absorbed by the North? I don't think there's an obvious answer but am always interested in theories on it. For example, if LBJ (if he had the political clout to do so, which he didn't) escalated in 1965 to cut off all NV supply routes, bombed all military targets, mined Haiphong and spent years breaking down VC/NVA forces while building up ARVN, would that have worked? Or was ARVN simply never able to sustain itself?

"Unlike South Korea, which has no neighbors except to the North, South Vietnam had belligerent countries that would have eventually pushed them into the sea."

Yes, geographically the South was harder to defend. And wasn't the North more industrialized and populous? Without reversing that imbalance SV may have had numbered days as it was.

In hindsight, of course, our best bet would have been to go for monitored elections in the '50s or pass a peace deal to international bodies from the beginning, though that likely would have meant doom for a non-communist south. Bad from a humanitarian standpoint, but not necessarily bad for our own national security. And likely better than what we ended up doing.

Balfegor said...

Re: sinz52:

South Korea wasn't facing a major guerrilla war within its own borders, being fed by supplies coming in from neighboring countries, as South Vietnam was.

That, ah, that . . . there's obvious reasons for that. I mean, the South Korean government killed like 150,000 people as a prophylactic measure (with US knowledge, if not US connivance), precisely to prevent the formation of a fifth column. The absence of a major guerilla war wasn't accidental. A lot of people were killed to make sure it didn't happen.

dda6ga dda6ga said...

And a day later the riots were in full swing...Chicago West side burned and I watched..

tim in vermont said...

Weren't we embargoing Japan for taking Viet Nam from the French after France fell, and wasn't that much of Japan's justification for Pearl Harbor?

No. History starts where it needs to to focus maximum blame on the US.

Robert Cook said...

MLK's comments were correct then, and they're correct now.

Robert Cook said...

"MLK pretty much went the full "Soviet" in his later years!"

Why? Because he was speaking up for striking sanitation workers in Memphis?

Robert Cook said...

"Nixon was undone by his ethics."

Hahaha! Yes...his bad ones!

Robert Cook said...

"But when the left took control of the American government...."

When has that ever happened?

Balfegor said...

Re: tim in vermont:

Weren't we embargoing Japan for taking Viet Nam from the French after France fell, and wasn't that much of Japan's justification for Pearl Harbor?

Maybe, but Viet Nam (or rather, French Indochina) was still controlled by the French government (better known today as Vichy France). Although the Japanese invaded and occupied French Indochina in 1940, the Japanese didn't actually assume direct rule over French Indochina until 1945, after which they removed the French administration and encouraged the local peoples to declare their independence. Vietnam, under Emperor Bao Dai, declared independence, as did Cambodia, under King Sihanouk. Independence didn't take root immediately, but like the independent Indonesian state the Japanese fostered in the Dutch East Indies, they resisted the reintroduction of White rule after our victory in the Pacific war.

Anyhow, maybe we embargoed the Empire of Japan because of the 1940 invasion of Vichy French Indochina, but I don't know why we'd do that in a case where one Axis power invaded and occupied another. I guess we weren't technically at war with any of them yet.

mockturtle said...
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mockturtle said...

This was all surrendered in 1954, as the world gave no support to the French colonialism, and the Catholic church in Vietnam.

Etienne, you make an excellent point But, of course, a profoundly unpopular one. The end of colonialism was a death knell for the many countries that would, inevitably, be ruled by stronger ones. Trading colonialism for communism was a bad deal for most.

[blog host: Note my generous use of clichés. ;-)]

Brando said...

"Anyhow, maybe we embargoed the Empire of Japan because of the 1940 invasion of Vichy French Indochina, but I don't know why we'd do that in a case where one Axis power invaded and occupied another. I guess we weren't technically at war with any of them yet."

I believe for the first few years of the war the U.S. was friendly towards Vichy France, to Churchill's grief. Not sure exactly when that changed, but it was after we were fully involved.

Though why Japan's activities in Indochina were the "last straw" for us I don't know. Ultimately it may have been an attempt to box them in a bit as we feared they'd threaten our own interests in Asia.

Balfegor said...

Re: Brando:

Though why Japan's activities in Indochina were the "last straw" for us I don't know. Ultimately it may have been an attempt to box them in a bit as we feared they'd threaten our own interests in Asia.

If so, then score one for us, since they did promptly invade our colony in the Philippines (along with the other White-ruled colonies in the Dutch East Indies, British Malaya, and the Straits Settlements.) I suppose you could sell it as payback for the embargo but I tend to think it was inevitable -- they knew they wanted to seize/liberate the Dutch East Indies and the British colonies, so they couldn't leave the Philippines right there in the middle when we might allow our allies to use it as a staging ground for counterattacks. And if they seized our colony in the Philippines, then they'd be at war with us anyhow, so a preemptive strike on the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor made perfect sense.

Of course, things turned south for them almost immediately in June 1942. It's almost a pity the Japanese general election was in April 1942 rather than, say, September 1942 -- might have had a different outcome.

Peter said...

Would MLK have morphed into just another leftist hack, had he lived? Well, as with all counterfactual "histories," that's unknowable.

The relevance to contemporary politics perhaps is the connection with the relentless descronstruction of those who used to be considered American heroes. In place of the old hagiographies, all of these former heroes have been desconstructed into rubble as their flaws have become exposed, ridiculed, and then despised.

And certainly they were flawed, but, so was MLK. Does it then become impossible to maintain heroes once one acknowledges that all are flawed (and sometimes very seriously so)?

The question for contemporary politics is: should MLK be deconstructed into rubble, as our older American heroes were? Or should he be exempt from the destructive engines of deconstruction and, if so, will it then become possible to rehabilitate other as well?

Sebastian said...

"Move on."

I know. history is bunk. Nothing to learn there.

Michael K said...


Blogger Robert Cook said...
"Nixon was undone by his ethics."

Hahaha! Yes...his bad ones!


No surprise, Cookie, but you might try to look behind leftist propaganda, even if you don't admit it.

Nixon was hated by the left for his exposure of Alger Hiss. Hugh Hewitt has an amusing test of new interviewees on his program. He asks them a few questions to get the trend of their thinking, One is "Was Alger Hiss a communist?" One leftist writer hung up on him when he asked her that.

In 1960, William Rogers, Eisenhower's Attorney General, told Nixon he had enough evidence of election fraud to overturn the 1960 election. Nixon declined because he believed the danger to the country, then in the midst of the Cold War, was too great to put it through such a trauma.

Teddy White, in one of his books, said that Nixon thought he would be given some credit in 1973 for that act of patriotism.

He never understood how much the left hated him and would do anything to bring him down, even participate in a putsch by the #2 man in the FBI. Woodward and Bernstein and Ben Bradlee knew who "Deep Throat" was and did not care if the FBI overthrew a US president.

Most of Watergate was due to Nixon worrying about the lower level employees of CREEP who were arrested and facing prison.

Obama would never worry about underlings and I doubt he cares about what happens to Susan Rice.

Brando said...

"I suppose you could sell it as payback for the embargo but I tend to think it was inevitable -- they knew they wanted to seize/liberate the Dutch East Indies and the British colonies, so they couldn't leave the Philippines right there in the middle when we might allow our allies to use it as a staging ground for counterattacks. And if they seized our colony in the Philippines, then they'd be at war with us anyhow, so a preemptive strike on the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor made perfect sense."

I agree with that--whatever the immediate cause, we were bound to clash with Japan sooner or later. Our embargoes gave them an opportunity to scale back, and put them at notice that we had a limit--and ultimately they made the tragic miscalculation that they could beat us in a swift war (at least enough to get a favorable negotiating position in Asia). Had we not embargoed them then, we would have clashed with them later, and maybe in a worse position then we were in in 1941.

"Of course, things turned south for them almost immediately in June 1942. It's almost a pity the Japanese general election was in April 1942 rather than, say, September 1942 -- might have had a different outcome."

Problem was so much of it turned to national honor for them, and even when it was inevitable they were going to lose they fought hopeless battles. I doubt they could have gotten better than near-unconditional surrender from us in 1942, but it would have spared their population and country a lot of pointless suffering.

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