Paternalistic Follies of the 1960s, by Richard M. Ebeling

For lovers of freedom and individualism in America, the 1960s were almost as bad as the 1930s. From Richard M. Ebeling at fff.com:

Fifty years separate us, now, from 1968 and the two momentous legacies of the then soon to ending failed presidency of Lyndon Johnson: The declaring of war on America’s supposed domestic ills in the form of the “Great Society” programs, and the aggressive military intervention in a real war in Vietnam. Both of these “wars” reflected the arrogance and hubris of the social engineer who believes that he has the power and ability to remake and direct society in his own preferred image.

The Vietnam War still leaves a searing memory of a military conflict ten thousand miles away from the United States, which went on for more than a decade, and at the cost of 55,000 American lives and at least one million casualties among the Vietnamese people. It was a war that tore the United States apart unlike any other armed conflict in American history other than the Civil War of the 1860s.

Hundreds of thousands of young men, not fortunate enough to have a college deferment, were conscripted into the U.S. Armed Forces and sent off to fight a war that at least half of the American people either did not support or did not understand, and which finally ended with one of the most humiliating defeats in American military history.

Vietnam: The Hubris of War Planning and Conflict Fine-Tuning

A part of the Vietnam War tragedy was due to the fact that it was managed by “the best and the brightest,” as David Halberstam called them in his well-known book with that title. These were the people within the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who orchestrated and escalated the war as the conflict progressed through the 1960s.

Halberstam referred to these war managers as the “whiz kids.” They believed that they had the theoretical and quantitative knowledge and ability to fine-tune a military conflict. By incremental “escalation,” they could bring to bear just enough pressure at vital points considered crucial to the enemy in North Vietnam. This would compel the appropriate response from the communist regime in Hanoi to assure that the conflict ended in an “acceptable” outcome.

To continue reading: Paternalistic Follies of the 1960s

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