Thursday, July 30, 2009
This particular blog is, of course, parasitical in the sense that I do not break news or do original reporting (nor would anyone be likely to send me a 'hot tip' since this blog's audience is quite tiny: why send it to me when you can send it to TPM or a zillion other more-read places than here?) On the other hand, as regular readers (all two or three of them) are aware, I don't limit myself to commenting on current events but have been known to throw in the occasional post about a scholarly article, the occasional essay about one subject or another, and even the occasional post on poetry. (And I must nod here in the direction of HC, whose guest commentary on that Longfellow poem has attracted a steady, if modest, stream of interest ever since its publication.)
Being a "parasite" in the Massing sense doesn't bother me too much. In a (very) former existence, I wrote (for pay) pieces about court decisions and other products of the legal-governmental bureaucracy. In that existence or incarnation I was a paid parasite but also a heteronomous (ooh big word!) one: they (my superiors) told me what to write about and I wrote about it. As a blogger, by contrast, I am unpaid and autonomous, but still, much of the time, parasitical. That's how the cookie crumbles.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
But it's not as if the U.S. has been ignoring its relationship with India. On the contrary. The Bush admin negotiated the nuclear power deal with India, and the Obama admin is following the same basic policy of strategic engagement. Sec of State Clinton's recent visit to India resulted in what is called an end-use monitoring agreement, which helps to pave the way for weapons and reactor sales. To quote the BBC story:
"India is seeking to buy fighter aircraft and nuclear reactors - deals that are expected to generate multi-billion dollar contracts, for which several US companies are bidding.
India also announced on Monday that it had approved sites where American companies will build two nuclear power plants."
In light of this, I find it hard to get very exercised about the Russian-Indian cooperation on submarine development. Sometimes it pays to ask naive, simplistic-sounding questions, like: What does difference does it make? Here the answer, it seems to me, is: Not very much. The only consideration that occurs to me is that if the Indian subs are based on Russian designs it may be harder for the U.S. Navy to do certain collaborative things with them. I'll leave it to others who know about such technical things to argue about this.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Kathleen Parker, in an appreciative column about Cronkite, notes that his critics say the Tet Offensive was a defeat for the Viet Cong (the NLF) and that his famous broadcast ushered in an era of supposed media bias. (Actually Parker refers to the North Vietnamese not the NLF, but it was mainly an NLF operation.) In truth, the Tet Offensive was both a defeat and a victory for the NLF: in strictly military terms it was a defeat, but in psychological terms it was a victory. It showed that the NLF, after several years of being subjected to American air power and fighting American ground soldiers, was capable of launching and carrying out a sustained operation against a large number of population centers in the South, and the NLF's penetration of the U.S. embassy in Saigon was a major propaganda coup. Cronkite's reaction was entirely understandable in view of the official American assurances that the war was being won and that the enemy was on the run.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
On a lighter, indeed somewhat frivolous note: What's up with the weather in D.C.? While all eyes (or many eyes) are on that increasingly meaningless ritual known as a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the meteorological gods are bestowing some totally atypical, gorgeous days: sunny, not very humid, slightly breezy; in a word, idyllic -- especially by the standards of the swamp that is Washington and environs. I'm sure we've done nothing to deserve this, but I hope the masters of meteorological fortune remain so gloriously confused.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Update: see here.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
For those who may be interested, however, I'll mention a few books that might be worth a look. Deborah Shapley's biography of McNamara Promise and Power is well regarded but I haven't read it so can't comment directly; Paul Hendrickson's The Living and the Dead I've read bits and pieces of; Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest I haven't looked at in a long time. I also have not read most of McNamara's Vietnam apology In Retrospect.
Two books that I have read, both of which contain interesting material on McNamara and Vietnam and both of which I can strongly recommend, are:
Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 (Princeton U.P., 1992; also in paperback). This was the author's dissertation, so not all of it is easy going, but especially for those interested in how policymakers use and misuse historical analogies, it's very valuable.
David Milne, America's Rasputin: Walt Rostow and the Vietnam War (Hill & Wang, 2008). This excellent, impressively researched work on Rostow is interesting on a number of points, including the relationship between Rostow and McNamara. (I reviewed this book in the Winter 2009 issue of New Politics; the review itself is not available for free but some other parts of that issue, as well as parts of the current Summer 2009 issue, are. The NP website is here.)
Monday, July 6, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
P.s. Manuel Santana was also there; I believe Robinson did mention him once.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The Metro accident is a tragedy, obviously, for those who were killed and injured and for their families; it also will inconvenience everyone who uses, either regularly or occasionally, the Red line, as service on that line will be slower than usual. Moreover, because the whole Metro system is going to be operating in manual (non-automatic) mode for an indefinite period (at least according to what I heard last night on the news), the service on the system as a whole will be slower. Of course, safety matters more than speed, but in a metropolitan area already choking on its traffic -- an area where one can easily get the impression that no one does anything except drive around all day and clog up the roads -- anything that makes the subway less fast and efficient is bound to be unwelcome, to say the least.
On a related issue: See this post on the projected high-speed rail line between San Francisco and L.A.