Richard Russell and Tribal Wisdom

Some good stuff to think about from 1964, during the Vietnam era:

Redolent of the late 1940’s, (U.S. Ambassador) Henry Cabot Lodge cabled Washington that South Vietnam might have to be run by a U.S. "High Commissioner," having himself in mind.  Georgia’s Richard Russell was still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and had known Lodge and (President Lyndon) Johnson for more than twenty years.  He cautioned the president that Lodge "thinks he’s dealing with barbarian tribes out there."

Russell was in a position to know: he was a part of the greatest "barbarian tribe" that ever hit the U.S.  He had more wisdom than that, though:

Russell merely wanted Congress to spend whatever it took to install a government in Saigon that would promptly ask the Yankees to go home.  That possibility was lost with Diem’s murder.

Forty years later, we invaded Iraq with the idea of instilling democracy on the "barbarian tribes" of the Middle East, complete with "High Commissioner"  Paul Bremer, rather than install someone who would aid U.S. interests by making the Iranians’ life miserable.

All quotes from Derek Leebaert’s The Fifty Year Wound, written before the adventure in Iraq.

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