Thursday, October 1, 2009

Afghanistan...Vietnam...and "Hair"

NPR's All Things Considered tonight featured an interview with Stanley Karnow, a jounralist who wrote perhaps the best book I have ever read about the Vietnam War....

In his interview, Karnow argues that our policy in Afghanistan would benefit from the lessons learned during our involvememt in Vietnam.  Karnow spoke to General McChrystal and expressed his opinion that Vietnam was the most avoidable war we ever fought, and that one of the biggest lessons we should not forget is to keep questioning assumptions.  Alll of Southeast Asia did not fall to communism, as was vehemently assumed. Will the Taliban become a radical force if not defeated in Afghanistan, and lead to another US attack on the magnitude of  9/11? 
One difference, it is argued, is that the Vietcong did not pose a threat on American soil, but not so Al Qaeda, which was provided safe haven by the Taliban.  The talk of escalation, or troop hike, has resurrected one of Vietnam's biggest buzzwords: quagmire.  Obama states, correctly, that we cannot step in the same river twice. This is his way of separating the two conflicts into their unique circumstances; but the interview invites us to listen carefully to his words, and he does tacitly allow that a comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam is not to be avoided.
On Sunday, I am attending my first Broadway show: the revival of the 1968 musical, "Hair", which was nothing if not inspired by the Vietnam war.  It was a pop musical protest against the war and the culture that created it.  I have a friend who kids me about my fascination with a show which he labels "prehistoric" (he was not yet born in the late 1960's). I have a feeling, aside from the now-classic music and clothing and language which fixes the play firmly in period, that "Hair" might be as relevant now as it ever was.
I will have a review on Wednesday of next week, along with items from my travel journal.  Have a great week, readers!

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