My Vietnam era mode of transportation (1968 – 1975)‏

Note to reader:  As a U.S. invited contractor I was issued a Department of defense noncombatant’s certificate of identity with assimilated rank of Colonel/EGS-15, equal to a military grade of 0-6.  I was issued blanket travel orders  to board military aircraft to any in-country military installation.  These travel orders were valid from 1968 to March 1973.  After which I traveled either on commercial or Air America aircraft until April 1975.

Going There: World Airways DC-8 Charter ~ 1968

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN. One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN.
One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of
my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Trivia:

In the 1960s, World Airways became the first U.S. charter airline to enter the jet age with the acquisition of new Boeing 707s.

The USAF Military Airlift Command, “MAC”, used World Airways Charters extensively during the Vietnam era for Military troop transfers.

World’s most famous flight was on 2 April 1975

The first ‘Operation Babylift’ flight took off from Saigon in darkness; the airport had turned the runway lights off. The DC-8 departed without a formal clearance to take off or a flight plan filed. Oakland Aviation Museum Life Members Bill Keating and Ken Healy piloted the flight. Ed Daly paid for the flight out of his own pocket. Continue reading

Aces and Eights

"Dead man's hand" by Tage Olsin - Own work

“Dead man’s hand” by Tage Olsin – Own work

Aces and Eights are called the ‘Dead Man’s’ hand for the cards Wild Bill Hickok was rumored to hold as he was shot in the back. I smell a market branding guru since black Aces, Eights and Wild Bill did not appear in the same sentence until the 1920s. The term ‘Dead Man’s’ hand didn’t even show up in the vocabulary as a phrase until the late 1800’s according to folks who research such things. Between 1886 and 1903 the Dead Man held a Full House of jacks with a pair of tens, pairs of jacks and sevens or jacks and eights. It’s relevant to the citizen/taxpayer today and tied to the very beginning of the Cold War.

Life’s like a game of cards. You play the hand that’s dealt while learning the game of citizenship and making choices. In August 2013 the Cato Institute published Michael D. Tanner and Charles Hughes’ White Paper The Work versus Welfare Trade-Off: 2013. It’s an eye-opening paper and I heartily recommend that everyone read the entire 52-pages. Tanner and Hughes open the discussion:

In 1995, the Cato Institute published a groundbreaking study, The Work vs. Welfare Trade-Off, which estimated the value of the full package of welfare benefits available to a typical recipient in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found that not only did the value of such benefits greatly exceed the poverty level but, because welfare benefits are tax-free, their dollar value was greater than the amount of take-home income a worker would receive from an entry-level job.

Since then, many welfare programs have undergone significant change, including the 1996 welfare reform legislation that ended the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and replaced it with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Accordingly, this paper examines the current welfare system in the same manner as the 1995 paper. Welfare benefits continue to outpace the income that most recipients can expect to earn from an entry-level job, and the balance between welfare and work may actually have grown worse in recent years.

The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work. Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour. If Congress and state legislatures are serious about reducing welfare dependence and rewarding work, they should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, removing exemptions, and narrowing the definition of work. Moreover, states should consider ways to shrink the gap between the value of welfare and work by reducing current benefit levels and tightening eligibility requirements.

Why does this analysis matter on a site where the focus is the Cold War and its legacy? Because as taxpayers we all contribute to the decision making process about where ‘our’ money is spent. Many veterans in the United States struggle just to live in dignity or even in a house. Many veterans need medical help and some die waiting for the assistance they need. Welfare and the military are not apples and oranges as the same taxpayers fund both. Both are deeply emotional issues. Welfare is ‘for the children’ and the military is for our protection. Continue reading

The Endless War of Taqiyya

Montana’s mountains, Wyoming’s Kortes Dam, and the North Shore of Lake

My hometown Whitefish, Montana

My hometown Whitefish, Montana

Superior provided the backdrops of a childhood that instilled a belief that I could be anything I wanted to be if I just worked hard enough and paid my dues. Running wild and free through these landscapes I believed the truisms of my parents, a pair of hardworking WWII vets.

I loved being the good guys, making a difference, and saving the planet. And except for the ‘saving the planet thing’ it all worked as they promised it would but not for the reasons I thought. My ability to succeed as an average Joe was rooted in me. Rather, the freedom to be me was embedded in the founding principles of United States and its culture. Once I made that earth-shaking discovery, I became a

Starving around global campfires was a learning experience.

Starving around global campfires was a learning experience.

roving troubadour starving around the campfires of several socio-political-economic regimes. Later I became an itinerant engineer supporting the military industrial complex. Now I write for the freedom of others to run wild and free, be the good guys, make a difference, save the planet, and be anything they want to be.

Before I could spell ‘Constitution’, the cultural teaching began. My upbringing was traditional Judeo-Christian, but it is not exclusive. Take a set of values—the Ten Commandments of Christians and Jews, the Five Precepts of Buddhists, the Core Values of Hindus, the Five Pillars of Islam, et cetera-and each of us are implored to use it to become an honorable, ethical person who grows spiritually through practicing our individual belief system. Within the myriad philosophical underpinnings of belief systems run common threads that evolve as we move throughahimsa-in-jainism-buddhism-and-hinduism-2-638 the centuries. Don’t lie, keeps your hands off other people’s stuff, and don’t murder are examples that spring to mind. No matter how imperfect we human beings are in the practice of our various beliefs and value systems, we are admonished to strive for improvement and build on our character. Behold the gulf between Muslim extremists and the Western World. Continue reading

FADING AWAY

“Old soldiers never die…they just fade away…” Gen Douglas MacArthur

“Old soldiers never die…they just fade away…” Gen Douglas MacArthur

 

This past Christmas I held my first grandson for the first time. I think that nothing can bring about one’s sense of mortality like the experience of holding that first grandchild.

Author Steve Traywick with Grandson

Author Steve Traywick with Grandson

Asher still had that new baby smell. He looked at Papaw with an unsure look in his eye, but an infant must have a sense of family. He didn’t cry. He settled into my arms and for the next two days only cried when he was hungry or had a wet diaper.

Looking into his eyes brought about a feeling of mortality, but it was a satisfied feeling….that feeling that I can let go now; that my name and bloodline will be carried on. I can live (or not) satisfied. I wonder if some day he’ll want to know about Papaw. I’m trying to leave enough of an ether trail that he can track me down if he chooses. If he does, he’ll certainly learn about the men I served with and what we did and how we served. I certainly hope he does. They are all unsung heroes.

I messaged with my oldest friend this evening. We were talking about trying to get together for the Tennessee/Oklahoma football game in Knoxville later this year. I haven’t seen Bill in probably ten years, but we always keep in touch. We’ve both made horrendous mistakes in our personal lives, but unlike me, Bill rose to the very pinnacle of our profession. He was (and in my mind still is) the very personification of a professional soldier and tanker. A tanker in the 2nd Infantry Division, a member of the Audie Murphy Club, an M1 Master Gunner, Master Gunner for a winning CAT (Canadian Army Trophy) team, combat vet in Desert Storm, he retired a Command Sargent Major.

Steve Traywick in Germany.

Steve Traywick in Germany.

I knew him when he was a young Specialist 4 and my tank driver. Later, we became neighbors. We babysat each other’s kids. We watched out for each other. Bill chose a different path than I did. I think that he couldn’t not succeed at anything he did. Even though we went separate ways, we always managed to maintain that sense of family that every member of an Armor unit knew. Bill was, and still is my oldest and dearest friend.

Chatting with Bill tonight, it occurred to me that we old soldiers are fading away like every generation must surely do. There are still quite a few of us around from Uncle Ronnie’s army, but we are certainly getting much older. Most of my buddies from my generation of the nineteen-eighties have grandchildren now. I have no idea how or when this happened. I told Bill tonight that if I’d known I would live this long, I would have certainly taken better care of myself. He agreed.

I suppose I’ve written all this to say that I’m very, very concerned. I worry for my Army and ultimately for my country. Probably every generation of soldiers (sailors and marines too, I suppose) worries that the succeeding generation won’t be tough enough to face the challenges that their generation faced. I certainly won’t compare us to The Greatest Generation or the generation that fought the thankless war in Korea. I’ve met a lot of Vietnam vets and won’t let my generation take a backseat to them; different time, different mission.

wot_sweetdreams_wp_1280x960

Dumbing Down

Editor’s Note:  The frustration of not being able to engage in boisterous, dissenting, loud discourse without violent reaction, is one of my pet peeves and flies in the face of the Founding Brothers’ approach.  Steve nails the issue squarely and drives home the point.  This fear we have of critical thinking and dialog is a direct-line legacy of the Cold War.  People were placed in a bizarre zoo habitat; fed and cared for from birth to death.  Over the intervening years, children became gods, and adults became children.  Not all and not every member of society, but the sheer number who fit into this category are terrified of thinking for themselves.  “…But when a mammal’s needs are met by others, as in captivity, it can invest energy in futile efforts without loss of food or safety. The brain might even connect futile efforts to the successful meeting of its needs…. Once a self-destructive behavior appears to “work,” the mammal brain repeats it as if its life depended on it….” Loretta G Breuning Ph.D., Self-Harm in Animals: What We Can Learn From It-Self-destructive behaviors get repeated until they’re replaced-Psychology Today, May 21, 2013

Courtesy of AFBlues

Courtesy of AFBlues

My friend, Barbara Johnson, has been busting my gnads to write. I’ve been busy, but thinking about it. At first, I thought I’d piss off as many Texans as I could by making some observations about Texas and Texas politics. Then, Michael Moore made the movie, Sniper, a political football. I have some opinions about that that would paint me as an unpatriotic, progressive, pinko, commie fag. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post those views later. However, yesterday President Obama made some comments that have made Right Wing heads explode. Let’s go over that. If your head hasn’t exploded yet, I may add that last little bit of historical fact that will push you over the edge.

At a prayer breakfast yesterday, President Obama was speaking about how ISIS has corrupted Islam. In the midst of those comments, he pointed out that Christianity’s hands weren’t exactly clean. He mentioned the Crusades, the Inquisition, the way preachers used the Bible to justify slavery and Jim Crow. That was about the time that Right Wing heads began to explode all over America.

What the President said was historically accurate. Christianity’s hands are just as bloody as Islam’s. The Crusades did, in fact happen. The Spanish Inquisition did happen. Both religions have gotten to where they are now on rivers of blood and the bodies of millions of human beings. Each religion has been used to attain power and wealth.

The history of each religion stretches back nearly two thousand years. Each religion drags up history to justify what it’s doing in the present day. But there is a difference…Christianity had evolved out of its violent early history; Islam hasn’t. Unfortunately, Christianity is poised to begin racing backwards to catch up with Islam.

Since President Obama’s comments yesterday, right wing social media has exploded.   How dare the president presume to give Islam a pass by not tagging radical Muslims for what they are…terrorists! How dare he insult American democracy by dragging up the Crusades and the Inquisition! Oh, Lord, people; can you possibly get any more stupid?

Years ago, I listened to Rush Limbaugh bemoan the ‘dumbing down of America’ by progressive Democrats. He was about half right. America is being dumbed down by the ‘progressive’ Left, but unfortunately, it’s being equally dumbed down by the Right. We have become so polarized politically and each side is so firmly entrenched in its own dogma that Americans have forgotten how to learn. Americans are so lazy that they’ll listen to whichever media platform that comes the closest to their own views and God forbid they read a book or think for themselves.

Americans draw their political beliefs from either Fox News or MSNBC. People from opposite sides of the political spectrum can’t have a discussion without either a Facebook bitch-slap fight or a genuine fistfight breaking out. Even on the news shows there can’t be an exchange of views without each side trying to talk over the other. There is no more exchanging of ideas. There is no looking at an issue from both sides. We’ve been dumbed down. Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree how to cross the street without a longwinded debate and yet, somehow we’re going to confront and deal with the evil breaking out all over the world.

Barack Obama has been in office for six years now. Would I vote for him? Not on your life! He reminds me of a cross between Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson. Unfortunately, like Carter and Wilson he’s so convinced of the rightness of his own convictions that he’s unable to sit down and deal with people on the opposite side of the ideological divide. Unfortunately, many of his political opponents can’t get over the “OMG! THERE’S A N***** IN THE WHITE HOUSE AND HE ISN’T THE BUTLER!” syndrome. Anything Obama has said has been wrong in the eyes of the wing nuts on the far right. Now he’s called out Christianity and the far Right is losing its mind.

Unfortunately, the people that are pissed off at Obama’s remarks don’t have the slightest clue as to why they’re pissed off. In their minds, Obama’s remarks were somehow an insult to America’s brand of Christianity. They were only half an insult, and the entire remark was historically true.

Southern preachers did in fact use the Bible to justify slavery and Jim Crow. Don’t believe me? Read the story of Noah in the Old Testament. One of Noah’s sons looked on his nakedness while Noah was drunk. Noah cursed his descendants to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. For years, Southern preachers used this bit of scripture to justify slavery.

As to Obama’s remarks about the Crusades and the Inquisition, I hate to be the one to break the news, but neither has anything to do with America.

Déjà vu Somalia

Dedicated to the memory of Brett Fredericks. Thank you for your service.

On October 3rd and 4th, 1993, two years after the Cold War was declared ‘over’, the U.S.somalia military was in Somalia and they were still fighting. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush deployed 28,000 U.S. troops to Somalia to protect food and medical supply lines to the millions of starving people who suffered at the whims of a gaggle of warlords. The newly-elected Clinton considered the mission important, so the military, including the Delta Force, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), were in Somalia executing the orders of the Commander-in-Chief.

This was the setup for Black Hawk Down the First Battle of Mogadishu, which was part of Gothic Serpent, an operation to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid, perhaps the vilest of the Somali warlords and self-appointed president of Somalia. Of the eighteen Americans who died on October 3rd and 4th, 1993, five were Delta Force. Seeing an American soldier’s body dragged through the street enraged an American public. Instead of turning the furies of hell loose to smash the evil, the U.S. withdrew its troops in March 1994. But, why was the U.S. really there in the first place? Did George H.W. Bush, President and former CIA Director, really care about suffering Africans?

Running from the problem didn’t solve it. Twenty-two years later the warlords still battle it out in Mogadishu. In December retired Delta Force member, Brett Fredricks, was murdered there by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab rebels. The questions are what is the current political situation, what or who is Al-Shabaab, and why did former Delta Force member Brett Fredericks die on Somali soil? Continue reading

Education and The Cold War

Run for the hills. Call your representative from the SUV, but escape any way you can.images The federal government is helping again. When the feds talk about helping you, it’s code for getting into your pocketbook or lifestyle. With all the government help I’ve received lately, I am beginning to feel downright impoverished and threatened. There is no such thing as ‘free community college’, I don’t care how many hours of community service are given by the students. Someone pays and that someone is you, me and our kids.

Remote living is not immunity from federal assistance

Remote living is not immunity from federal assistance

The federal bureaucrats are taking a bow over the latest drop in unemployment, but most of the new jobs available to our kids are low paying service jobs. Not enough to earn a real living. You know what that means. When we die or the feds strip the last penny from our bank account, game over. The government will have spent the last of our money and those children become enslaved. There is a real risk that we are the last Americans to enjoy and prosper from the American Dream.

The push by the federal government to ‘buy’ the education system began long before the Cold War started in 1947. Wresting education from local control has become an art form. I first noticed the federal influence in the 1980s when we were raising our young family in Arivaca, Arizona.

I remember it well because it was the night I realized that I no longer lived in my father’s America. It was cold and dark on that early December 1982 night when stew, homemade biscuits and honey warmed the insides of five hungry, tired people. Dinner was followed by chores and homework.

Our son was assigned dishes and the two girls were told to bundle up the trash and take it out. We, the parents, took care of clearing the table, putting excess food away, and sweeping up. Trouble started immediately. Our eldest daughter informed us that we had no right to force her to take out the trash as that constituted psychological abuse. What? Continue reading

Merry Christmas

Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Solstice, Bodhi Day are all Decemberwallcoo.com_Christmas_illustration_20071218_el celebrations that inspire, if not encourage, reflection, love, family and forgiveness. Yes, Festivus too. In my culture Christmas suspends time in favor of the emergent soul and its budding faith. It’s also true that, for many, Christmas trappings include traditional family sports arguments, an abundance of food, and gifts galore. The more years I pile on, the less time I choose to spend with the trappings.

On the eve of this Christmas, the house is filled with the noise of two generations of kids; the older kids vying to be young and the much younger adopted siblings squabbling with each other and vying to be old. I find myself grateful for the solace of baking pies and my wee office embraced by hundreds of friendly books piled on and under my desk or stacked somewhat orderly in book cases. The pungent odors of baking spices brightens the room. The noise distanced by several rooms, a closed door, and a yard sounds like music. No one needs me now. It’s my time for reflection and gratitude.

Like a leaf caught in a meander, I wonder why. Why the cruel and unnecessary human and animal violence? Why the divisions of culture and religion each claiming a superior position? Why the false flags and political subterfuges? Why the homeless? Why the homeless veterans? Contemplating why is like pondering infinity, it ties the brain and the soul in knots.

Gratitude is a much easier branch on the river of life; the current is strong and defined. Like you, I can trace my family back to the Revolutionary War and the founding of this country I love. Family members have fought, died, been crippled physically and emotionally, and survived in every war and major U.S. military action. Most fought in the uniformed services, but many contributed in support services. Tonight and tomorrow, our family will celebrate Christmas according to our own traditions because my forefathers and millions of their brethren kept the United States alive. All people in the countries we call the Free World can tell the same tale.

Most of us find comfort in the celebrations of December. We relax our bodies and our paranoia to celebrate a dream of what might be. That’s not always been wise. George

Christmas 1916 an Australian Observation Post near Fleurbaix

Christmas 1916 an Australian Observation Post near Fleurbaix

Washington attacked the Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas in 1776. Surprise. It was Christmas 1862, when Confederate cavalry commander John Hunt Morgan launched a Christmas Raid into Kentucky. The Rebel horsemen attacked Union supply convoys, destroyed bridges and fought any Yankee troops they found. Surprise. And, around Christmas 1916 there was a terrible battle on the Eastern Front north of Riga between the Germans and Russians. On Dec. 23, two Latvian brigades

Operation_Linebacke rII_ B-52_Stratofortress

Operation_Linebacke rII_ B-52_Stratofortress

surprised elements of the Kaiser’s 8th Army. During the “Christmas Battle”, about 40,000 troops supported by 200 big guns attacked the German lines. By the end of Christmas week a quarter of them were dead. No surprise. In December 1941, Britain was forced to surrender Hong Kong to Japan and in 1944 Patton rolled into Bastogne. Surprise. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Nixon launched the Christmas bombing campaign on Hanoi in 1972. Beginning on December 18th and continuing for eleven days, the air assault Codenamed Operation Linebacker II painted Hanoi’s skies with B-52 Stratofortresses and 2,000 strike aircraft. More than 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the city making it one of the largest air campaigns in history.

Fewer tales are told of soldiers quitting the battle for a night of peace and quiet.  History.com relates one such event in 1914. “…Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

Christmas 1914

Christmas 1914

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer….” These are the men and women who take care of our rude and nasty business on Christmas when diplomacy fails.

Tonight is no exception. Men and women around the globe are watching tracers, stuck in mountain hellholes, or eating dinner in a mess tent far away and down the road. We thank them and the contractors who support them. Today we are fighting a hellacious enemy dedicated to reforming the world in his own image. He is not likely to call it a night and meet in the middle for a hot toddy or friendly game of cards. Gifts and boxes

Someone's child.

Someone’s child.

have been sent and donations made, but it is not enough. The candles in our window remain lit in faith that there is a way home.

Our teenage boys want to be soldiers. They want to huddle in tanks, shiver on decks, and march through the night to save a way of life. I know what that reality looks like and I want them home fighting over whether the last throw of the football was a fair catch.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours. We wish each and every one of you a safe and joyous Christmas. However you celebrate this time in your culture, I am pulling for the human race to survive and thrive together in mutual respect. It’s time to prepare the apples for the next batch of pies.

Decades later, ‘Vietnam syndrome’ still casts doubts on military action

This article was posted on December 12, 2014 on John Podlaski’s blog Cherries-A Vietnam War Novel. Podlaski’s site asks the question “Ever wonder why young soldiers return home “changed” or “different” after their deployment to a war zone?”. The following article by was written by Eric Slavin and originally published in Stars and Stripes. It is an excellent legacy post that illustrates how the past can help and haunt.

By Erik_Slavin Article originally publishes in Stars and Stripes, November 12, 2014

The Vietnam War’s lasting impact on America’s foreign policy is largely characterized

Near Tay Ninh, Vietnam, November 4, 1966: A soldier stands amid swirling dust from a helicopter arriving to evacuate the wounded after the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division came under heavy Viet Cong fire during Operation Attleboro.   KIM KI SAM/STARS AND STRIPES

Near Tay Ninh, Vietnam, November 4, 1966: A soldier stands amid swirling dust from a helicopter arriving to evacuate the wounded after the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division came under heavy Viet Cong fire during Operation Attleboro. KIM KI SAM/STARS AND STRIPES

by doubt, in the opinions of many analysts.

Doubt that the United States, despite possessing the most powerful military on earth, will win a war against a determined enemy.

Doubt among presidential administrations that the public would support a conflict, once television showed them pictures of dead soldiers being dragged through the streets of countries most Americans knew little or nothing about.

Mostly, doubt — with some notable outliers — that the United States can impose its will through force, no matter the situation.

Vietnam at 50Driving those doubts is the desire to avoid another open-ended commitment with an uncertain endgame, where U.S. troops spend years on the ground in a foreign country, fighting against an enemy that can blend back into the civilian population far too easily.

That desire is part of what some have defined as “Vietnam syndrome,” a concept declared dead and reborn several times in the decades since the last American combat troops left Southeast Asia.

“Getting involved and not being able to get up, like Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians suffering constant blows, that’s the concern,” said Carlyle Thayer, an American professor and Vietnam analyst who taught a course on the Vietnam War at Australia’s National Defense University.

That concern endures — buffeted by experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan — as River PatrolAmericans debate today’s military actions.

Americans support fighting the Islamic State group by a 60 percent to 31 percent margin — unless that action turns to ground troops, according to a September Gallup poll. Only 40 percent approve of that, according to the poll.

President Barack Obama went so far as to rule out U.S. ground troops before the latest round of air and naval strikes on Iraq and Syria began.

Before the end of the Vietnam War, presidents didn’t speak in such measured, cautious ways about how they would wage war. However, Obama made it clear during a May speech at the U.S. Military Academy that caution would be a cornerstone of his foreign policy agenda.

“Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences,” Obama said.

The U.S. would act unilaterally when it was directly threatened and would otherwise explore other options, he said.

Inder fireObama, 53, is too young to have served in Vietnam — yet his words that day mirror the definition of Vietnam syndrome offered by journalist and Vietnam War author Marvin Kalb, who called it “a fundamental reluctance to commit American military power anywhere in the world, unless it is absolutely necessary to protect the national interests of the country.”

The term Vietnam syndrome first reached prominence when presidential candidate Ronald Reagan used it during an August 1980 campaign speech. Reagan said the syndrome was created by the “North Vietnamese aggressors” aiming to “win in the field of propaganda here in America what they could not win on the field of battle in Vietnam.”

In Reagan’s view, America failed to secure Vietnam because it lacked the means and the will to do so from the home front.

Nevertheless, fear of another Vietnam “quagmire” became the lens through which military action was viewed in the post-war 1980s.

Although Reagan’s budgets dramatically increased defense spending, his military actions were generally small, covert or obtained by proxy.

Then came the first Gulf War. It was civilian America’s first look at the reconstituted, all-volunteer force in a very large-scale action.

Victory came swiftly and at the cost of relatively few casualties. President George H.W. Bush avoided the quagmire by pulling troops out of Iraq quickly and leaving Saddam Hussein in power — moves that drew little criticism at the time.

Basking in the afterglow of military triumph, Bush ended a speech in 1991 with the

Black Hawk Down Mogadishu, Somalia

Black Hawk Down Mogadishu, Somalia

proclamation that, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

About two years later, the doubts that Vietnam brought about returned, this time in the Horn of Africa.

On Oct. 3, 1993, the “Black Hawk Down” incident kicked off the Battle of Mogadishu, leaving 18 U.S. servicemembers dead. Americans recoiled at images of Staff Sgt. William David Cleveland’s body being dragged through the Somali capital’s streets.

21somalia.lDays later, Clinton ordered U.S. troops to begin preparing for withdrawal.

A year later, the genocide in Rwanda began, and Clinton sent no military force. He would later describe not intervening in the genocide, which claimed about 1 million Rwandans, as one of his biggest regrets.

“If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost. … It had an enduring impact on me,” Clinton said on CNBC in 2013.

Rawandan Genocide

Rawandan Genocide

American overseas involvement remained somewhat restrained up until the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

After that, eight out of 10 Americans supported a ground war in Afghanistan.

If President George W. Bush had any worries about Vietnam syndrome, he didn’t share them publicly.

Defense analysts once again declared Vietnam syndrome kicked, at least, until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grew protracted, and opinion polls turned against the conflicts.

“Getting involved and not being able to get up, like Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians suffering constant blows, that’s the concern.”– Carlyle Thayer

In 2009, conservative scholar Max Boot said that George H.W. Bush got it wrong with his 1991 proclamation — Vietnam syndrome was alive and well in the Obama era.

Boot noted several examples of lawmakers and analysts questioning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the prism of Vietnam.

Boot dismissed their doubts as defeatist. He saw no reason to make the Vietnam comparison, unless it was to compare administrations “more interested in ending than in winning the war.”

Boot’s view led him to agree on one point with Obama’s assessment: “You never step into the same river twice. And so Afghanistan is not Vietnam.”

slavin.erik@stripes.com Twitter: @eslavin_stripes

a scrap of paper blown on a wind

a scrap of paper blown on a wind 

gardener, weaver e loved plants, child to age, watched soil, creatures, sun, rain. learned health, growth, death, tears, smiles, laughter, joy. one day, done, e thought anew, tend people, watch, listen, learn soil, fellows, sun, rain, life anew, a new garden. —a keeper of Perinel

The communists are recapturing Germany twenty-five years after the fall of “The Wall”,

President Reagan giving a speech at the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate ... (historyplace.com)

President Reagan giving a speech at the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate …
(historyplace.com)

the Chinese are producing rockets and aircraft carriers as fast as their 3-D printers and workmen will reset, the Indians are testing long-range rockets, the Russians are dumping dollars as fast as the garbage shoots allow, and the United States no longer sits on the top of the economic, moral, or military heap. It wasn’t always that way.

For a glorious 200 years, since Napoleon met his Waterloo, the world thrived under the economic, political, and military leadership of the United States and Great Britain; countries where constitutions drove democracy, natural rights, and statue-of-libertycivil liberties. Individuals became consumed in the fire of freedom and strides of progress covered the globe albeit in fits and starts. The world’s sharp edges are now taking a heavy toll on humanity. Chaos may beget order yet none is visible and that leads me to the poem and why I write.

Written by Leif Smith, “a scrap of paper blown on a wind” opened the shutter in my mind that kept me from understanding why I must write and why the writing must address the legacies of the Cold War. I find, with some surprise, that I am in the second cycle of being while still embroiled in the first cycle of doing. I am, I think, a Keeper in Training; a KIT of Perinel.

In the first cycle, I was driven by the ideals of the United States into service to the country through the sweat of my brow and a grim determination to make the world free. This was my silent promise to the many people I met in my global journey who reinforced my belief that the United States’ founding brothers had it right. To a person, each one I met in Chile, Guatemala, Ghana, Nigerian, India, Thailand, Burma, the Marshall Islands longed to come to the U.S. to work, live without fear, be in control of their own lives for better or worse-be free men and women. This is still a garden I sow.

The discovery that I am in the second cycle came as a surprise. This garden is new and grows tales, parables, lessons, and opportunities to change a tide that has turned from individual freedom and responsibility to nobility of old. It is now a place where czars run the Executive Branch, the peoples’ and states’ representatives are blinded by power and fear, and the Judicial Branch turns its collective eye away from the Constitution in its decision making. No longer is the government afraid of the people as it should be. Now the people are afraid of the government.

I wish to tend people, watch, listen, and learn. I am a Keeper in Training. For the manyilluminated-paper-blowing-in-the-wind who have asked, I write to keep a record of a new garden. Perhaps a hint of the record will appear on a scrap of paper blown on a wind that breathes personal freedom and responsibility into one person’s life.