David Brooks | The American Identity Crisis – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

For most of the past century, human dignity had a friend — the United States of America. We are a deeply flawed and error-prone nation, like any other, but America helped defeat fascism and communism and helped set the context for European peace, Asian prosperity and the spread of democracy.


Then came Iraq and Afghanistan, and America lost faith in itself and its global role — like a pitcher who has been shelled and no longer has confidence in his own stuff. On the left, many now reject the idea that America can be or is a global champion of democracy, and they find phrases like “the indispensable nation” or the “last best hope of the earth” ridiculous. On the right the wall-building caucus has given up on the idea that the rest of the world is even worth engaging.

Many people around the world have always resisted America’s self-appointed role as democracy’s champion. But they have also been rightly appalled when America sits back and allows genocide to engulf places like Rwanda or allows dangerous regimes to threaten the world order.

The Afghans are the latest witnesses to this reality. The American bungles in Afghanistan have been well documented. We’ve spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of our people. But the two-decade strategy of taking the fight to the terrorists, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, has meant that global terrorism is no longer seen as a major concern in daily American life. Over the past few years, a small force of American troops has helped prevent some of the worst people on earth from taking over a nation of more than 38 million — with relatively few American casualties. In 1999, no Afghan girls attended secondary school. Within four years, 6 percent were enrolled, and as of 2017 the figure had climbed to nearly 40 percent.

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:

This is a complicated essay by David Brooks, and I’m afraid he might have more good points than bad ones, but he fails to convince this reader, becasue of the dearth of real facts and knowledge of Afganistan. His first major mistake, was leaving out Vietnam in the first paragraph. He says we are keeping the Taliban at bay with little cost and almost no casualties, but what exactly are the numbers over the last five years. We already spent over a trillion dollars in Afganistan, because we wasted $2 trillion in Iraq, in a war that was a tragic mistake. I am knowledgeable now in the history of Vietnam, and our dive into that civil war was also an unmitigated disaster, based on a complete lack of appreciation for Vietnamese history and culture. What real experts in Afganistan’s history and culture think that there is any force in Afghanistan strong enough to stand up to the Taliban, without a lot more treasure by the US. The Taliban appear to be the most determined, and disciplined in this war, just like the Vietnames communists under Ho Chi Minh were. If that is not a fair comparison, who can explain in detail, why the forces we have supported have any chance with light support against the Taliban. Our side appears to be better at corruption and graft, than at fighting the Taliban.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs mostly at InconvenientNews.Net.

The Right Asian Deal, By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

“HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — An American who has been a resident here for a few years said to me the other day: “You know, they still look at us here the way we want to be looked at. America equals opportunity, entrepreneurship and success. That’s not true in so many places anymore.”Four decades after the war, in one of the world’s consoling mysteries, the United States enjoys an overwhelming approval rating in Vietnam, reflected in the outpouring of enthusiasm for President Obama during his three-day visit last month. In this fast-growing country of 94 million people, about one-third of them on Facebook, America is at once the counterbalance to the age-old enemy, China, and an emblem of the prosperity young people seek.

The best way to kick Vietnamese aspirations in the teeth, turn the country sour on the United States, and undermine the stabilizing American role in Asia, would be for Congress to fail to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama’s signature trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries including Vietnam but not China.”

Source: The Right Asian Deal – The New York Times

Good piece Roger Cohen, but please write more. I support the TPP because it was supported once by Hillary Clinton, and is today supported by President Obama. Also, my broad understanding is that it is less about trade than regional politics. It is a serious effort to stay in a leadership role in East Asia, and prevent China from completely supplanting us, and our values, in that region. China is today a menace to it’s neighbors, just ask the people in Tibet. Vietnam has been invaded by China at least eight times since 101 BC. Back then,I they occupied Vietnam for a thousand years, until expelled finally in 937 AD.

The TPP is also purported to have good environmental rules, especially about the waters and fisheries.

Please address several of the main concerns of the vocal critics here in the comments section. To what extent does this give corporations power to bypass American law, or prosper while hurting the public? The attack, that we are giving up sovereignty seems absurd, but is it? How do we fact check all the mud that is being slung at this deal. Which of these accusations have merit, and which do not? Who are the international trade experts in this country, and what do they think?

David Lindsay is about to publish his first historical fiction, The Tay Son Rebellion, 1770-1812.


In Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima, a Complex Calculus of Asian Politics – The New York Times

ISE, Japan — Eleven United States presidents have been elected since President Harry S. Truman decided to drop an atomic weapon on Hiroshima, and none has set foot in that traumatized city in the 71 years since, at least not while in office.President Obama intends to end that streak with his visit on Friday, a decision that speaks volumes not only about his presidency but also about the increasingly worrisome struggle among powers great and small in East Asia.Mr. Obama’s predecessors had good reasons to avoid Hiroshima. None wanted to be seen by American voters as apologizing for a decision that many historians even today believe, on balance, saved lives. And there were worries about how such a visit would be viewed in China, South Korea and other countries in Asia that suffered from the brutal World War II killing machine that was Imperial Japan.

Source: In Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima, a Complex Calculus of Asian Politics – The New York Times

Obama in Vietnam Will Focus on Future, Rather Than the Past – The New York Times

“For Mr. Obama, the trip to Vietnam offers an opportunity to help solidify not only his promised pivot of American policy toward Asia, but also to deepen economic and security ties with an increasingly important regional player.But for the United States’ Vietnam War veterans, a presidential trip to the country where many of them lost their youth, innocence and some of their closest friends is weighted with powerful emotions and never-ending debates about that war’s consequences.”

Source: Obama in Vietnam Will Focus on Future, Rather Than the Past – The New York Times