A news report earlier this week began, “U.S. defenses could intercept a ballistic missile launched by North Korea if it decides to strike, the top American military commander in the Pacific said Tuesday . . .”
If this is true, it is in large measure thanks to President George W. Bush, who had the courage to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, at the beginning of his first term. Defense of this type would not be possible without that withdrawal.
The Democrats, remember, were hotly against President Bush’s decision. They were far more upset about the withdrawal than the Russians were. Joe Biden was particularly upset. Now vice president, he was then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said Bush was making a “tragic mistake,” one that would spark a “massive new arms race.” He threatened to cut off funding for missile defense if Bush went ahead with withdrawal.
We are not entirely naked unto our enemies; we have some missile defense, however incomplete and imperfect. And we have it because George W. Bush prevailed and the Democrats did not.
Bush was an infinitely better president than Barack Obama, and is, in my judgment, a better man.
Another news report began, “Amid mounting tensions with North Korea, the Pentagon has delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test that had been planned for next week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California . . .” The article informed us that “Chuck Hagel decided to put off the long-planned Minuteman 3 test until sometime next month because of concerns the launch could be misinterpreted and exacerbate the Korean crisis.”
Sounds perfectly reasonable. But North Korea’s new dictator does not impress me as the appeasable type. Neither did his predecessors, his father and grandfather.
This article is maybe the most repulsive, morally, I have read all year. It is an Associated Press report headed “Joan Baez returns to past in Vietnam.” I don’t wish to spend a lot of time on this article. But I will make a few points.
1. The article says that, during the war, Baez and her friends went to Hanoi on a “peace mission.” The North Vietnamese government, you see, “was happy to welcome those prepared to listen to its side of the story.”
Uh-huh. In general, American leftists were not all that interested in peace. They were not neutralists. They were interested in Communist victory — which they indeed got. So, unfortunately, did the Vietnamese people.
2. The article is keen for you to know that Americans bombed Hanoi. The article paints the Americans as crazed or beastly aggressors. There is no context, and no suggestion of war-making on the other side.
I have often quoted Vernon Walters, the late general and diplomat. I will paraphrase: “For over ten years, bombs rained down on every village and hamlet in South Vietnam, and no one budged. No one moved. It took the coming of a Communist ‘peace’ to send hundreds of thousands of people out into the South China Sea, on anything that could float, or might float, to risk dehydration, piracy, drowning — everything.”
You may know an old line: “War its thousands slays, peace its ten thousands.” You definitely know this one: “They made a desert and called it peace.”
3. During her recent visit to Hanoi, says the AP, Baez “closed her eyes and sang out the African-American spiritual, ‘Oh Freedom.’” How sweet. But the Vietnamese Communists, like Communists everywhere, stood for the opposite of freedom.
What does Vietnamese Communism have to do with a freedom struggle?
4. The article emphasizes Baez’s pacifism. She’s a lifelong pacifist, you know. Okay. And the Communists?
5. Baez spoke to a group of schoolchildren. And she told them about “her first act of civil disobedience as a 16-year-old when she refused to go home during an air-raid drill from her school in California.”
Has it ever penetrated Baez’s skull that people cannot exercise civil disobedience in Communist countries? If they do, they will pay a very, very heavy price. Baez is lucky to be an American but knows it not, it seems to me.
6. I will tell you how the article ends:
Housekeeper Tieu Phuong said she remembered Baez staying at the hotel. She also remembered seeing some American pilots, who were released from Hanoi jail at the end of the war, staying at the hotel before flying home and thinking “they looked so nice, how could they bomb our country?”
Under the hazy spring sun, Baez took her hand and tried to explain: “It’s so true; they were just kids, they were just following orders.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the Americans were not the bad guys in the Vietnam War — no matter what the teachers, the professors, the moviemakers, and the AP reporters tell you. Americans were involved in a “noble cause,” as Reagan said. Oh, did the Left shriek at that!
When the American Left got their way, and the Communists took over the whole of Vietnam, they killed approximately 1 million people. This is aside from the “reeducation” camps and similar horrors.
There is huge pressure to forget the realities of Vietnam. That pressure should be resisted.
For a brief second, in the late 1970s, Joan Baez had a second thought about her actions in Vietnam. The victorious Communists had proven to be savages. Baez felt a twinge of conscience. But her fellow American leftists pounced on her, and she got back with the program. Such a shame. She could have been a heroine.
Here’s a funny story. I will tell you how it begins:
The Amish schoolhouse quiets as students in first through eighth grades settle into tight rows of scuffed metal desks to begin singing, their voices rising and dipping like the surrounding hills.
Sounds heavenly to me — what a school should be. But hang on:
Come Friday, four women and one man from this tight-knit group in rural eastern Ohio will enter the prison system in various states, joining nine already behind bars on hate crimes convictions for hair- and beard-cutting attacks against fellow Amish.
One of these people has been sentenced to 15 years. Fifteen years! Honestly, I wasn’t sure you could get that for murder. Hair- and beard-cutting?
I won’t go the full Conrad Black on you, but I really don’t understand American justice. I just don’t. I am all ears, when Conrad makes his case.
If you’re a longtime reader of Impromptus, you’ve heard me say it many, many times: I don’t know why the Cuban dictatorship lets anyone out. Why they send baseball teams to international tournaments, why they send ballet dancers on tour, and so on. There are always defections, or very frequently defections. Shouldn’t that tell us something about Cuban society? About Cuba under the Castros’ regime?
The latest: “7 Cuban dancers defect from National Ballet.” Why do they let them out? I’m not sure, but I’m glad they do.
There’s something I wish I could have been in life. A PGA Tour pro? Sure, but I mean something else, just now: a student of Donald Kagan. He is the great classicist at Yale — one of the greatest scholars and teachers of our time. I have known many of his students. Seldom is a teacher talked about with such esteem.
Anyway, I have a piece for you, published in the Yale Daily News. By Elaina Plott, it’s called “Standing Athwart: The Legacy of Donald Kagan.”
Speaking of Yale, the Buckley Program there is hosting a debate on Monday night: “The Future of Conservatism,” debated by David Brooks and me. Details here.
Several readers have asked me, “Why haven’t you said anything about Margaret Thatcher?” Well, I have nothing to add, really. The writers at the Telegraph and elsewhere have done it so well. I know many people who knew her, a few who knew her very well — Bob Conquest, for example. I never tire of hearing stories about her. She is one of the towering figures of the post-war era — of the second half of the 20th century.
I might speak a little personally: Like Reagan, she hit me at just the right time. I was coming of age, politically (and otherwise, I suppose). She was elected the year I started high school; she was deposed after I was through with graduate studies.
Most of the people around me hated her, of course. I did not. I listened to what she said. I saw what she did. And she convinced me: She and Reagan convinced me. I thought they were right, and that their enemies were wrong. Whether the issue was domestic or foreign: I thought they were right — demonstrably right — and that their enemies were either ignorant or malicious.
And I loved her. Just loved her. Still do. As I am a Reaganite, I am a Thatcherite. Always will be, I guess. Very glad to be.
To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.