Vietnam / Iraq

South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places, June 8, 1972. A South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on South Vietnamese troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. The children from left to right are: Phan Thanh Tam, younger brother of Kim Phuc, who lost an eye, Phan Thanh Phouc, youngest brother of Kim Phuc, Kim Phuc, and Kim's cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

While recently reviewing The Deer Hunter, we strayed In Country, a tangled thicket where the eternal skirmish over Vietnam carries on. Now it is held-up as a mirror to military madness, and as a parable for the incursion / invasion of Iraq.  But whereas the strategic argument for Gulf War II remains opaque to this day despite inquiry after inquiry, I suggest that the escalation in Vietnam, as at 1965, is different to the events of 2003 by a substantial degree, rendering most modern comparisons between the two erroneous. The late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s formed the middle age of the Cold War (a…

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American Visions

June 30, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, USA History |

Copley could paint a nice lady; couldn't paint a shark

(Robert Hughes) (1997) Hughes was one of those big, bold, Jesuitical, learned men of the arts whom we sorely need and miss.  This book, and the series on which it is based, is crammed with Hughes’ invariably wise, precise and yet loving take on American Art. He took up a role as Time’s art critic in 1970 and those who are old enough to have actually read Time recall his brilliant and generally fair opinions on the world of contemporary art. This wonderful review is as good as his seminal The Shock of the New but wiser and less hurried.  If you…

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Essence of Dick

"Let Me Make Something Perfectly Clear" (1970 photo of Nixon by Jack E Kightlinger)

      “A place in the national firmament… Greatness is more than government. To make exciting mischief or dull salt; Hazard the chance of ruin, lay on fault, Set the highest stakes through piracy But who the hell to handle it, to cut free; To build me a mad image, up to anything Other than domestically, one who’ll thus bring A welcome beard. Under my dark sun, hold hard! The one you serve was dealt the bleakest card.”     (What serves power, if one’s form at flood Is splendidly bedight yet daubed with mud? And the ‘new King’…

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World Order

(by H Kissinger) World Order is a knotty concept prone to interpretations of violent subjectivity.  On the one hand, we have the seers of doom, who see only a world in chaos and inevitable decline (e.g. Mark Steyn).  Farthest from this on the spectrum are the utopian promoters of one world governance (to whom one recommends an urgent reading of Thomas More). Along the way are those who deprecate the notion of order at all, preach heterogeneity and the cult of small-as-beautiful, the barrackers of old powers, cultists for the new such as the revived Middle Kingdom or ISIS, or…

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The Great Gatsby

Grave Fitzgeralds (Image courtesy of JayHenry)

(by F. Scott Fitzgerald) The Great American Novel is an absolute synthesis of all that’s great and rotten at the height of the Yankee century. America is so accomplished and competitive that one tends to overlook the result: a defeated majority.  Hence the American theme of ‘starting over’ in a different place, exemplified in the go-west mantra of the 1800s and the eastern push of the 20th century.  Gatsby emblematised this push, a doughboy made ‘good’ in the new desert of Dr T.J Eckleburg’s New York. Born 1896 in Minnesota, F.S.F. grew into a world of American hegemony but dreamed…

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