To the editor: Andrew Bacevich reminds us that the threat to the West posed by evangelical communism was both real and imagined. The United States confronted its real security interests by fashioning multilateral security and economic alliances.
Imagined threats, like Vietnam, led to unreasoned and unilateral power projections. The monolithic communist “bloc,” on which our politicians were fixated for 30 years, was actually highly differentiated. It was simple only in a domestic political environment in which any weakness shown against a subversive force was unconscionable. As today, political elites could not then afford to think outside of a binary framework that Bacevich artfully describes as “everything good against everything evil.”
After more than a decade of gratuitous violence in Vietnam, both sides ultimately subordinated ideology to self-interest and today enjoy a constructive commercial and strategic relationship.
The global war on terror has invited the same simplicity. “Democratizing” the Middle East with military force may well be beyond the comprehension of our political class and even beyond the bravery of men and women in uniform. This too has been a hard lesson learned.
David DiLeo, San Clemente
To the editor: I read and re-read Bacevich’s op-ed article longing to know what the right lessons of “victory” in the Cold War ought to have been.
Seeing that something is broken isn’t at all the same as knowing how to fix it. All that has been wrong with post-Cold War policy in the United States was beautifully described, but Bacevich proposed nothing that would have produced better outcomes.
The U.S. military-industrial complex that grew and flourished because of the Cold War was hardly going to hang up its sword and go home. The seeds of our own destruction were there all the time.
Karen Robinson-Stark, Pasadena
To the editor: Reading the coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I am reminded of my brush with history there in 1962.
I’d finished teaching at an international school in Rome, and a friend and I drove the corridor through East Germany to Berlin. Our goal was to see the fabulous museums in East Berlin, and we drove over and had an enlightening day.
Coming back, we were at Checkpoint Charlie, standing outside our car, as requested, while a guard inspected it. He was using a mirror to look underneath when a man slipped out of a second-story apartment window and dashed across the “no man’s land” toward the wall. Our guard took out his pistol, shot him and returned to his mirror work.
We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Meg Quinn Coulter, Los Angeles