Vietnam Has Left Town. Say Hello to our New Syndrome

Summary:  No nation, no matter how powerful, can long prosper (perhaps not even survive) with a broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop).  Like ours.  The primary symptom: an inability to learn.  We cannot learn from our peers’ to fix our health care system.  We cannot learn from our history to cope with 4GW (eg, foreign insurgencies).  Today Tom Engelhardt explains our attempts to forget lessons of the past, and so we repeat them.

The Afghan Syndrome:
Vietnam Has Left Town. Say Hello to the New Syndrome on the Block.

By Tom Engelhardt
Originally published at TomDispatch, 10 April 2012
Reposted with the author’s generous permission.


  1. The Smog of War
  2. A Titleholder for Pure, Long-Term Futility
  3. A Vietnam Analogy Memorial
  4. About the author
  5. For more information

(1)  The Smog of War

Take off your hat. Taps is playing. Almost four decades late, the Vietnam War and its post-war spawn, the Vietnam Syndrome, are finally heading for their American grave. It may qualify as the longest attempted burial in history. Last words — both eulogies and curses — have been offered too many times to mention, and yet no American administration found the silver bullet that would put that war away for keeps.

Richard Nixon tried to get rid of it while it was still going on by “Vietnamizing” it. Seven years after it ended, Ronald Reagan tried to praise it into the dustbin of history, hailing it as “a noble cause.” Instead, it morphed from a defeat in the imperium into a “syndrome,” an unhealthy aversion to war-making believed to afflict the American people to their core.

A decade later, after the U.S. military smashed Saddam Hussein’s army in Kuwait in the First Gulf War, George H.W. Bush exulted that the country had finally “kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.” As it turned out, despite the organization of massive “victory parades” at home to prove that this hadn’t been Vietnam redux, that war kicked back. Another decade passed and there were H.W.’s son W. and his advisors planning the invasion of Iraq through a haze of Vietnam-constrained obsessions.

W.’s top officials and the Pentagon would actually organize the public relations aspect of that invasion and the occupation that followed as a Vietnam opposite’s game — no “body counts” to turn off the public, plenty of embedded reporters so that journalists couldn’t roam free and (as in Vietnam) harm the war effort, and so on. The one thing they weren’t going to do was lose another war the way Vietnam had been lost. Yet they managed once again to bog the U.S. military down in disaster on the Eurasian mainland, could barely manage to win a heart or a mind, and even began issuing body counts of the enemy dead.

“We don’t do body counts,” General Tommy Franks, Afghan War commander, had insisted in 2001, and as late as November 2006, the president was still expressing his irritation about Iraq to a group of conservative news columnists this way: “We don’t get to say that — a thousand of the enemy killed or whatever the number was. It’s happening. You just don’t know it.” The problem, he explained, was: “We have made a conscious effort not to be a body count team” (à la Vietnam). And then, of course, those body counts began appearing.

Somehow, over the endless years, no matter what any American president tried, The War — that war — and its doppelganger of a syndrome, a symbol of defeat so deep and puzzling Americans could never bear to fully take it in, refused to depart town. They were the ghosts on the battlements of American life, representing — despite the application of firepower of a historic nature — a defeat by a small Asian peasant land so unexpected that it simply couldn’t be shaken, nor its “lessons” learned.

National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger was typical at the time in dismissing North Vietnam in disgust as “a little fourth rate power,” just as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Thomas Moorer would term it “a third-rate country with a population of less than two counties in one of the 50 states of the United States.” All of which made its victory, in some sense, beyond comprehension.

(2)  A Titleholder for Pure, Long-Term Futility

That was then. This is now and, though the frustration must seem familiar, Washington has gotten itself into a situation on the Eurasian mainland so vexing and perplexing that Vietnam has finally been left in the dust. In fact, if you hadn’t noticed — and weirdly enough no one has — that former war finally seems to have all but vanished.

If you care to pick a moment when it first headed for the exits, when we all should have registered something new in American consciousness, it would undoubtedly have been mid-2010 when the media decided that the Afghan War, then 8½ years old, had superseded Vietnam as “the longest war” in U.S. history. Today, that claim has become commonplace, even though it remains historically dubious (which may be why it’s significant).

Afghanistan is, in fact, only longer than Vietnam if you decide to date the start of the American war there to 1964, when Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (in place of an actual declaration of war), or 1965, when American “combat troops” first arrived in South Vietnam. By then, however, there were already 16,000 armed American “advisors” there, Green Berets fighting there, American helicopters flying there. It would be far more reasonable to date America’s war in Vietnam to 1961, the year of its first official battlefield casualty and the moment when the Kennedy administration sent in 3,000 military advisors to join the 900 already there from the Eisenhower years. (The date of the first American death on the Vietnam Wall, however, is 1956, and the first American military man to die in Vietnam — an American lieutenant colonel mistaken by Vietnamese guerrillas for a French officer — was killed in Saigon in 1945.)

Of course, massive U.S. support for the French version of the Vietnam War in the early 1950s could drive that date back further. Similarly, if you wanted to add in America’s first Afghan War, the CIA-financed anti-Soviet war of the mujahideen from 1980 to 1989, you might once again have a “longest war” competition.

The essential problem in dating wars these days is that we no longer declare them, so they just tend to creep up on us. In addition, because undeclared war has melded into something like permanent war on the American scene, we might well be setting records every day on the Eurasian mainland — if, for instance, you care to include the First Gulf War and the continued military actions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which, after 2001, blended into the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, its invasion of Afghanistan, and then, of course, Iraq (again).

For those who want a definitive “longest,” however, the latest news is promising. Obama administration negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government are reportedly close to complete. The two sides are expected to arrive at a “strategic partnership” agreement leaving U.S. forces (trainers, advisors, special operations troops, and undoubtedly scads of private contractors) ensconced on bases in Afghanistan well beyond 2014. If such official desire becomes reality, then the Vietnam record might indeed be at an end.

What’s important, however, isn’t which war holds the record, but that media urge in 2010 to anoint Afghanistan the titleholder for pure long-term futility. In retrospect, that represented a changing-of-the-guard moment.

Now, skip ahead almost two years and consider what’s missing in action today. After all, dealing with the Afghan War in Vietnam-analogy terms right now would be like lining up ducks at a shooting gallery. Just take a run through the essential Vietnam War checklist: there’s “quagmire” (check!); dropping the idea of winning “hearts and minds” (check!); the fact that we’ve entered the “Afghanization” phase of the war, with endless rosy prognostications about, followed by grim reports on, the training of the Afghan army to replace U.S. combat troops (check!).

There are those sagging public opinion polls about the war, dropping steadily into late-Vietnam territory (check!); the continued insistence of American military officials that “progress” is being made in the face of disaster and disintegration (not quite “light at the end of the tunnel” territory, but nonetheless a check! for sure).

There are those bomb-able, or in our era drone-able, “sanctuaries” across the border (check!); American massacre stories, most recently a one-man version of My Lai (check!); a prickly leader who irritates his American counterparts and is seen as an obstacle to success (check!), and so on — and on and on.

While the Afghan War has always had its many non-Vietnam aspects — geographical, historical, geopolitical, and in terms of casualties — anyone could have had a Vietnam field day with the present situation. At almost any previous moment in the last decades, many undoubtedly would have, and yet what’s striking is that this time around no one has. Unlike any administration since the Nixon years, nobody in Obama’s crowd now seems to have Vietnam obsessively on the brain.

What was taken as the last significant reference to the war from a major official came from Bush holdover Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. In February 2011, four months before he left the Pentagon, Gates gave a “farewell” address at West Point in which he told the cadets, “[I]n my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” This, press reports incorrectly claimed, was that general’s Vietnam advice for President Kennedy in 1961. (The statement Gates quoted, however, was made in 1950 after the North Koreans invaded South Korea.)

(3)  A Vietnam Analogy Memorial

Since then, Washington generally seems to have dropped Vietnam through the memory hole. Well-connected pundits seldom mention its example any more. Critics have generally stopped using it to anathematize the ongoing war in Afghanistan. In a wasteland of growing disasters, that war now seems to have gained full recognition as a quagmire in its own right. No help needed.

And yet I did find one recent exception to the general rule. Let me offer it here as my own memorial to the Vietnam analogy. Recently in a news briefing, U.S. war commander in Afghanistan General John Allen tried to offer context for a phenomenon that seems close to unique in modern history. (You might have to go back to the Sepoy Rebellion in British India of the nineteenth century to find its like.) Afghan “allies” in police or army uniforms have been continually blasting away American and NATO soldiers they live and work with — something now common enough to have its own military term: “green on blue” violence. In doing so, Allen made a passing comment that might be thought of as the last Vietnam War analogy of our era. “I think it is a characteristic of counterinsurgencies that we’ve experienced before,” he said. “We experienced these in Iraq. We experienced them in Vietnam… It is a characteristic of this kind of warfare.”

How appropriate that, almost 40 years later, the general, who was still attending the U.S. Naval Academy when Vietnam ended, evidently remembers that war about as accurately as he might recall the War of 1812. In fact, Vietnamese allies did not regularly, or even rarely, turn their guns on their American allies. In the far more “fratricidal” acts of that era, what might then have been termed “khaki on khaki” violence, the “Afghans” of the moment were American troops who reasonably regularly committed acts of violence — called “fragging” for the fragmentation grenades of the period — against their own officers. (“Word of the deaths of officers will bring cheers at troop movies or in bivouacs of certain units,” wrote Marine historian Col. Robert Heinl, Jr., in 1971. “In one such division… fraggings during 1971 have been authoritatively estimated to be running about one a week.”)

Still, credit must be given. Increasingly poorly remembered, Vietnam is now one for the ages. After so many years, Afghanistan has finally emerged as a quagmire beholden to no other war. What an achievement! Our moment, Afghanistan included, has proven so extreme, so disastrous, that it’s finally put the unquiet ghost of Vietnam in its grave. And here’s the miracle: it has all happened without anyone in Washington grasping the essence of that now-ancient defeat, or understanding a thing.

The “lessons of Vietnam,” fruitlessly discussed for five decades, taught Washington so little that it remains trapped in a hopeless war on the Eurasian mainland, continues to pursue a military-first policy globally that might even surprise American leaders of the Vietnam era, has turned the planet into a “free fire zone,” and considers military power its major asset, a first not a last resort, and the Pentagon the appropriate place to burn its national treasure.

After Vietnam, the U.S. at least took a few years to lick its wounds. Now, it just ramps up the latest military flavor of the month — at the moment, special operations forces and drones — elsewhere.

Call it not the fog, but the smog of war.

And in case you haven’t noticed, the vans are already on the block. The Afghan Syndrome is moving into the neighborhood and the welcome wagons are out.

Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt

(4)  About the author

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published.

Click here to catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt reflects on one theme from his new book, the unnatural growth of the U.S. national security state, or click here to watch him discuss another, the way post-Cold-War Washington chose “the Soviet Path,” at the Nation magazine’s website.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

(5)  For more information:  posts about Vietnam

  1. Least we forget: lessons for us from the Battle of Ia Drang, 26 November 2007
  2. How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other, 7 February 2008
  3. Another note from our past, helping us see our future, 16 September 2009
  4. My movie recommendation for 2010: Vitual JFK (the book is also great), 7 January 2010
  5. Refighting the Last War: Afghanistan and the Vietnam Template, 27 March 2010
  6. Senator Jim Webb on the Vietnam Generation – Outstanding!, 25 July 2010
  7. Presidential decision-making about Vietnam and Afghanistan: “You have 3 choices, sir”, 5 October 2010
  8. History helps us learn from the past and overcome the ghosts of the Vietnam War, 3 March 2012

22 thoughts on “Vietnam Has Left Town. Say Hello to our New Syndrome”

  1. georgehendersonn

    Let us take an example of Texas. The “Penny Health” is quite popular in Arizona. It provides so many offers for the low income people.

  2. georgehenderson

    There can be a difference between what you and a health insurance company consider healthy. Some insurers will say that you have a health condition if you smoke, are overweight, are taking prescriptions, or had a medical condition in the past. If this describes you, you may want to search and read “Penny Health” on the web.

  3. Taking this to the grand strategic level, I wonder this: is there any place, any situation nowadays, that would actually justify the US participating in a 4GW? Does it not make sense that either an attack is bad enough to warrant a nuclear response, or a place is so important that we have to fully conquer and occupy it under martial law (as done in Japan and Germany), and that if not, we simply should not engage in anything other than something surgical that limits our casualties and expense? I cannot think of anywhere in the world where 4GW makes sense for the US now.

    And while I understand the many ethical objections to too much Presidential discretion, and the use of drones and special forces in too many places, I fail to perceive any practical alternative. Do we really want debates and votes by the likes of Lieberman and Graham over every piece of intelligence that may lead to a legitimate military target somewhere? Is it somehow more ‘honorable’ or ‘fair’ or ‘traditional’ to risk the lives of our young people… who in person, also, make mistakes and commit atrocities, unfortunately… rather than have a machine do it?

    Given what we have seen in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and on 9-11, it would appear that we are engaged in a nonlinear, nongeographic war with people who are essentially kamikazes. It is they who have tactically broken all the taboos of civilized warfare. Perhaps if they stop that for awhile, we can arrange to meet them with dueling pistols. In the meantime, they deserve nothing better than to be killed by robots. If, of course, they are legitimate targets; but, there always has been an error rate, friendly fire, and civilian casualties. Our duty is to keep them at a minimum, but that is a separate issue, is it not, from legal processes and what type of attacks we use. Friendly fire incidents and civilian casualties abounded in WW2, formally declared and minimally automated.

    1. >And while I understand the many ethical objections to too much Presidential discretion, and the
      >use of drones and special forces in too many places, I fail to perceive any practical alternative.

      The practical alternative is just to leave Afghanistan. Without US soldiers marching around banging on doors, much of the justification for the attacks will be gone. Is there any real goal here, other than to kill random Muslim guys because maybe they have approximately the same religion as Osama bin Ladin? It’s all just pointless slaughter.

      > It is they who have tactically broken all the taboos of civilized warfare.

      Oh come on. So our killing is more civilized than their killing? We sanction them, bomb them, invade them, take over their governments, steal their money (Iraqi oil money), burn the korans and kill their children — and now, oh, they’ve violating the taboos of civilized warfare? Oh, boo hoo.

    2. CM, I agree we should get out… again, no way a 4GW is justified anywhere. However, in the case where let’s say somehow we do find out some real kamikaze type is out there, using drones or spec ops or whatever to just take ’em out is what we have to do. We are gonna have issues so long as Israel occupies all that territory and we unconditionally support them, at least that long, and we can’t just wait for them to do whatever. Obviously there do have to be standards, and so on. I hate to sound so Cheney, really. But you can’t play this out by 18th or 19th century rules. Just not happenin’.

      1. If only we were living in your fantasy world.

        Unfortunately we live in the real world, in which many of our allies are expansionistic powers (eg, Israel) and dictators (eg, Bahrain, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen). We fight their people as they attempt to overthrow their rulers (that does not make the insurgents into angels, of course) — and are shocked — shocked! — that they’re angry at us. Fortunately we can then invade and sometimes even occupy their nations, inflicting massive violence on them. With (as you demonstrate) a clear conscience.

    3. What I would like to read is an assessment of the risk to all the thousands of Afghan collaborators . The risks of anarchy ,civil war , killing fields . Maybe ‘we’ should unite the Afghan people as ‘we’ leave , perhaps by more desecration and looting on the way out .

    4. “And while I understand the many ethical objections to too much Presidential discretion, and the use of drones and special forces in too many places, I fail to perceive any practical alternative. Given what we have seen in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and on 9-11, it would appear that we are engaged in a nonlinear, nongeographic war with people who are essentially kamikazes.”

      That we still see comments like this after eleven years of the Long War, it’s clear that we’re engaged in a war with reality. Of course, we’re losing.

      On the other hand, you get bonus points for extraordinary guilability, and being a model American for the new era. Not only do you believe whatever the government tells you, you continue to believe it long after disproven.

      Unfortunately for America, slow and stupid are the two sins Nature always punishes.

  4. Really? if we leave Afghanistan they will then leave us alone? I don’t think we had anyoen in there on 9/10. as for Isreal, they got their land the old-fashion was just like the rest of the world, at the end of a gun. much like the arabs got it from those who where in power before. Look at any European border and it has moved due to war in the last 150 years. The rag-heads apear to hate everyone just because we are not them. I am not about to live under their “sharia” law, so at least some of them are not going to be happy. tough S__T. drones don’t make us any better, but that is our asymetry. we might as well use our strength. we just need to make sure it is worthwhile. I would easily argue some are, but someone needs to weigh the cost/benefit closely.

    1. “if we leave Afghanistan they will then leave us alone?”

      Read the 9-11 commission report. The 9-11 attack was conducted mostly by Saudis, planned in Germany, with training in Florida. Afghanistan played almost no role. The Taliban played no role.

      The rest of your rant is equally wrong; but experience has shown that rebuttals are a waste of time with such as you (we’ve covered all this dozens of times on the FM website, as others have thousands of times elsewhere). I feel sad for an America which has so many people like you, who believe whatever lies they’re told. Perhaps we’ll survive anyway.

  5. You follow Sharia law every time you wash your hands before eating , or choose the lesser of two evils . The ragheads’ moving fingers writ and having writ , moved on , leaving us with lots of shared concepts (as well as the concept of Zero ). See Wikipedia .

  6. I would assert that being deluded is not confined simply to my own skull in this area. What I never seem to read from this site, or Glenn Greenwald, etc., is any sort of concrete proposal for how to deal with these matters in the light of modern times and technology. There is an implicit golden-agism in the assumption that war and the US were somehow purer back when things were run more formally along the lines of our 18th century governmental system.

    So the needless American deaths in WW1, and the ridiculous bungled aftermath, and the bungled policy with Japan, and the hunting down of Yamamoto, and the firebombing of Dresden, and nuclear bombs on cities, and the forced repatriation of Cossacks, and all the other atrocities during and after WW2, and the squandering of billions of dollars on useless atomic armaments, and the McCarthy era, and Vietnam… all approved by Congress, all stupid, and all far from golden, and examples abound. The delusion that things were better or purer then, and that the behaviors proscribed in the days when information traveled at the speed of horse or wind is appropriate for today… is as immune to rebuttal as any other. What MIGHT be of some potential use, rather than the ‘white’ approach of legalistic formalism coated with treacly and inaccurate nostalgia, is some actual position as to how we should proceed in these matters. Still waiting for the purists to address this one.

    1. “What I never seem to read from this site, or Glenn Greenwald, etc., is any sort of concrete proposal for how to deal with these matters in the light of modern times and technology”

      (1) What do you mean a “proposal to deal with these matters”. What matters?

      (2) This website is filled with proposals.

      (3) The relevant point is that it is not useful to describe wonderful end-states. That’s the usual formula: “If I were King, I do” this an that. Useful proposals describe actions that will move us from where we are to a better path.

      (4) Unfortunately getting to stage one looks difficult. Perhaps impossible. Americans want change, but not to work for change. That is, we have not assumed responsibility for America. We’re passengers complaining about the service. The officers and owners of the ship see us (correctly) as steerage, and ignore us.

      (5) “Given what we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan”

      We invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan on the basis of lies. This statement suggests that you are an excellent example of the problem, as it shows that you believe lies from the government long after they’ve been disproven. That makes you an excellent subject, but poor material for a citizen. How do you recommend changing that?

  7. By “these matters” I mean suicide bombers who attack noncombatants. The current policy is constantly attacked for being too ad hoc and insufficiently legalized. The implicit criticism is that somehow formal declarations of war or formal criminal trials are indicated. Is that what is recommended, or what? There was never an implicit demand for a described end state. The criticisms are of process. Recommend a better one. From this century, if possible. This too is what I mean by ‘what we have seen’ in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as elsewhere.

    Again, you fail to address at all the implicit golden-ageism in yours and Greenwald’s approaches. The notion that we are less people than our ancestors, or that anything other than technology outpacing our political and social evolution is to blame. This country only gave up apartheid a few decades before South Africa. We have always been a government of men and not laws, otherwise our reverence for the Founding Fathers would not be what it is. Whatever is written is interpreted and enforced by people. Emergent systems always override required systems. This is organizational behavior 101.

    I cannot see any objective approach to American history that supports the central thesis that the citizenry or the government were superior in any prior era. The wars, the corruption, the economic crashes, the feckless politicians with their sloganeering, a passive and greedy populace with serious issues of its own around bigotry and fundamentalism… these elements have always been present and have asserted themselves time and again.

    There is nothing new here other than the intensification by a value-neutral technology. And emotion, specifically anger, or its stepchild, is no substitute for analysis. Righteous wrath led to tragedy in the classical Greek era, and we are essentially the same species.

    1. I don’t think you can prevent bombings against non-combatants, it’s not a thing which can be done. The attempt to prevent bombings is far more damaging financially and culturally than the bombings themselves, by a large margin. Investigation and criminal trials are the correct response to murder, invasions and mass killings, while that may make some people feel better, are not the correct response.

      Having basic ethics and morals shouldn’t be considered some kind of crazy anachronism.

    2. You call Bush and Co. man?! And government? You keep letting primitive cave morons play big boys so they can prove how great they are to mummy and daddy and expect their victims not to defend themselves? Some people are obviously mentally more advanced then others. Just make sure you keep the monkeys away from the bucket with nitro-glycerine. It is not so difficult for comprehension, is it?

    3. (A) “By “these matters” I mean suicide bombers who attack noncombatants.”

      • Who appointed you as the World Police? Grab a rifle and go to it. Leave us out of your crusade.
      • Bin Laden attacked us. He’s dead, his organization in tatters (assuming it even still exists in any substantial form).
      • The wars we’ve dealt ourselves into are nationalist insurgencies against governments which are some combination of weak, corrupt, and oppressive. Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, etc.

      (B) “that supports the central thesis that the citizenry or the government were superior in any prior era.”

      Get a good grade school history book. The systematic violations of rights seen today have few precedents in US history (except against minorities, such as American Indians and Blacks).

      (C) “The wars, the corruption, the economic crashes, the feckless politicians with their sloganeering, a passive and greedy populace with serious issues of its own around bigotry and fundamentalism”

      See (B) above.

  8. We may note with amusement that Greg Panfile’s logic requires that the Union still remain at war with the South 150 years later. After all..”If [Sherman] leaves [Georgia], will they leave us alone?”

    Clearly not. Southern politicians have created endless problems for America, recently even renewing calls for secession. Send the federal troops to besiege Vicksburg and burn Atlanta again!

    Sterling logic.

    It also proves fascinating to make several small changes in Panfile’s claim, at which point we arrive at a consummately convincing argument for the suicide bombers and jihadis to continue attack America:

    Given what we have seen [from U.S. drone attacks and atrocities like the use of white phosphorus] in Iraq, and would appear that we [Islamic fundamentalist heroes] are engaged in a nonlinear, nongeographic war with people [in America] who are essentially kamikazes. It is they who have tactically broken all the taboos of civilized warfare. Perhaps if they stop that for awhile, we can arrange to meet them with dueling pistols. In the meantime, they deserve nothing better than to be killed by robots.

    Incidentally, the use of robots works both ways. Can you say “IED”? And if you think that the spread of automated robotic warfare will be something employed only by Americans against innocent civilians in Pakistan or Afghanistan, think again. Life is going to get a lot more complicated when jihadis start blowing away American politicians with autonomous flying robots packed with C4…

  9. “Get a good grade school history book. The systematic violations of rights seen today have few precedents in US history (except against minorities, such as American Indians and Blacks).”

    1. Alien and Sedition Act .
    2. Suppression of dissent to slavery in the southern states, especially after the Secret-Six financed plan to ignite a general slave insurrection resulted in John Brown’s incursion into Virginia.
    3. Suppression of dissent in the territories of both combatants during the War of Northern Agression (or War to Suppress the Rebellion, depending on which combatant was polled).
    4. Suppression of dissent during the American intervention in the European Great War of 1914-1918, followed by the Palmer raids to the end of the Wilson administration.
    5. Suppression of dissent during the second inning of the European Great War, and in the following decade as the pervasive penetration of federal executive branch departments by agents of a hostile power emerged.

    “War is the health of the state”, and it has resulted in a number of extended episode of suspension of civil liberties, as outline above. Habits acquired in wartime are not easy to shed when peace returns, especially when the wars become perpetual.

    Suggest a “good grade school history book”, keeping in mind the messianic pretentions of public education since its establishment in the late 19th century, during the ‘gilded age’ post civil war era, as illuminated in John Taylor Gatto’s “Underground History of American Education”.

    1. I suspect that this is a waste of time, but for the sake of our readers —

      Desierasmus’ comments are largely bogus.

      • The Alien and Sedition Act was a law. Laws are passed by Congress, subject to judicial review. That’s fundamentally different than the expansions of Federal power taking place today. Also different: the two key Acts of 1798 had expiration dates (1800 and 1801); today’s powers look like fundamental and permanent changes.
      • The Palmer Raids were executed under warrant against non-US citizens, who were deported under the Immigration Act of 1918. They ended when the Dept of Labor refused to issue more warrants (and cancelled most outstanding ones). There is little similarity to current Executive operations without judicial or legislative support.
      • Can you cite an example in US history of the President admitting that he has a list of citizens to be executed? Withour charge, warrant, or trial. Not on a battlefield.
      • Wars involve limitations on civil liberties. That’s different than today, as we’re not engaged in anything like the wars provoking the examples you list.
      • Quite daft to compare our situation to the Civil War — one of the worst crises a people can face.
      • Lincoln’s most severe actions were the suspension of habeas corpus under Article I Section 9 of the Constitution, in March 1963 supported by the Habeas Corpus Act. Equivalent acts today have no such Constitutional justification or legislative authorization. For details see this Slate article.

      I could continue, but this gives the big picture. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

      As for “War is the Health of the State”, see the post of that title (18 September 2010).

    2. Stories of America’s fall, our unjust treatment of Americans and foreigners: “Personalizing civil liberties abuses“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 16 April 2012.

      While there are always individual cases of mistreatment, the scale and systematic nature of these incidents makes them without precedent in America (excluding oppression of Blacks and Indians).

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