The most depressing stroll in the United States is that short distance from the Lincoln Memorial to the Vietnam Memorial. We walk from a monument to the preservation of the Union and its founding principles, to a monument to 58,000 who died for abstract strategic policy objectives, so that someone else could look resolute, for the sake of someone's career, so that some comfortable patriot could feel a little jingoistic pride. They were 58,000 people who died for nothing, along with millions of Vietnamese, inhabitants of a country that few of these young Americans had ever heard of until they were in the middle of it. They were the hard luck disposable surplus young people who didn't have college deferments or powerful connections to keep them out of the draft. They and the Vietnamese they fought with and against were ground up in the mill of history driven by ideologues and ambitious men.
And what have we learned from this experience? Nothing. A whole new generation of disposable surplus young people is busy cleaning up our mess in Iraq and in Afghanistan, just as we expect them to clean up our mess at home, to mow our lawns, fix our cars, build our buildings, process our food, and save us all money by being content to accept what little pay we give them.
Robert McNamara played a large role in creating the Vietnam War. When he knew the war was a lost cause, he remained silent for the sake of his career. He will now have to answer for that.