The role of feeling embarrassed as the path to war

Ken Burns‘ excellent documentary on the Vietnam War, which is available to watch on Netflix. shows how Lyndon Johnson and his closest advisors knew from the beginning the war was not winnable.  One of those advisors early on wrote a memo about reasons to stay in the war or escalate it, and the top reason was to avoid the embarrassment of leaving without a “victory”.   To reflect on the more than 50,000 Americans who died in that war, and likely 10 times that many Viet Cong, North Vietnamese and civilians who died, it’s fascinating to think this was to avoid a certain level of embarrassment early on, when the US could have pulled out its military advisors, and avoided all that gratuitous carnage.  Peace was in the balance, with war winning out to avoid embarrassment.  Where was the psychologist or therapist in the Oval Office to say, “Guys let’s work out ways to cope with and recover from this embarrassment?  Let’s move on to things where we can make progress…..establishing MediCare, MediCaid and HeadStart.”   A therapist on the team of the President’s advisors.  There’s a concept.    JT

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