Deacon and I were both part of the anti-Viet Nam war movement, and for both of us, the tortuous path to understanding the truth about that conflict was an important part of our shedding the leftism of our youth. In some ways, Viet Nam is finally behind us; the Gulf War maybe did away with the Viet Nam Syndrome, and certainly–thankfully–most Americans are far removed from the defeatism of the Viet Nam era. Yet in other ways, we keep coming back to Viet Nam. It is impossible, I think, to understand the contemporary left’s attitude toward the current war, toward conflict with Iraq, or toward any aspect of international relations, without acknowledging that most leftists, from Noam Chomsky to Hillary Clinton to the New York Times, are frozen in time. They have never been able to acknowledge the truth about Viet Nam; they have never been able to move beyond the preoccupations of that era; and their negative attitude toward America has never changed. No matter how evil our opponents–and, in the current conflict, it is hard to imagine how they could be worse–America must always be in the wrong. There are many of us who regret the part we played in spawning this mentality. Deacon and I were only kids, thankfully, but David Horowitz, an acquaintance of mine and a friend of Trunk’s, is the foremost example of a Viet Nam era leftist who saw the light, understood the implications and consequences of his Viet Nam-era activities, and has spent the rest of his life trying to make up for what he did then. As we again confront the possibility of war, it is inevitable that the old battle lines will form again. But a lot of us have switched sides.
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