Abuse of Power
Abuse of Power
It has been said that we should concern ourselves primarily with the present state of the Vietnamese war and regard the question of how we got into it as of mainly historical interest.
Yet we are constantly told that the United States is fighting in Vietnam by virtue of "commitments" made as far back as 1954. We are admonished that the war in Vietnam is part of a larger struggle that started two decades ago or a half century ago and may go on for years. It seems hardly fair to justify the American intervention largely on historical grounds and then to disparage efforts to examine those grounds critically.
The immediate present is, of course, the most difficult and most treacherous of all times to write about because we are not taken into the confidence of those in power who ask us what we would do if we were in their place. The best we can do, from the outside, is to scrutinize the past, including the immediate past, for the light it may cast on the present and future. A few years, even a few months, may make a vast difference with respect to what we know about the past as compared with the present. Far from being of mainly historical interest, our past Vietnamese policy is of intensely present and future interest. In any case, there is no reason why historians should not concern themselves with matters of mainly historical interest.
Above all, it is my conviction that the larger and deeper aspects of the American role in the Vietnamese war can be understood only by viewing it as a whole and by relating it . . .