January 30th, 2009

Updike and the literary lights on war and peace

I first read John Updike’s Vietnam War essay “On Not Being a Dove” in 1989. That’s when his memoir Self-Consciousness, the book in which it was included, was first published.

At the time the essay seemed to me to be a curiosity, a slight work of little import. After all, so many years had passed since the turmoil of the 60s and early 70s, with their fevered and nearly endless arguments about the rightness or wrongness of the Vietnam War. Updike was a reluctant hawk—or, rather, a non-dove—back then, and he explained why in the essay. But it had no particular resonance for me then, so many years after the fact.

My, the times they have a-changed. On reading the essay now, newly republished in Commentary, I find sentence after sentence to be not only extraordinarily insightful about what was going on back then, but remarkably relevant to what this country has just been through regarding Iraq. Not only that, but Updike’s description of his discomfiture in attempting to explain his more conservative stance on Vietnam to his liberal literati friends contains echoes of my own experiences with political discussions in the last few years.

In looking back from the vantage point of 1989, Updike quotes a letter he wrote in 1966 in response to a NY Times book review:

Anyone not a rigorous pacifist must at least consider the argument that this war, evil as it is, is the lesser of available evils, intended to forestall worse wars. I am not sure that this is true, but I assume that this is the reasoning of those who prosecute it, rather than the maintenance of business prosperity or the President’s crazed stubbornness. I feel in the dove arguments as presented to me too much aesthetic distaste for the President…

Updike is writing about the dislike for Johnson. I cannot help but notice that the dislike for another, more recent, Texan president is also at least partly aesthetic in nature (in fact, I compared Bush and Johnson in this respect in an earlier post).

Here is Updike in 1989:

The protest, from my perspective, was in large part a snobbish dismissal of Johnson by the Eastern establishment; Cambridge professors and Manhattan lawyers and their guitar-strumming children thought they could run the country and the world better than this lugubrious bohunk from Texas. These privileged members of a privileged nation believed that their pleasant position could be maintained without anything visibly ugly happening in the world.

There is more; much more. Updike considered himself a liberal Democrat. But his basic intelligence and drive to be honest, both with himself and others, compelled him towards quite different conclusions than most of the people with whom he hobnobbed. And to speak up about it:

I would rather live under Diem (or Ky, or Thieu) than under Ho Chi Minh and his enforcers, and assumed that most South Vietnamese would. Those who would not, let them move North. But the foot traffic, one could not help noticing in these Communist/non-Communist partitions, was South, or West, away from Communism. Why was that? And so on.

I wanted to keep quiet, but could not. Something about it all made me very sore. I spoke up, blushing and hating my disruption of a post-liberal socioeconomic-cultural harmony I was pleased to be a part of.

Updike’s fame was gained primarily as a writer of fiction; he was neither a politician, historian, nor statesman. In his essay, he asserts that writers’ views on the subject of the Vietnam War have no special authority. That is true. But his depth of thought, and the clarity with which it is expressed, creates its own authority:

My thoughts ran as follows. Peace depends upon the threat of violence. The threat cannot always be idle… It was all very well for civilized little countries like Sweden and Canada to tut-tut in the shade of our nuclear umbrella and welcome our deserters and draft evaders, but the United States had nobody to hide behind. Credibility must be maintained. Power is a dirty business, but who ever said it wasn’t?…

The Vietnam war—or any war—is “wrong,” but in the sense that existence itself is wrong. To be alive is to be a killer; and though the Jains try to hide this by wearing gauze masks to avoid inhaling insects, and the antiabortionists by picketing hospitals, and peace activists by lying down in front of ammunition trains, there is really no hiding what every meal we eat juicily demonstrates. Peace is not something we are entitled to but an illusory respite we earn. On both the personal and national level, islands of truce created by balances of terror and potential violence are the best we can hope for.

Updike loved this country and the comfortable and pleasant life he had carved out for himself within it. He never sought to become a pariah within the literary establishment; he wrote that “it pained and embarrassed me to be out of step with my magazine and literary colleagues.” But he could not embrace a position which he believed to be wrong—even if it was wildly unpopular—merely for the sake of convenience.

So, what did Updike think about the Iraq War? After all, he only died a few days ago; he was alive and kicking for most of it. After a quick Googling I was unable to find anything he wrote on the subject, but I think that this is very revealing. It’s a report by a blogger on a talk Updike gave back in 2006, in which he was asked his opinion of the war in Iraq. The questioner made a specific reference to Updike’s earlier views on Vietnam (the interviewer was Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker):

Goldberg points out that John Updike had been one of the few literary figures of the 1960’s to express support for the Vietnam War, and asks him to talk about George Bush and the war in Iraq. Updike accepts the comparison and acknowledges that, as in the 1960’s, his current feelings are mixed: the war is going badly, but the Bush administration faced hard choices and deserves some sympathy for the frustrating position it’s in.

Updike is clearly a principled moderate, and it’s brave of him to insist on ignoring the popular delineations between red-state and blue-state dogmatism…

Yes, indeed. Not that it got him much praise, then or now. Last night, for example, as I was watching a Charlie Rose tribute to John Updike that featured a panel composed of Updike’s editor Judith Jones, New Yorker editor David Remnick, and editor Sam Tanenhaus of The New York Times Book Review, the latter casually mentioned, amidst the praise and reminiscence, that “of course, Updike was on the wrong side about the Vietnam War.”

Of course. Anybody who’s anybody knows that.

34 Responses to “Updike and the literary lights on war and peace”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    There is a degree of casual certainty against which it is nearly impossible to defend oneself. You find it hard to disagree with it, yourself, and you quail at disagreeing publicly.
    The left has got some very good practitioners.

  2. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    Wow! He does have the pulse of his fellow writers/artists, and if only by his refusal to blindly go along he stands out.

  3. Tatyana Says:

    Interesting. Makes me want to read him, at least this essay. So, he’s one of the honest people with principles, principles beyond party affiliation.
    Increasingly rare people, starting with history of Russian dissent against monarchy, through the pains of 20th century. Result of natural selection, I guess.

    Thank you for this post, Neo.

  4. GeoPal Says:

    Sam Tanenhaus: ” … of course, Updike was on the wrong side about the Vietnam War.”

    The left is in a battle to the death. There are no cease-fires and they will never give an inch or pass up an opportunity to lob a grenade. Moral judgments are to them what breathing air is to normal people. Updike was a man. Tanenhaus is an insect.

  5. dane Says:

    I think the most difficult place for a person to be in is to realize their abhorrence for something does not necessarily negate the need for it. In this Updike was honest where many of his peers were not. This is somewhat the same stance taken by Jon Voight. During the Vietnam was he was in step with his Hollywood peers, but came to realize he had been mislead by them as to what would happen should the US just pull out. Instead he became horrified by Pol Pot and the killing fields – what he saw as a direct result of the abandonment by the US of the region.

    On another note I saw that the (secret) transfer of all the yellow cake Saddam possessed to Canada was completed. The current Iraqi government sold it to the Canadians for use in reactors. Not a WMD but certainly an ingredient for some very interesting “recipes” in the wrong hands. To me just another illustration that GWB would keep his mouth shut and take the heat where the security of the country was concerned.

    Oh, and Charlie Rose is pretty much and idiot.

  6. Gringo Says:

    Sam Tanenhaus: ” … of course, Updike was on the wrong side about the Vietnam War.”

    Updike was quite correct in pointing out the Eastern intellectuals’ dislike of that uncouth dog-ear-pulling, operation-scar-showing son of Johnson City, Texas.

    Unlike Updike, I became an opponent of the Vietnam War. I was gassed in Berkeley anti-Vietnam War demonstrations when Ronnie was the Gov. I earned Conscientious Objector (1-O) status, and had my draft board not granted it, I was prepared to refuse induction into the Army and go to jail.

    The genocide in Cambodia, where we stayed on the sidelines while the genocide occurred, showed me that Updike was on the RIGHT side of the Vietnam War.

  7. mizpants Says:

    Wow. At the risk of flattering myself, I have to say that my sense of identification with Updike’s views and experience is uncanny.
    I know the whole syndrome so well. “My face would become hot, my voice high and tense and wildly stuttery; I could feel my heart race in a kind of panic whenever the subject came up, and my excitement threatened to panic me.” Exactly. And the self-doubt: he asks himself if perhaps he isn’t just striking a contrarian pose, holding these views so as to be interesting. I’ve accused myself of that too, and I’ve also wondered whether I’ve taken my rightward turn to spite my parents, who were stalwart liberals (though I suspect my father would have made the same turn, had he lived).
    And the longing for a time when it was possible to be apolitical, in the way a writer really SHOULD be apolitical. (I also am a writer). The real wisdom that the arts can offer lies beneath the roiled surface of a politicized world.”Politically engaged art” is an oxymoron, as far as I’m concerned, and that idea was born (or revived) in the sixties.
    How wonderful to have a writer of Updike’s stature on my side!

  8. Martin Bebow Says:

    I find that the latest violence in Gaza has altered my view regarding the Middle East and the Iraq war. I still think the Iraq war was a necessary war and that the success we’ve witnessed is a direct result of GWB’s courageous change in course (as well as having the right general in Petraeus.) But I now feel that a genuine democracy in the Middle East will not be enough to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians possible. I’ve come to see the Palestinian issue as THE embodiment of Muslim resentment with the West and that as long as the West (i.e. the US) is the one trying to arbitrate a settlement that peace can never be achieved. We must now have new thinking in order to solve this seemingly insolvable problem. It will have to involve some international instituation or mechanism (which may not currently exist.) The time has come in world affairs where serious international concerns must trump national interests. Oppenhiemer, the father the the atomic bomb, tried to interest Truman in internationalizing nuclear development. It was probably at that time too soon for such an idea but it is clearly an idea that could be resurrected in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. I’m hoping Obama is smart enough to realize that this is the direction that we need to go.

  9. gcotharn Says:

    gringo and mizpants:
    You guys display intellectual honesty and rigor. Further, you recognize that your opinions are just your opinions, and do not reflect upon your innate value as human beings. Thank goodness(!), as my own opinions have so often been misguided.

    Peace depends upon the threat of violence. The threat cannot always be idle. […] Power is a dirty business, but who ever said it wasn’t?

    The Vietnam war—or any war—is “wrong,” but in the sense that existence itself is wrong. To be alive is to be a killer….

    One aspect of my conservatism is conviction that the world is perfectly designed. Injustice ought be opposed – yet it exists for a reason which is beyond my understanding, and I do not begrudge it’s existence (except during weak moments, when I begrudge the hell out of it).

    And I think this is what Updike is talking about in the quote: the dirty business of violence exists; it’s designed in; it’s not a bug but a feature.

    I’ve been carrying a grudge, lately, against the concept “We want to change the world”. The very concept seems to announce one neither recognizes nor revers the design of existence. “Change the world” seemingly announces, as Updike referred to, that “existence itself is wrong.” Every time I hear “change the world”, I think: there goes a person who is living in fantasy; who does not recognize reality.

    I think conservatives want to live as fully as possible inside our perfectly designed existence(albeit rugged and tough and difficult existence). Conversely, the left are disdainful of what they perceive as a random and imperfect existence. The left believe they are smarter than the random events they believe created us. The left believe they can fix things.

  10. Perfected democrat Says:

    One of your very best articles Neo… So, did we learn anything from the last fifty years? Vietnam, arguably, and simply (regardless of the support which was given to the north by China and Russia), was a civil war which grew more important from it’s seeds of French colonialism and because of a significant Catholic identity; It was not a war in which the Vatican often released admonitions to America for it’s lack of proportionality, destruction, and sensitivity to civilian suffering. If not for that reason (other than the “domino theory”, but then what about Cuba 90 miles away?), Vietnam would most likely have been no more important to the Democrats (Kennedy and Johnson) in particular, and the American political power structure which were most responsible for it’s execution and escalation, than Cambodia. Nixon inherited the long entrenched fiasco, incompetently micromanaged by two Democratic Party presidents, and then brought it to a conclusion in which, after 25,000 American deaths, South Vietnam was surviving on the strength of it’s own manpower, requiring only American logistical aid and economic support; Even after the betrayal of a truly good man, Diem, by American political power brokers, but then the Democratic Party (predominately, unless I’m mistaken?) pulled the rug out… Ostensibly, Vietnam was the next generation surrogate to the Korean War, which had ended badly, in an early capitulation and acceptance of a stalemate (for humanitarian reasons), an ending which today seriously haunts us in the age of WMD proliferation. Which brings me back to my main point, did we learn anything? Iraq, directly and indirectly connected to the war against Islamic Jihad (we need to stop the cowardly use of the term “terror”), and it’s global implications, including blatant genocide and WMD proliferation, is certainly more a return to the issues that were part and parcel of the “axis” alliances of WWII, and this is a most cursory aspect of the current situation. It is certainly distinct, unique and very present, not simply a return to some kind of historical Vietnam political legacy. Did we learn anything? Apparently not, since a little more than half of American voters, in some kind of drugged like trance, somewhere between a manic elation and schizoid revenge, have placed in the office of POTUS a quite apparently moslem communist posing as a Christian Democrat, and who did everything possible to undermine the Iraq war; While Europe has replaced the fascist brown-shirts in the streets with jihadi activists, and for the Jews in Europe it’s fast becoming a return to 1937… It’s becoming quite popular now in Washington “progressive” circles to “trumpet” the potential of the Saudi Israel-Palestine peace plan, a new era in which America becomes timidly acquiescent, rather than confronts, the culture which spawned 9-11, especially the Saudis, who contributed most of the soldiers which executed the plan. I could go on and on about the relationships, but you can do that for yourself, if you haven’t sold out your intellectual integrity. What’s going on now, from AGW to the financial debacle “bailout”, and the mideast “peace” plans in between, is nothing less than betrayal of America and Israel. Churchill said “Never give in, never, never….”.

  11. Perfected democrat Says:

    “But his basic intelligence and drive to be honest, both with himself and others, compelled him towards quite different conclusions than most of the people with whom he hobnobbed. And to speak up about it …”, certainly the quintessential definition of “intellectual integrity”…

  12. Tim P Says:

    Thanks for the very well written posts on Updike. He was a writer that I never read, but I’ll go and do so now. Starting with his essay on the Vietnam War.

  13. michaele Says:

    This was a very meaningful post for me. Updike’s words expressed the conflicted feeling so many of us have about war. I cannot have a knee jerk rejection for the regretable necessity of this terrible thing called war because my gut tells me that sometimes the alternative could prove worse further down the road.

  14. SteveH Says:

    In a perfect world, perfection would be the obstacle to humanity’s potential.

  15. FredHjr Says:

    The only time the Left in the United States supported our participation in a war was after the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union until the conclusion in 1945 when the victorious Red Army swept into Berlin. The Left opposed our participation in WWI. It most certainly opposed our participation in the the Korean War. It opposed our confrontation of the Communist invasion of South Vietnam. See a pattern here? Harry Truman left office with very low popularity ratings. Lyndon Johnson left office with very low popularity ratings. Richard Nixon left office with very low ratings, and those ratings went all the way back to his stewardship of the Vietnam War, “Vietnamization,” the Paris negotiations, and the 1972 bombing campaigns (Operations Linebacker I and II). The Left opposed Gulf War I and chipped away at G.H.W. Bush’s popularity ratings. And their best work was done in the savaging of George W. Bush during the continuation of the Gulf War, culminating in the defeat of Saddam’s regime and the ongoing struggle with the various insurgent groups in its aftermath.

    I was born in 1955, so I was only 12 years old in 1967 at the war’s height. There are dimensions of that tumultuous time that I had no participation in. I was taught at home and in Catholic school that it was just to resist Communism and to help those who resist it. I read newspaper accounts of the war and saw some footage of it on television. My initial impressions were that we were winning all the battles, but that the enemy was feeding its people continuously into a meatgrinder. And there was no sign that they were going to give that up. I saw the protests on the t.v. I had some cousins who were war resisters, and that I never agreed with them. They were obstreperous and unpleasant cousins who I thought were nasty and snotty. I went to a Catholic boarding school for high school. One priest and one religious brother who taught us were veterans – and the brother had been a Marine who had served in the Republic of Vietnam. He had decorations to that effect. He believed that the cause was just and he made a good case for it. He told us about the enemy atrocities. He spoke with pride about his comrades, Marines and soldiers, who had served there and what they had done on the fields of battle.

    But the media narrative was wearing us down. And I fell victim to it. By 1972 we were almost out of South Vietnam and I believed we were losing the war. The truth, which I only got in dribs and drabs as time went on, was that the media and the academics were lying to us. I got some counter propaganda in 1973 when I went in the Army after graduating from high school. Most of our sergeants and officers at Fort Dix, NJ were veterans of the war and the little they spoke about explained to us that the NVA and VC were tough enemies, but that we had whipped them in that fight. But the Communist agents of dezinformatzia at home and their useful idiots sold a completely different narrative about the war, undermining the will of the people at home to fight this to a conclusion. It is interesting to note that after the military draft ended and the drawdown began the wind went out of the sails of the opposition. What does that say about the principles of the war’s opponents? Still, after the Army and during college I did not revisit this painful chapter in our history for some time. It was only after I had left the Left in 1987 that I began to read books about the war, and was amazed at the depth of deception that the war’s opponents had put over on us. It made me very angry to realize this. What was done to our veterans, our country, and our foreign policies for decades afterwards – on down to the present day – has only enhanced my bitterness towards the Left and the war’s opponents. Truly, my generation is a generation still at war with each other. We are at each others’ throats and I see no peaceful resolution in the offing.

    John Updike took a principled stand, which is remarkable given the circles he ran in and the milieu he was ensconced within. All normal people do not want war, but the sane and rational understand the nature of reality and what human nature is like. Updike was a reluctant supporter of the war. I think he was affected by the views of the people around him, such that the Vietnamese Communists may have been a bit sanitized in his mind. But I think he grasped the essential nature of the North Vietnamese cause and knew there was only one side to come down on. We decided not to abandon an ally, however flawed that ally was. Many opponents of the war wore many of us down by relentlessly hammering home the message of how bad the Saigon regime was, conveniently and deliberately omitting the black evil of the Hanoi regime.

  16. Gringo Says:

    Perfected Democrat, your interesting and thoughtful post would have been more readable by breaking it up into more paragraphs.

  17. Oblio Says:

    I have met people who are barking mad about the Vietnam War to this day. I can’t think of any non-veterans who actually knew anything about the history of the war. A few can remember the anti-war movements talking points, which they repeat as a sort of catechism.

    One can make allowances for the veterans who are still angry. One of them told me once, “It was the most screwed up thing; getting our asses shot off all day, then hot showers and cold beer at night,” or something to that effect. Those vets are bitter about a lot of things, and the War is only one.

  18. Perfected democrat Says:

    Gringo, your constructive criticism about the (lack of) paragraph style, is appreciated…

  19. FredHjr Says:


    War is hell. Mistakes and f**k ups happen. Overall, however, we did a much better job on the battlefield than the enemy did. The Vietnam vets I knew were not overly bitter men. Most are proud of their service and they understand exactly what happened and what went wrong. But they know they left the field of battle winners.

    Information and intelligence were problems at times. We must remember that today battlefield intel for our forces is so much better. And on the battlefield information is power. He who has it, all things being equal, and uses it right wins.

    That war was fought with too many restraints. The enemy didn’t have any restraints, but we sure did. Ask the civilians of Hue is the NVA and their VC stooges had any moral scruples.

  20. Truth Says:

    Wars in general, and the Vietnam War, are terrible crimes. War is the enemy. War is wrong. War is the pinnacle of failure in human endeavour. War sucks.

    War is caused by those in political power that are too greedy for this own good. with the thought of being powerful and having such control, when they also forget that they are suppose to protect those in the public within a state. Nether the less the creation of the world does not belong to anyone but God.

    Martin Bebow,you are one that is narrow minded and I feel sorry for you, you are inflicted with the evil thoughts

    Martin Bebow Explain to us again how bombing a country into the stone age was going to win a war and make us safer at home. Wait, are we still talking about Vietnam or Iraq?

  21. Truth Says:

    the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties but right through every human heart. This line shifts. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bright bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains… an unuprooted small corner of evil.

    Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

  22. Bogey Man Says:

    Thanks for the Solzhenitsyn quote, Truth. It’s a priceless comment on the human condition.

    And the Confused Rhetorical Hara Kiri award for this thread goes to Geo Pal for this gem:

    “Moral judgments are to them what breathing air is to normal people. Updike was a man. Tanenhaus is an insect.”

  23. SteveH Says:

    “”Wars in general, and the Vietnam War, are terrible crimes. War is the enemy. War is wrong. War is the pinnacle of failure in human endeavour. War sucks.

    Mr Updike was speaking directly about people like you. Your position seems to possess the hubris that all conflicts of recorded history only occured because you and your sophistication weren’t in charge. And while you were at it, surely you’d correct the obvious mistake of Tigers having claws and porcupines having quills.

    Some of us live in reality. And that reality makes it very easy to spot cowardice masquerading as idealism.

  24. Tatyana Says:

    StevenH, maybe you don’t know: “Truth” has no sophistication. He’s a resident Muslim troll, barraging threads with mostly irrelevant quotes and illegible rants.

  25. njcommuter Says:

    Peace depends upon the threat of violence.

    This one sentence, it seems to me, is the key to the whole rift between the barking moonbats and reality. Their whole position is based on the idea that the only reason there is no peace is that someone is defending himself. If only people would give up the means of self-defense, and the practice of self-defense, so they argue, everything would be peaceful.

    And to make this happen, they are willing to inflict violence upon people trying to defend themselves and defend others. Their own willingness to do violence for a cause not universally agreed upon should be proof enough that others will do the same for other causes not universally agreed upon. Like someone’s greed for money, or greed for land, or greed for power, or for a soapbox or microphone.

    Peace depends upon the threat of violence.

  26. Oblio Says:

    Please write more, mizpants. Your posts are rays of sunshine. And tell me what I should be reading today.

    Fred, I didn’t mean to start a discussion of errors in US war policy during the Vietnam War. The thing that catches my attention is the toxic brew of anger and ignorance that exists 35-40 years later. We also need to recognize that some people are still angry not out of ignorance, but as the result of some very specific knowledge.

    I suspect we will be the same way about the Iraq War in 30 years time, unless something truly terrible happens in the interim to put the whole thing into perspective.

    Fred, if you are interested in how lack of the high command’s belief in victory can destroy an army, you should read Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War on the collapse of the German army in 1918. If you want to read how nobody, not even in the Greatest Generation, wants to be the last to die in a just and winning cause, I recommend Max Hasting’s Armageddon.

    And thinks, Neo. Updike’s essay was riveting.

  27. mizpants Says:

    Thanks so much, Oblio! You made my day. I would post more, but others, like you, know so much more history than I do. I have to pick my spots.
    What should you read? How about Saul Bellow’s MR. SAMMLER’S PLANET. He was another not-of-the-left writer, and that book is a particular favorite of mine. Not that a writer’s politics have to matter (or at least they used not to matter.)
    And gcotharn: what you say about the idea that something is endangered when the imperative to “change the world” is taken as Gospel — well that’s conservatism’s deepest truth, isn’t it?

  28. njcommuter Says:

    It’s interesting, though, that the Historical Preservation movement in the cities is more a liberal cause than a conservative one. Interesting paradox, no?

  29. Oblio Says:

    Not much of a paradox, I would say.

  30. Oblio Says:

    That was too cryptic.

    I observe that the people interested in historic preservation are, not to put too fine a point on it, rich and well connected folks with an interest in architecture. That makes them not unlike people who are interested in the arts, with the same kinds of social attitudes. Promoting historic preservation appears to be disinterested, but it’s actually wonderful social advertising.

    The urban rich are publicly liberal because they wish to ward off envy and the Evil Eye. Reducing the number of real estate magnates helps keep parvenus from disrupting the social order any more than they do.

    The city bureaucrats are happy because it spawns more regulations and restrictions. The Left is happy because the March of Capitalism is slowed down.

    Everyone is happy. And in fairness, historic preservation has done a lot of good. I’m happy it exists. But it is not particularly important to political conservatives.

  31. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Historical preservation preserves buildings which would otherwise be demolished for something makiing more economic sense. Which is to say, if you’re rich already, you don’t have to worry. You can keep the stuff around.
    But if you’re not rich and you seek opportunity, from time to time a historical building will be one of the obstacles.
    Fortunately, you can probably go elsewhere, but if elsewhere were the best bet to start with, you wouldn’t have been a threat to a historical building in the first place.
    Historical preservation is nice, but don’t think it is without cost.
    Just remember that those who bear the cost don’t have much money, don’t make much noise, and can safely be ignored by their superiors.

  32. Oblio Says:

    Richard Aubrey, maybe the new building would make more sense or maybe not. Developers do make economic mistakes, and even ghastly ones.

    But I think we are agreeing.

  33. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Yeah. Even in good times, there is a lot of turnover in strip malls. And before a store goes out, there’s bound to be unpaid rent and so forth.
    Nevertheless, they keep getting built like they’re more golden geese.
    Perhaps it’s tax breaks. I’ve heard it said that, in some cities, you can make money on an office building due to tax breaks before you get anybody in it.
    However, I have never heard of historical preservation being promoted on the grounds that the developer would be losing money if he got that particular piece of ground.

  34. Tom Grey Says:

    Your quotes were fantastic, Neo, getting the essence of a great, longish (for a blog post reference), essay.

    But you did miss the anger. The anger at the anti-American part of the anti-war movement:
    “Jesus, don’t they make you glad you’re an American?”

    I was glad, and resented having my native land, with its treasure of natural resources and enlightened institutions and hopeful immigrant peoples, being described as Amerika. The peace movement’s branding our government with a swastika seemed to me insanely blasphemous and itself totalitarian.

    The wrong side, the Communist side, won in Vietnam. Thanks to their allies, the anti-war Americans who refuse to admit that being against American fighting until victory means favoring losing to the commies.

    Fighters cannot choose to win, they can only choose to fight … or choose to lose.
    Violence is required to avoid losing.
    In S. Vietnam (1974), in Israel, in Iraq, in Afghanistan.
    Thanks for a great link.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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