If Groton School Gave Us Vietnam, What Gave Us Iraq?

US Politics
on 5 Comments

I’ve heard two smart people raving about Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of novelist Louis Auchincloss in the New Yorker last week–which is not online, only mentioned at the New Yorker site–because it includes scathing judgments by the novelist of his own group, the WASPs, and his alma mater, Groton School. Auchincloss says that McGeorge and William Bundy left Groton to assume the reins of foreign policy, and with assurance sent 55,000 Americans to their deaths in Vietnam (not to mention a couple million Vietnamese).

I see that The Financial Times touched the same subject last year with the agonized 90-year-old Auchincloss:

“There was Cy Vance,
Bill Scranton, Ted Beale, both Bundys, Bill and McGeorge – they all got
behind that war in Vietnam and they pushed it as far as they could. And
we lost a quarter of a million men. They were all idealistic, good,
virtuous,” says Auchincloss, “the finest men you could find. It was the
most disillusioning thing that happened in my life.”

has struggled to understand just how their shared patrician background
could have produced this disconnect. And the answer would appear to be
that wars are lost, if not always made, on the playing fields of New
England. “Bill Bundy and I shared a study at Groton, and one day he
came in from a football game, and I said: ‘Who won?’ and he said: ‘We
lost,’ and then he burst into tears. You cannot lose. Groton cannot
lose. That’s what they believed in, no matter what,” explains
Auchincloss. “They all would have all been willing to die, if they
hadn’t already been in high positions. They believed America cannot
lose. We stand for every virtue and right that’s in the world.”

A self-hating WASP, huh? The fascination to me of Auchincloss’s post-mortem is that we need another such post-mortem now, following the greatest foreign policy mistake of the last 40 years, as Jacob Heilbrunn and Barack Obama both describe Iraq. Jews played a special role in this debacle, and other Jews must ask, What social institution produced the arrogance of the neoconservatives? What school? What was their disconnect?

I’m not going to say CCNY–CCNY was very diverse, my father went to CCNY. Possibly Harvard, where Heilbrunn says the neocons formed a "cabal" in the government department (and where I can remember Marty Peretz running around with the late Eric Breindel and other acolytes).

But I think the social institution is more recent; and I want to say the white building in Washington at 1150 17th Street, N.W., that houses the American Enterprise Institute and the Weekly Standard and the Project for the New American Century. It’s an insulated hive. Here Bill Kristol pushed for an Iraq war back in 1999 and gathered names for the great plan. Here, as I remember from bouncing around there twice, they sell bound copies of Charles Krauthammer’s speech on the triumph of a unipolar America, a year or so after Iraq was proving to be a debacle (a speech that sent Francis Fukuyama into a tailspin and let Krauthammer to accuse him of antisemitism). Here secretive hedge king Bruce Kovner has funded AEI, which has provided a haven to Richard Perle and David Frum, who said America faced "victory or holocaust." Here Irving  Moskowitz, who has built colonies on the apartheid West Bank,  helped fund David Wurmser’s call for military action against Saddam before Wurmser got a job working for Cheney. Here AEI provides $96,000 a year to "scholar" Dore Gold, a former Israeli government official under Netanyahu who has a thinktank in Jerusalem…

But I am getting bogged down in specifics. The assignment here is for a Jewish writer to anatomize the Jewish failure of leadership, the cruel arrogance and indifference to ordinary people’s lives that arose from Jewish wealth and success in the millennium. A big job, I know. Heilbrunn took a shot at it and didn’t get all the way (in They Knew They Were Right). So far Jews have been constrained by the imperative, "Is it good for the Jews?" But as noble Auchincloss shows, that sort of scrutiny is in an American moral tradition.

5 Responses

  1. Jim Haygood
    March 3, 2008, 11:35 am

    "I'm not going to say CCNY … Possibly Harvard … the white building in Washington at 1150 17th Street, N.W. …"

    Phil, you haven't fully thought this through. You're firing wildly, like a panicked cop who holds the auto-trigger down and sprays the whole block with ricocheting bullets.

    On the university circuit, which school unites the Clintons and the Bushes? That would be Yale. Harvard places second, but first in ridicule, for having granted an MBA to George W. Bush, the most incompetent financial manager in presidential history.

    However, when it comes to having peddled a pack of lies to the general public, your own beloved New York Slimes was a prime offender. Those "Saddam's WMDs" fantasies were only to be expected from the troglodyte Wall Street Journal. But the Slimes played a uniquely subversive role as a warmongering wolf in deceptive 'liberal' sheep's clothing.

    It's frightening to observe the degree to which New Yorkers are programmed by the reality distortion field of their overrated local mass media. Many of the Slimes articles you cite provide little that is new or enlightening. For instance, the Neela Banerjee article you posted yesterday was a tardy rehash of items that had been reported up to a week earlier elsewhere.

    Your own journalistic career would benefit enormously by ditching the Slimes as a primary information source. It is not world-class or cutting edge in any sense of the word. I hope to attend the old gray lady's long-overdue funeral.

  2. Ed.
    March 3, 2008, 3:00 pm

    "Jews played a special role in this debacle, and other Jews must ask, What social institution produced the arrogance of the neoconservatives? What school? What was their disconnect?"

    In addition to the Iraq war and Neoconservatism, Jews also played a special role in Bolshevism and Zionism. What social institutions produced their arrogance? What belief system? It's time to start taking a hard and fast look at organized Jewry.

    Hats off to Joachim Martillo:
    link to members.aol.com

  3. Jim S.
    March 3, 2008, 4:43 pm

    Without being too aggressive on this subject, Walt Rostow and Henry Kissinger-two of the worst figures in the Vietnam dabacle-are Jewish.
    There has always been a strong anti-communist bloc among American Jewry. It is certainly not the only element there-there is an equally strong pro-communist bloc, and in addition most American Jews have shunned both extremes-but this should be born in mind, especially as they dovetailed, in many ways, into the Neoconservatives.

  4. Charles Keating
    March 3, 2008, 7:01 pm

    Whether the best and the brightest are WASPS or Western Jews,
    it's clear neither are either. Seems to be what they have in common Marx would realize instantly. That doesn't mean I am for a social-economic class's mechanistic approach to our ills (or Israel's), but it goes a long way.

  5. Joachim Martillo
    March 4, 2008, 2:33 pm

    What about the anti-War movement?

    link to eaazi.blogspot.com

    Anti-War: 1960s versus 2000s

    A Gem from The Fall of Jerusalem by Abdullah Schleifer

    by Joachim Martillo ([email protected])

    Many have wondered why the anti-Iraq war movement found so little traction with the American public and media in comparison with the anti-Vietnam war movement.

    Some speculations have referred to a lack of a military draft.

    The Fall of Jerusalem by Abdullah Schleifer contains the following text on p. 76.

    "In the winter of 1966 the Left-Baathists advanced a fascinating argument against Abdul Nasser's constant counsel for patience in the struggle with Israel and his claim that, with the gradual strengthening of their regular armies, time was on the side of the Arabs.

    "According to the Baasthist thesis, Israel was already at work developing an atomic bomb and within a few years would be capable of waging nuclear warfare. Within the same period the Aswan Dam would have been completed in Egypt. At such a time the Palestine cause would be lost, the Baathists argued, for none of the Arab armies — however strong by then — would even consider the idea of liberating Palestine at the risk of nuclear destruction of every capital in the Arab East and the flooding of the Nile Valley if the Aswan Dam were to be destroyed."

    The Baathist thesis also took into account the depth of American commitment in Vietnam and the growing unpopularity within America for further armed interventions, holding that the U.S.A. would not be in position to extend any but token support to the Israelis, assuming an Arab advance.
    LBJ was always disappointed that the organized Jewish community and Jewish media pundits (even the conservative ones) never reciprocated his support for Israel in 1967 with backing for his Vietnam policy.

    Reports of Baathist thinking were certainly available to Israeli and AIPAC policy analysts at that time period, and the organized Jewish community along with the Israel Lobby seems to have made the logical response by encouraging their stable of Jewish media facilitators, gatekeepers and pundits to take a cold or even hostile attitude toward the Vietnam war.

    Diminishment or termination of US involvement in Vietnam guaranteed that US resources and assets would be immediately available if the State of Israel needed them as was the case during the October War.

    In contrast, the Israel Lobby and the organized Jewish community strongly supports the expenditure of US assets in efforts directly benefiting the State of Israel strategically, and in response Zionist news facilitators, gatekeepers, and pundits have worked hard to stymie the anti-Iraq war movement and to spike coverage of it since before the invasion of Iraq.


    Norman Podhoretz' career as editor of the American Jewish Committee's Commentary Magazine* spans both anti-war movements. Not only has he been a leader within the organized Jewish community and the Israel Lobby, but he has also served as a media facilitator-gatekeeper and as a pundit during the whole time period. His behavior has been consistent with the theorized effort to direct coverage of the two anti-war movements in order to influence the level of traction that each could obtain from the American public.

    The hypothesis of conscious media manipulation is hardly far-fetched. In Buried by the Times, the Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper, author Laura Leff argues cogently that NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger managed by example to influence the whole newspaper industry to keep Holocaust stories off the front and editorial pages and thereby prevented the development of general awareness of the ongoing extermination of European Jews even though practically all the information was available.


    * The American Jewish Committee spun Commentary off as an independent publication in January 2007. Podhoretz was editor-in-chief of Commentary from 1960 through 1995 when he retired and assumed the position of editor-at-large. Today his title is editor emeritus.

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