David Halberstam, R.I.P.

Ken AshfordIn PassingLeave a Comment

The man who first recognized Vietnam as a "quagmire" — years ahead of his fellow journalists and the rest of the country — was killed in a car accident yesterday.

A prescient, smart man — he is a voice that should always have been listened to.  Here, for example, are his comments just 3 days after 9/11:

We are in some ways a much easier target for them, despite our wealth, than they are for us. And that’s a very hard thing for a rich, developed superpower to understand — that our very strength makes us vulnerable. Our strength makes us a target, and it’s hard to respond. There’s a danger that if we use our power carelessly, if we just bomb away, then we’re doing their recruiting and passing the burden on to our children. One of the things that was much more done in the French-Indochina War: a French patrol would go through a village where many of the people were on the fence in the struggle. A Viet Minh solder would kill one French soldier. The French would then open up on the entire village, killing all kinds of people. The French would then leave the village that night, at 6 o’clock, and at 7 o’clock the Viet Minh would arrive to recruit the children of those who had been killed. That’s something we need to be very aware of: to apply power not just with strength, but with wisdom. And we need to be very careful about that.

Nailed it.  He will be missed.