No Peace, No Honor
October 10, 2012
I am currently reading a book entitled, No Peace, No Honor, by Larry Berman, which is about Nixon and Kissinger and their attempts to end the Vietnam War. It is quite an interesting read and illuminates in many ways how our “government works.” Notice that last phrase, “how our ‘government works.’” We often talk as if our government is a machine and it works or doesn’t work at different times. But this is actually an illusion.
What the book does illuminate is the character of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, and how they were willing to do just about anything in order to satisfy their ambitions, their lust for fame and power. For example, they were willing to involve themselves, insert themselves into the attempted negotiations by LBJ at the end of his presidency so that they could win the presidency by preventing a settlement of the war. That LBJ was willing to try to get such a settlement in order to help Humphrey win the presidency does not make Nixon’s and Kissinger’s actions less reprehensible. In fact, it only underlines the kind of men who govern us.
Moreover, Nixon and Kissinger were not actually trying end the war. What they were trying to do was to extend the war for eight years, their eight years in office, because they knew the war could not be “won” and that the next president would be forced to withdraw. Nixon said, emphatically, that he would not be the first president to lose a war. And he was willing to do just about anything he thought he could get away with not to lose that war. As Kissinger himself said, if that meant the president had to engage in “savage” actions, then so be it; “savage” actions it would be.
We fool ourselves and even hurt ourselves by pretending that the character of those who govern us does not matter. Nixon and Kissinger were not good men; their policies were not good policies and, as a result, our nation was not a good nation. Any other conclusion is an illusion, a comfortable illusion but an illusion nonetheless.