Appreciating Our Politicians: Vietnam

November 3, 2011

Political Theory

During the past century in America, the view of war expressed by the general public has taken a drastic 180° turn from where it was 70 years ago. Today in lecture, we watched a clip from Errol Morris’ documentary, The Fog of War (2003), as Robert McNamara, the US Secretary of Defense during Vietnam, reflects on his time in the Air Force during World War II as a Lt. Col.


He discussed the guidelines that he followed during the bombing campaign of Japan. He clearly still looked haunted from his past as he dirtied his hands and sacrificed himself for our country in World War II (even though he never apologized in the clip). But, Americans who were called to serve during World War II did not spend as much time thinking about the morality of their war – although, granted, it was a just war – unlike the next generation did during Vietnam. Instead of following orders and dirtying their hands for the benefit of America, many individuals during the counterculture revolution decided to question their government and its motives. However, they seemed to remove themselves from the equation entirely. As Prof. Manty discussed in lecture today, by participating in living in a democracy, we, the people, are part of the dirty hands problem because we elect the officials who do the deeds in our best interests. People during the 70’s seemed to ignore this. Thoughts? Do you believe they had a right to ignore this? Or were they not involved, as in it wasn’t their hands being dirtied because they didn’t want to be in Vietnam. I feel that this differs from Algeria. Vietnam wasn’t t a colony, we had no stake in being there other than to stop communism (I think?). Whereas in Algeria, there was a large French population that needed to be protected along with French interests in the region and country for their economy.


Many individuals, like Bob Dylan, began to combine the government and corporate leaders into one corrupt group that benefits from the destruction of others. As Dylan wrote in his song “Masters of War”:


“You that never done nothin’

But build to destroy

You play with my world

Like it’s your little toy

You put a gun in my hand

And you hide from my eyes

And you turn and run farther

When the fast bullets fly.


Like Judas of old

You lie and deceive

A world war can be won

You want me to believe

But I see through your eyes

And I see through your brain

Like I see through the water

That runs down my drain.


You fasten all the triggers

For the others to fire

Then you set back and watch

When the death count gets higher

You hide in your mansion’

As young people’s blood

Flows out of their bodies

And is buried in the mud.”


I wanted to include these verses because, to me, they seem to best represent Dylan’s view (and that of many of his fellow counterrevolutionaries) on the issues we discussed in lecture. Do you agree that they apply to the lecture? If not, then why do you disagree? Do you agree that the corporate world can be seen to ally with the political in this case?


In the 1st verse, Dylan discusses the government draft for soldiers as politicians sit back and watch them go to war. While this can be valid from a citizen’s perspective, but the concept of the dirty hands problem involves doing something wrong (war) in order to attain something good (stopping the spread of communism). I believe that in this instance, Americans forgot to consider the nature of politics, the unavoidability of the dirty hands problem, and did not appreciate their leaders’ self sacrifice. Instead, they were quick to blame them for starting a war for their own selfish gains, instead of remembering that they elected these politicians to serve in their best interests. Even though there is a dual nature of the behavior of politicians, how they can act one way but have very different intentions, I believe that those who serve us truly want what is best for this nation – based on their own political views and those of their constituents – and they will do whatever is necessary and within their power to do so, no matter how bad it may look to us.



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One Comment on “Appreciating Our Politicians: Vietnam”

  1. benjadler Says:

    “On Machiavelli’s account, therefore, the Dirty Hands problem is ultimate, since the morality of princes has a different origin from the morality of citizens. On the citizen-squared view the units of moral accounting are always individuals, whatever special dilemmas face those individuals who hold office.” (Hollis, 391).

    Politicians follow the Machiavellian model, since the citizen-squared doesn’t work due to the fact that compromise on individual values is a necessary part of politics. Therefore, politicians cannot consider the fact that parents’ sons are being sent to die, they must view the issue of war from a utilitarian point of view of the greatest good for the greatest number. They understood that men were being sent to die (just like Presidents Bush and Obama do about the Middle East), but they believed it was necessary for the good of America.

    Just a thought.

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