Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War: A Review

 “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"-- Vizzini, The Princess Bride

            From 1954-1975, the United States of America was involved in a land war in Asia: the struggle for the future of Vietnam.  Vizzini’s remark gets passed around frequently, often with regard to the Vietnam War, sometimes Afghanistan and other places, because it seems to ring true.  The US lost the Vietnam War, and the locals won it.  Right?  Ken Burns and Lynn Novick remind the viewer that Vietnamese lost the war too.  It was a civil war, between two different ideologies with their own foreign allies.  Although The Vietnam War is very America-centric, the documentary strives to show us both sides of the Vietnamese perspective as well through interviews with the people who were there, and in so doing strives to be a definitive history of what the Vietnamese themselves call “the American War.” 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Good Turns At Pearl Harbor

It isn’t all bad news.  Last May, Barack Obama became the first American President to visit Hiroshima.  On December 27, 2016, Abe Shinzo became the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor.  There is a fine symmetry to these visits that illustrates the power of good, genuine gestures in the careful dance of diplomacy.