August 27, 2004

Wise and Generous

The incomparable Victor Davis Hanson has written this wise and generous analysis of the Vietnam service flap:
"It is time to drop the mess and leave it at this: A veteran John Kerry, who easily could have been blown up on numerous occasions, came home mixed up and said and did things he probably now regrets, which over the last three decades have provided both rich political capital for him and ammunition for his enemies — depending on the ever-changing perception of Vietnam in the popular memory of a given decade.

"So I conclude with empathy for John Kerry, whom I appreciate as a veteran who served his country — even if I would not now vote for him. He should have been aware of the god Nemesis. Still, in a spirit of magnanimity and appreciation for his months on a boat in a very inhospitable landscape, Americans perhaps should remember the words of Pericles, as recorded by Thucydides shortly after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War: 'For there is justice in the claim that steadfastness in his country's battles should be as a cloak to cover a man's other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual.'"
In short, give Kerry (and Bush), both of whom served when others managed to avoid it, the benefit of the doubt on what they did in Vietnam. This generous stance still leaves us free to question some of Kerry's oscillatiion between repudiating and then vaunting his service, and to consider whether his service overrides his dovish record on national defense and his apparently nonexistent strategy for today's war.

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