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The Sanity Inspector

There was a French book about the Vietnam war, originally published after France's defeat but before America's involvement. I thought these excerpts from it were striking:

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The Viets push us into atrocities. Yet we kill infinitely less than the Viets, and infinitely less than the Americans would. They wouldn't bother to go into details, they'd just bomb whole
"zones." Liquidate the population and liquidate the problem. And at
that, international opinion puts up much better with the most lethal wholesale hammering than with the torture of a single assassin.
-- Lucian Bodard, The Quicksand War, American pub. 1967

In Hong Kong, an American journalist said to me, "You have the most rotten army in the world, but we could have made you win at Dien Bien Phu, and I think we should have." One of his friends said hastily, "But I admire your army. They know how to make a _beau geste_." It was kind of him, no doubt, but he really meant the French army, like a Louis XV armchair, was the masterpiece of an extinct civilization.
What could I answer? The Americans would never have fought as we did. They would have fought a different war. And by crushing the country and the people under a hail of bombs and dollars, they might well have had more success than we did.
-- ibid

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