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Trump’s odd relationship to Vietnam – and American greatness

April 29th, 2016 Comments off

Presidential hopeful – or should that read shoo-in – Donald Trump has deigned to tell the world what his foreign policy would be in the Oval Office.

Unsuprisingly, this businessman-demagogue boils it down to “American greatness, American interests”. The supposedly “ethical” foreign policy that nominally belonged to the US in the 20th century would be ditched wholesale.

Trump’s campaigning slogan has been “Making America Great Again”, and he has finally managed to put that sentiment in an international context. An unwelcome echo is of Adolf Hitler’s project to revive German greatness after the humiliation of the First World War.

An interesting angle in this is Trump and the Vietnam War. Not that he served in it – come now! Serving is for losers, as The Donald almost said about war hero and decent human being John McCain. Young Trump was, sadly, unable to don [sorry] the uniform of a grunt because of bone spurs in his feet. He was 22 when his number came up, and had been a student athlete. But those darned bone spurs got him a deferment. What a shame.

(This, incidentally, is what bone spurs are.) The uncharitable might say the bones in his head are the real problem.

But seriously: the link between Donald Drumpf (Trump) and Vietnam is the deep, deep wound which that disastrous venture left in the American psyche. How could the mighty US lose a war to a small South East Asian country fighting jungle guerilla tactics on a shoestring? But it did, comprehensively, as Harriet Senie makes clear in her wonderful new book, Memorials to Shattered Myths (Oxford). Around 60,000 people died, and many others were left with life-changing conditions both physical and mental. “The war remains a haunting spectre in American history,” Senie writes, and, later comments that “the quagmire” of Vietnam, although the conflict ended more than 40 years ago, “continues to influence US presidents and key elements of their foreign policy to the present day”.

Trump, in his speech on April 27, declared, with his usual finger-wagging, that “America is going to be strong again. America is going to be reliable again.”

The Donald at the US Centre for Public Interest

The Donald at right-wing think-tank The National  Interest. Reuters

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