Reading material for the long flight from Miami to Lima mostly consisted of my working through a four-decade old paperback of David Halberstam’s excellent The Best and the Brightest, a book written during the early 1970s that attempts to explain how the U.S. found itself gradually getting involved in the Vietnam morass despite myriad indicators that such a course was not recommended.
The 800-plus page book is so old the binding is completely shot, forcing me to hold the sucker with both hands when reading and to use a rubberband to hold it together when I’m not. An emblem for Vietnam, that.
Besides being well written and researched, Halberstam is unafraid as well to include his own sharply-drawn judgments along the way, which both helps clarify the mistakes he’s describing while adding an extra layer of intrigue to the narrative. Despite writing so soon after (and during) the events he’s describing, he lends the story useful perspective, allowing those of us reading much later to appreciate the novel-like twists and turns that inexorably led to successive administrations’ poor decisions regarding southeast Asia.
Most of my casual reading of late has been about political history, with Nixon and Kennedy having become touchstones for me. I suppose all presidents’ stories provide seemingly endless threads of interest thanks to their connectedness with practically all aspects of American culture, but there’s something about these two in particular -- perhaps the most fascinating heads-up political opponents of the century -- that intrigues me to no end.
Will be especially busy this week and so anticipate only firing off short bursts here to share brief anecdotes, likely pointing you to the PokerStars blog as I do where I’ll be filing my LAPT Peru Grand Final reports. There won’t be any politics over there, I can assure, but a lot of interesting conflicts, negotiations, and resolutions over the cards and chips. More to come.