Letter: War is always nasty

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While reading recently I came across a few lines that caught my eye: "The knee-jerk reaction of the generals and admirals was to demand more bombing. But after every new attack they raised the ante. Throughout this dialogue, they issued statements extolling the air campaign as `highly effective'."

Strangely enough, this was not referring to Serbia, but to Rolling Thunder, the US air war against North Vietnam of 30 years ago, which dragged on for years and never achieved its aim of forcing the North Vietnamese to accept an American policy or world view. I also seem to recall similar, strident claims to effectiveness during Desert Storm, which were rather more quietly revised after the event.

Reading on with the current situation in mind, I came across the following: "Administration officials had been trying to depict the air offensive as a `surgical' endeavour that miraculously spared North Vietnamese people, knowing full well that the raids frequently struck civilian targets."

I seem to recall being told, many years ago, that the study of history is supposed to allow us to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, when the sad fact is that politicians select the historic example that supports the position they want to take. "History never repeats itself," as I believe Voltaire said, "but man always does."


London NW9