In yesterday’s edition of Slate, Fred Kaplan shed some light (http://slate.msn.com/id/2127862/) on the role played by Thomas C. Schelling, who just received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Schelling won the prestigious award for his ingenious applications of "game theory" to labor negotiations, business transactions, and arms-control agreements. But what is little-known in general is the crucial role he played in formulating the strategies of "controlled escalation" and "punitive bombing" during the war in Vietnam.
That concept of war as a bargaining process was adopted in the early months of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who were looking for ways to step up military action against North Vietnam. The bombing campaign—called Operation Rolling Thunder—commenced on March 2, 1965. Of course, it didn’t alter the behavior of the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong in the slightest. The bombing escalated. When that didn't work, more troops were sent in, a half-million at their peak. The war continued for another decade, killing 50,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese. In 1967, McNamara resigned and the following year, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection.
Tom Schelling didn't write much about war after that. He'd learned the limitations of his craft.
Saletan concluded his article by postulating that If Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz had studied history better, they, too, might have appreciated those limits before chasing their delusional dreams into the wilds of Mesopotamia. The fact is, if sixty years ago, the United States had studied Vietnamese history better, they would have spared their people and the hapless people of Indochina a lot of grief.
I am always surprised to find people in academic or scientific fields that are engaged in what the Buddhists call un-rigthful occupations, particularly in fields like weaponry, warfare, psy-ops, etc. A friend of mine once proudly told me that he knows a Vietnamese woman who's famous among US researchers for her work in perfecting the daisycutter bomb. For a Vietnamese citizen to be engaged in research on how to inflict more bodily harm on people is, in my opinion, equivalent to a Japanese doing research in nuclear weaponry for the US, or a Jew studying to improve the efficiency of gas ovens for Germany. I guess my scruples are not shared by most people. There are doctors and psychologists in Iraq who are using their professional skills and knowledge to help the American army in their torture sessions. What have these people been thinking? How can one be so engrossed in one's intellectual process as to ignore the consequences of that process?
Science sans conscience n'est que ruine de l'âme -