Rod, I read your epistle in Points yesterday with equal parts interest and dismay. You're halfway there, which, for most people, would be plenty, but I always think you're smart enough to get the whole thing. Maybe I'm wrong.
But I am glad you brought up Vietnam, hippies, Carter and Reagan, because that's most of it. All you need for the full picture is the French.
It took the French two bites of the rotten apple to know when to spit it out -- Vietnam and Algeria. We should have learned what needed to know in Vietnam, but apparently it's going to take us the war in Iraq.
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The key here for you and for "conservatives" is your confession of hero worship for Ronald Reagan, a movie actor who you thought was strong, as opposed to Carter and hippies, whom you believed to be weak.
What you missed, in your intellectual development, was an understanding of strength. It's really not about cowboy-hat-wearing tribal leaders on horseback, is it? It's about people who can differ from and even disagree with another culture but still feel genuine respect for the dignity of strangers and for the legitimacy of the choices they make for themselves.
Heroes on horseback, white hats against black hats, our way or the highway: That's the pap of superficial minds, people who have never grown up and people who are too weak to deal with the real complexity of the world.
You still don't have that part down. And, by the way, if you think the domestic political endgame here involves some kind of central role for the people who got us into this mess, you are in for some serious re-education. --Jim Schutze