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Avoiding The U.S.'s Next Grand Delusion

An interview with Robert Mann, author of *A Grand Delusion: America's Descent into Vietnam* on lessons still relevant today, occasioned by Syria crisis.

My latest op-ed for Al Jazeera English is an interview with historian Robert Mann, a former Senate staffer who wrote A Grand Delusion: America's Descent Into Vietnam, the only history of the Vietnam War focused on the role of the US Senate, including the decade between Korea & Vietnam, when the seeds for that tragedy were sown. Here's how the interview begins:

Avoiding the US's next grand delusion
Paul Rosenberg discusses Syria, the US, and historical parallels with Vietnam with historian Robert Mann.

For the moment, as I write this, there seems to be a very real possibility that the US won't attack Syria, and that some sort of diplomatic solution will be found. But the larger context of how US elites view the use of force and the rest of the world will remain largely unchanged, whatever happens next, unless we press for a deeper reflection on how we got here, and where we want to go.

There are, of course, competing elite factions with differing views, but what they share in common is a history that they seem incapable of learning from. The day before President Obama addressed the nation, I interviewed historian Robert Mann about that history. Mann is a former US Senate staffer whose 2001 book, A Grand Delusion: America's Descent Into Vietnam is, remarkably, the only history of the Vietnam War that encompasses the role of the Senate, including the decade of the 1950s, which shaped the attitudes that in turn shaped the Vietnam War.

As Mann explained to me, “There was a great deal of so-called losses or defeats to Communism that happened in the late-40s, early-50s that all got laid at the feet of the Democrats,” Mann said. The US was intensely war-weary at the time, and there was little understanding of the historical forces at work around the world - including anti-colonial sentiment that had nothing to do with Marx or Lenin. But that mattered very little at the time. “You have this intense period that ends with the Democrats suffering humiliating defeats at the polls, sort of capped by losing Congress, but also losing the white house in 1952,” Mann continued. It was the first time Republicans had been in charge since 1932 - 20 years earlier.

“My argument is that a generation of American leaders - on the left and the right, Republicans and Democrats - learned a lesson that there's a great deal of danger in ceding one square acre of territory to the Communists. We cannot let this ever happen again, because if we do, it will seal our fate,” Mann explained.

Read the whole interview here.

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