Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm Afraid of Americans

We never thought the day would come when we'd disagree with Ioz. Consider this a temporary hiccup in what has been, so far, a long and beautiful friendship.

First off, any sentence which begins "The fact that so many Americans read The Quiet American ..." cannot be taken seriously, no matter what follows the ellipsis. So few Americans have read Graham Greene. One of the great wits and keen insights of the twentieth century (evangelical Christian or no), Greene deserves a wider audience than the occasional college classroom. We wonder what Bill Kristol would have to say re: Greene's "Vietnam defeatism" upon reading The Quiet American - until he discovered that it was written in 1955.

Second, Alden Pyle does not appear to be naive. Alden Pyle is naive. He has a great amount of espionage sophistication, sure. He knows just who to talk to and just what disasters to engineer in order to put General The in power. But he's a child. He genuinely believes in the redemptive power of the West's saving touch. You can tell it in the eager nature of his confessions: his desire to find a common creed with the West's other representative in Saigon (the aged and cynical Fowler). You can tell it in the health food sandwiches he eats.

Alden Pyle is naive because he has not yet realized that "war" means "babies killed by bomb shrapnel." Thomas Fowler is cynical because he has.

We do agree with Ioz on one point: the poor choice of the word "bumbled." America did not bumble into Vietnam. The Armed Forces did not misstep. They executed their duties with the full efficiency available to them - the systematic effort to wipe out an insurgency (read: a civilian population) - and used every weapon at their disposal. The only bumbling came from the intellectuals back home, who defended Vietnam as a front in the War On Terror Fascism Communism. The only missteps came from thinkers who believed the Evil Empire was the one the U.S. was fighting.


At 7:20 AM, Blogger The Promiscuous Reader said...

Erm, Greene was a Roman Catholic, not an "evangelical Christian." And I'm one of those few Americans who have read The Quiet American.

At 7:35 AM, Blogger Ultima Ratio said...

Sorry; that was our error. We meant "evangelical" in the proselytizing sense, not in reference to a specific sect. Thanks for the catch.


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