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Front Page

In This Issue

· Romney for President

· The Pentagon Papers revisited

· The Better War

· Margaret and Me, a personal perspective

· Nixon-The Statistical Abstract




Website link

By Ivan W. Parkins


             The first thing that many Americans are likely to recall about Mitt Romney is that, as Governor of Massachusetts, he helped to design a quite comprehensive health care program for that state.  Perhaps more of us should note that it occurred a few years before our present economic crisis became so obvious. Also the MA plan was to apply to only about 2% of Americans, and to a 2% who averaged more education, more income, less ethnic diversity, and less unemployment than was found in most other states. Also, MA had only about ¼ the percentage uninsured for health care that the nation averages.  Even if the outcome there were more promising than it now appears to be, it would likely be a poor choice for the nation.

             Actually, we do need a better designed health care system.  We also need a President who can say of many and varied important public matters, “been there, tried that.”

             Regarding jobs, Mitt Romney has served as a lay minister counseling persons laid-off due to new technologies and relocations of plants and offices.  He has also been one of the owners and managers who had to decide when businesses needed, for competitive reasons, to change technologies or locations.  And he, as Governor, secured in MA a $2000 subsidy to employers who retrained a person that had been unemployed for a year.

             From my perspective of teaching in five different colleges and universities, and in four different states;  and with some regard for things shared with my late wife whose experiences were even more diverse and almost as long as mine; I was especially impressed by one remark in Romney’s book,  NO APOLOGY.  It is as follows:

             “I simply cannot believe that the teachers unions and the Democratic Party can successfully persist in opposing the very fundamentals that have propelled America’s leadership in every other dimension of our economy—competition, innovation, and higher rewards for better performance.”

             Mitt Romney makes the case of no apology for America quite thoroughly, including his obvious study here and abroad of business and military competition.  Until someone more clearly focused and broadly qualified appears, I hope to see him as the chief steward of America’s greatness.



On Margaret and Me


By Ivan W. Parkins


In the summer of 1940 Margaret Brown, who was 18, had finished the twelve years of Georgia public schooling in ten, and also completed two years of college plus a summer program for future teachers.  Reverend James Brown, her oldest brother, asked her to go for a drive with him.  He stopped near where a man was plowing a field. Mr. Pridgen halted his work and came over to speak to the minister, who introduced his sister as a prospective teacher.  With that, my future wife got her first teaching job.  Mr. Pridgen was chairman of the school board in Pridgen, GA.


Margaret’s monthly salary, for eight months, would be sixty dollars.  Little of that however would go for room and board, which would be in the Pridgen home, and a room shared with a Pridgen daughter slightly younger than herself.  More of her pay would go for a few essentials that her students lacked.  The first grade class that she face initially numbered 55 student, but was soon divided almost in half as another teacher was added.


At about that same time, I was also 18, and entering the United States Naval Academy.  My home town had been that for at least three generations before me.  It had already shrunk to about half the 1300 people who lived there soon after the Civil War.

Grandfather Parkins had owned the drug store. (That is drug, not pharmacy.).  Great Grandfather Michael had the jewelry shop.  There was a relatively new and consolidated, i.e. twelve-year, school with about 300 students. Only about half of the math and science required for entry to the Naval Academy was taught.  With some community help and improvising, I made it.


Margaret and I each served in the Navy for over two years during WWII, and we met as GI students at the University of Chicago, February 10, 1946.  It took only a very few weeks for us to recognize how much of past experience and outlook we shared, and a few more to contract to share as much as we could for the rest of our lives. Between us we taught for more than sixty-five years, in numerous schools, and at all common levels, in four different states.  We retired early, exasperated by many of the changes we had witnessed, but hoping to witness other innovations.


             Lewis Sorley’s book is mainly on the Vietnam War following the 1968 Tet Offensive.

             But, even that offensive was instructive to those who understood it.  Most Americans got a very slanted interpretation.  At least one high communist commander was published later commenting “we were disheartened at first,” but adding that they were much heartened by the reports in American media.  The communist expectation of help from  large defections of the city dwellers in the South did not materialize.  A major portion of the Viet Cong, who spearheaded the attacks were slaughtered by American and ARVN defenses.  The Viet Cong were never much of a factor after that.

             Sorley is a graduate of West Point and of extensive military service.  He also holds a doctorate from Johns Hopkins and is an honored military historian.  He writes from extensive access to classified files, especially the voluminous recordings of General Abrams’ papers.

             The war got better, quite steadily, as the Abrams command studied enemy tactics, including their codes, disrupted their preparations, bombed their supply lines, and ambushed their probes. Meanwhile, much attention was given to preparing villagers as self defense forces, and training increasing numbers of ARVN as a professional military.  A substantial majority of those efforts had satisfactory to excellent outcomes.

             By the early 1970s most villagers lived in peace, bridges were rebuilt, travel was safe in nearly all of South Vietnam, and rice harvests were setting new records. Meanwhile the numbers of American troops were declining rapidly.  Both General Abrams and the experienced British expert Robert Thompson thought that the war was essentially won by late 1972 or early 1973.

              The accords reached in Paris in during January 1973, but never endorsed by South Vietnam, provided for release of American prisoners, and complete removal of our ground forces.  We were to continue supplying money, major weaponry, air and naval support to the South.  Some North Vietnamese forces actually remained in the South.

             Watergate heated up shortly after the war seemed to be ending. And Congress, dominated by a Democrat majority, ignored our various pledges to the South Vietnamese with increasing haste.  Meanwhile the Soviets and Chinese ratcheted up their aide to the North.  The South Vietnamese fought valiantly and with some success at first, but in two very bloody years, they ran out of nearly everything including ammunition.

             My conclusion:

It was a great victory for Communism and, in America, for the New Democrats.  Southeast Asians would soon suffer massacres that probably equaled, and may have exceeded, the human cost of the war.

             Our military had adapted well to a different style of warfare.  Our politics provided others hostile to us, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, with new confidence.




Link to the New York Times articles

By Ivan W. Parkins

Who cares!  Isn’t that episode, along with Nixon’s Presidency and the rest of the Vietnam War, dead and buried?  I think not, for two reasons.


First: I believed that the war was being mishandled and misreported by the media long before THE NEW YORK TIMES printed the papers, and those papers relate only to the war before Nixon took office.  If the unauthorized publication of those classified documents disclosed anything about America’s party politics, it related to division among Democrats.


My opening statement in a public discussion, by six faculty members, Asheville-Biltmore College (now a campus of UNC), May 30, 1967:


“Good morning!  I am happy to be here fighting the most necessary and most vital battle of the Vietnam War.


Yes, you hear me correctly, this is the vital battle.  …The real issue is whether or not Americans are politically capable of waging a cool fight, a limited war.


In Vietnam we will either prove our capacity for limited war, or we will reinforce what many people already believe to be the greatest American weakness.”


Second:  The Pentagon Papers end with the war as it was in the summer of 1968.  That was while we were doing nearly all of the fighting for the South Vietnamese, the most inept and costly part of our effort.  After President Nixon took over, and we changed our strategy to one of preparing the South Vietnamese to defend themselves, our efforts became both less costly and more promising.  That is a story well told by Lewis Sorley in his book, A BETTER WAR.

(See following article

It appears likely to me that a major reason President Nixon won reelection in 1972, by what is still the largest popular plurality in our history, was our progress in the war.  Also, that so soon after those major military and Republican triumphs, the relatively petty Watergate issue was magnified mainly as the defense that a seriously discredited media and Democrat cabal raised against the likelihood of further major Republican  successes.


By Ivan W. Parkins

A discussion of Lewis Sorley’s book

The unexamined victories and final tragedy of America’s Last years in VietNam

 President Nixon

We know what happened, but do we know why?

By Ivan W. Parkins


     Nixon resigned rather than risk a bitter and nationally divisive impeachment fight, which it appeared that he would lose.  Chief among the charges pending against him was abuse of power.  And, one of the most substantial items in that charge was that he had impounded, i.e. refused to spend, about half of the funds which Congress had appropriated for Senator Muskie’s Clean Water Act.  Even the Supreme Court held against the President in that matter.

      Years later, it occurred to me that there should be new evidence re that charge.  I checked THE STATISTICAL ABSTRACT for what we actually did spend.  With Nixon out of the way, we spent just about what he had recommended. I.W.Parkins 020809