Arts History Update for late October 2012

14 Oct

Arts History Update for late October 2012 by David Cummins

 

VAUMM designed the new Basque Country Culinary Center (2011) in San Sebastian, Spain. Here are photographs of what might first have been imagined as a layer cake http://archidose.blogspot.com/2012/10/todays-archidose-625.html A more complete exposition of the building as urban design is here http://www.archdaily.com/196035/basque-culinary-center-vaumm/ from which we are not just interested but amazed at how a difficult building site could be turned into an immediate five story ground-hugging architectural icon. Here is the VAUMM website and what it has to say about the Basque Country Culinary Center http://www.vaumm.com/principal.html What we learn is that the design (2009) was built opening in December 2011. For such an unusual and demanding project that rapidity seems clear evidence of outstanding talent by many people.

 

Where is San Sebastian? Ten miles west of the border with France, and 62 miles east of Bilbao, site of the Guggenheim Museum (1997) an architectural marvel by Frank Gehry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guggenheim_Museum_Bilbao

 

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Now we know so much more about Vietnam and the American Vietnam War 1964-1975. I was a soldier, to be more precise … having finished active duty and in the Army Reserve, set aside my enlisted member years and having received a direct commission as an officer, was practicing civilian law in a law firm and practicing military law as a Reservist, when the War broke out. Loyal and patriotic, I stayed in the Reserve to be available for activation and deployment if needed, never realizing at the time that it would last so long and I would be a few short breaths away from twenty years service and an ultimate pension. I lived through the presidential election year cycle in 1964 never realizing at the time that President Johnson’s moderate hawkish war-making i.e. “guns and butter” and Senator Goldwater’s immoderate hawkish “Bomb Hanoi” war-making were both foolish options.

 

We are all so much smarter now in hindsight, and know the options. We also know why they weren’t taken and can see the folly stretching back to the Eisenhower Administration’s promise for free and fair elections in Vietnam when agreeing with Ho Chi Minh for a French Indo-China decolonization retreat and departure without further loss of life in 1954, but then came the Eisenhower/Dulles refusal, some would say betrayal, to hold those elections by 1956 when it became clear that Ho Chi Minh would win and Bao Dai1 would lose, and the former was Communist and the latter was not, was the precursor for keeping chief of state Bao Dai’s south separate from Ho’s north and insuring that the struggle for union and nationhood would continue. Eisenhower placed military advisors in the south to assist and train on USA supplied military weapons. President Kennedy increased those military advisors / trainers in 1961 and 1962. A political opportunity arose with the USS Maddox Incident, August 2, 1964, and Gulf of Tonkin Incident, August 4, 1964. President Johnson in 1964 knew this history and knew that the south’s leadership did not have the support of the people that Ho’s north had, and that the south government was propped up by the USA, and should have realized that the nation in a democratic election was still in Ho’s hands and the culture of Vietnam was his and not that of the south’s governors. Goldwater and other hawks would have painted Johnson as “weak on Communism” but Johnson should have declined to continue military arms and equipment to the south government and let Vietnam be unified under Ho Chi Minh. The War option should not have been chosen. It was chosen.

 

In 1965 Charles de Gaulle, who had had a leading role in reclaiming control of French Indo-China after World War II, predicted that “unless the Johnson Administration moved to halt the war immediately, the struggle would go on for ten years and completely dishonor the United States”. President Johnson ignored the prediction and warning. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara admitted in April 1991 “I was wrong! MyGod, I was wrong.”

 

Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (University of California Press 1999) Texas Tech Library DS558.L6

 

Fredrik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (Random House 2012, 839 pages) Tech DS553.1 L64

 

Sophie Quinn-Judge, Ho Chi Minh, The Missing Years 1919 – 1941 (University of California Press 2003) Tech DS560.72.H6 Q56

 

William J. Duiker, Ho Chi Minh: A Life (Hyperion 2000) Tech DS560.72.H6 D85

 

David G. Marr, Vietnam 1945: the Quest for Power (University of California Press 1995) Tech DS556.8.M36

 

Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexepected Allies in the War Against Japan (University Press of Kansas 2006) Tech D810.S7 B336

 

Today we know that Communism has many facets and all who travel under that name are not alike and none of them has ever instituted Karl Marx’s prescribed Communism. Intellectuals know that his system is as yet untried, and probably never will be. That’s not a bad thing, as likely it would be unsuccessful, especially under 21st century economic conditions which are so different from the mid-19th century conditions which impelled him to construct his thesis.

 

In current reading we can see a photograph of Nguyen Ai Quoc, before he took the name Ho Chi Minh, at the French Socialist Party Congress in Tours France on December 29, 1920. He is an earnest young man standing and addressing his fellow delegates asking them to support French decolonization / withdrawal and independence for Vietnam. Whatever encouragement the French delegates gave him at that Congress, they did not have enough political stroke in France to grant his wishes. It was at that Congress that the delegates including Ho left the Socialist International and formed the French Communist Party to which Ho belonged for many years and was an international Communist Party member for the rest of his life.

 

It will probably irritate some readers for me to say, that there are obvious parallels to contemporary Iraq and Afghanistan, and that if wiser heads than President George W. Bush had prevailed the USA would not have gone to war in either country in 2003 [Iraq] or 2002 [Afghanistan]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Afghanistan_(1978%E2%80%93present) We should have let the CIA and Pentagon covertly and clandestinely search for Osama bin Laden and his group, and pick them off as fugitive criminals whenever an opportunity arose. We would have saved hundreds of trillions of dollars and our superpower moral and political authority, both gone now. A weaker USA is the outcome, although no current or former politician is willing to accept responsibility for the errors.

 

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1 Emperor of Annam under French protection 1932 – 1945 Emperor of Vietnam 1945 Chief of State to 1955 when he was removed and abdicated and left for France where he lived until his death.

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