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U.S. still making Vietnam-level mistakes regarding our foreign conflicts

As we watch Russia and China cozy up to each other and inflict general chaos on the rest of the world, I pine for a simpler time.

Moments like President Obama’s “red line in the sand” with Syria and President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” declaration in Iraq make me wish we had Richard Nixon to kick around. I wouldn’t want him in office, just present long enough to give us some pointers, particularly on China.

In his book “Beyond Peace,” Nixon warned that “Chinese leaders don’t respond constructively to ultimatums.” We didn’t take heed, and neither political party has distinguished itself in foreign policy since perhaps George H.W. Bush and his National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara would be my go-to source for counsel on Afghanistan.

Ironic? Maybe. McNamara’s failures in Vietnam can’t be overlooked, but, unlike many subsequent leaders, he learned from and owned up to his mistakes. McNamara’s painstaking efforts to set us straight in foreign conflicts are well documented in several books and “The Fog of War” documentary. Whether we learn is up to us.

I never fought in Vietnam, nor did I lose a loved one there. If I had, my views on these men might be very different. But they’re long gone, and we’re still making Vietnam-level mistakes.

For all their flaws, Nixon and McNamara tried to leave us a roadmap on how to do better. They can’t make us listen.

Jim Newton | Itasca, Ill.