"... Channel surfing through the dreck that passes for news in prime time
these days, it's hard not to think the networks are looking to Jerry Springer
for ideas. ...
Tonight's 'Give War a Chance' shows what a news hour in primetime can offer:
the opportunity to put ongoing events into some kind of perspective, to use
individuals to tell a story that's far bigger than those individuals and to do
it without cheesy re-creations or other tabloid-show techniques.
'Give War a Chance' traces the journey of two men whose world views were shaped
by their very different experiences in Southeast Asia and who now find
themselves on opposite sides regarding U.S. involvement in Bosnia and
"... Rich in detail and depressing implication, 'Give War a Chance' portrays
America's Serbian policy as a war behind a war, a struggle between an
underprepared administration of ad hoc hawks and a self-consciously cautious
military chastened by Vietnam. The civilian bombers for peace are carrying
the day, as we know from news headlines.
The picture this "Frontline" presents isn't pretty, but it's revealing,
exposing the dynamics of why we're in (or, more precisely, over) Serbia and how
we got there. It also instructs us in a more general way about the often messy
and adversarial behind-the-scenes business of hammering out policy and
prosecuting a war."
"... As this latest in a long series of excellent 'Frontlines' makes painfully
clear, America's political elite has not only not learned the hard, bloody
lessons of Vietnam, they are knowingly defying them at this moment in the
To show how the Vietnam generation holds two conflicting views about the proper
use of American military power around the world 'Frontline' correspondent Peter
J. Boyer focuses on the lives and experiences of two men whose formative years
were spent in Vietnam and who would eventually confront each other over policy
in the Balkans--diplomat Richard Holbrooke and retired NATO commander Leighton
'Give War a Chance' which is produced for PBS by Michael Kirk, is a
fast-moving, interesting mix of moral and political arguments, '60s rock music
and graphic images from the Vietnam war and the mortared markets of
Ideologically, the hour is tilted to the side of non-interventionism and is in
no mood to say anything nice about the Clinton administration. And, for those
who think that PBS and 'Frontline' are all-liberal all-the-time, Boyer et al.
make little effort to hide the fact that they think more highly of practical
military men like Smith than they do of the impulsive idealists like Holbrooke
who order them into battles they cannot win."
"'Another Vietnam' is America's bogeyman. Every time the armed forces find a
need to lock and load, the cry goes up, 'Oh no, another Vietnam.'
This fear has served as a check on foreign adventurism--at least till this
point. In a comprehensive but easily understood analysis of the situation,
PBS' 'Frontline' presents an argument that the United States is on a direct
path to another Vietnam in the Balkans.
Frontline chooses an interesting device to frame its report. A leopard might
not be able to change its spots, but two key foreign policy figures, Richard
Holbrooke and Leighton "Snuffy" Smith, have reversed roles as hawk and dove."
"... Although the central theme is an intriguing and provocative one, the
program falls far short in its attempt to illuminate it by exploring the
conflict between two key American players.
... instead of quickly getting down to the nitty gritty of the
diplomatic/military disputes over the Balkans, the production team devotes
nearly the first half of its hour program to an unnecessarily detailed review
of the Vietnam War.
It's one thing to establish the backgrounds and experiences that explain the
current mind-sets of Holbrooke and Smith; it's another to pad the report with
material that's already well known."
"If you've been having trouble sorting out the arguments over American policy
in the Balkans, 'Give War a Chance' should help. Although tonight's somewhat
gruesomely titled edition of 'Frontline' oversimplifies matters by personifying
policy disputes, it illuminates the contrasting mind-sets of political and
military leaders on decisions that continue to perplex the nation."
"... This documentary is neither anti-Army nor pro-war. It's pro-realistic
Producers Michael Kirk and Rick Young and correspondent Peter Boyer set out to
ascertain how President Clinton's administration, composed largely of
Vietnam-era doves, has come to embrace a hawkish Balkans strategy disturbingly
similar to what failed the United States in Southeast Asia: attempting to bomb
the enemy to the negotiating table.
They find their answer in part by profiling the dovetailing careers of Richard
Holbrooke, the diplomat who helped ... secure what in 1995 appeared to be a
Bosnian peace settlement, and Adm. Leighton (Snuffy) Smith, commander of all
NATO forces in southern Europe until he retired prematurely in 1996 after
clashing with Holbrooke.
... Although "Give War a Chance" displays 'Frontline's' usual devotion to
giving both sides their say, it's easy enough to detect which way the
producers' sentiments tilt. It's not just the disdain with which Boyer
pronounces "compassion warriors." It's Smith. ... He comes across as a
no-bull guy who has seen close-up the folly of war waged without clear goals
and recognition of the possible consequences.
"Give War a Chance' is a valuable contribution to the national dialogue on the
country's role as globocop."
" ... 'Give War a Chance'... focuses on two quite different products of the
'60s generation. Each ended up in Vietnam--one as a foreign service officer,
the other as a combatant. As a result of this experience one of them would
come into conflict with the other over the managment of another war decades
later--namely the one in the Balkans...
... The foreign service officer--Richard Holbrooke--would go on to preside over
the Bosnian peace accords in the '90s and to hold the post of U.N. ambassador.
The Vietnam combatant--Leighton "Snuffy" Smith--a war hero, would go on to
become a four-star admiral and commander of NATO forces in Bosnia.
... these are two antagonists perfectly suited to one another, evenly matched,
neither suffering from an excess of humility. "Frontline' has done well to
bring them--and all that they represent--before us."
smith & holbrooke +
uses of military force +
nation building +
lessons of vietnam
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