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Suicide of an Elite?

- Abstract

There is a tendency in books about the Vietnam war—notably David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest (1969) and now Patrick Lloyd Hatcher’s The Suicide of an Elite (1990)1—to focus on the role of a not very precisely defined “elite” and/or “establishment.” Thus, Hatcher speaks of the miraculous growth of “a small internationalist elite, operating on both major American political parties” which converted a staunchly “unilateralist” state—the America of 1783 to 1939—to the assertive internationalism of the World War II era and beyond, and then allegedly committed suicide in Vietnam. Similarly, according to Godfrey Hodgson in The Colonel: The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson (1990),2 these internationalists were a nonpartisan and “a self-recruiting group,” who “exercised practical influence on the course of American defense and foreign policy.” They included Stimson himself, Dean Acheson, Charles E. Bohlen, George F. Kennan, Robert A. Lovett, and John J. McCloy, whose composite careers were the substance of yet another book, The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas (1986).

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