Recent news set me to remembering.
First, there were the politicians saying we should send troops to the Middle East. It started at 10,000 troops and soon was up to 50,000.
I remembered Vietnam, and wondered if those who were eager to send troops also remembered Vietnam. Some of them had not been born when our involvement in Vietnam began, but still they ought to know.
Our Vietnam involvement began rather modestly in 1959 when the Eisenhower administration sent 760 advisers to Vietnam. In just three years, the number jumped to 11,000 and by 1968, just nine years after the advisers went, there were 568,000 American troops in Vietnam.
We were in a full-scale war in which 58,000 Americans would die. Our Vietnam involvement lasted 15 years. When it was over, we had not prevented the North Vietnamese from taking over the country.
Are those who want to send 10,000 or more troops to the Middle East reasonably sure we will not head down the same path?
The next news was the declaration by ISIS that they would attack Washington, D.C.
This seemed to surprise a lot of people, but it did not surprise me. I remembered the Oklahoma City bombing 20 years ago in which 168 people were killed and more than 600 injured.
The first reports were that the bomber was probably a terrorist from the Middle East. It wasn’t. It was an American army veteran named Timothy McVeigh, with the help of another American, Terry Nichols.
That was a clear indication that American cities were at at risk, but there was not as much response as there has been to the ISIS threat.
It turned out that our cities were safe, but our schools were not. As I pointed out in a recent column, we have a school shooting on the average once every three weeks.
We live in an era of terrorism. ISIS has made it worse, but if ISIS were to disappear, terrorism would still be with us.
Guido H. Stempel III is a distinguished professor emeritus of journalism at Ohio University. Professor Stempel has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin and a master's in journalism from Indiana University. He has been on the Ohio University faculty since 1965 and served as director and graduate chairman of the journalism school, director of the Bush Research Endowment, and director of the Scripps Survey Research Center. He is a columnist for The Athens Messenger and The Highland County Press.