On BookTV today, they had a panel of book reviewers at Yale. David Bromwich and Charles McGrath appeared to be the most informed and interesting of the group (Francine Prose, Daniel Mendelsohn, and Judith Shulevitz). Although McGrath seemed to be a tired but pragmatic New Yorker, his argumentation was by far the clearest. Seated nicely against this intellectual backdrop was Bromwich, whose idiosyncratic phrasing highlighted how much he lived in his head. But, Bromwich certainly dropped some knowledge, and it is his list of reviewers to read that I'm going to follow:
  1. Pauline Kael
  2. John Updike
  3. George Orwell
  4. Randall Jarrell

The Day of Critique continues with a reading of Senator Gravel's Pentagon Papers . This post mortem examination of a failed policy yielded many lessons, but most importantly:

  1. Historical and Current Context - This information is absolutely necessary to the maintenance of beneficial international relations. We had poor to no intelligence about Viet Nam until the early 60's, well after we had committed ourselves.
  2. Goals - Public goals which are clearly ranked guide our decision-makers. The policy of containment was valued higher than the policy of fostering national determinism and open societies.
  3. Periodic Critical Evaluation - If we monitor our policies, we can quickly catch errors in judgment, and learn from our mistakes. If we ignore our policies' performance, we risk compounding multiple failures into an explosive situation. The detiorating situation in Viet Nam was answered by varying tactics, not by evaluating the causes of deterioration.

(I didn't read every page that Daniel Ellsberg stole, just the summaries of what is publicly available; this was 30 years ago, so it should be FOIA declassified, but the only reference I find is to the hardbound copies in LBJ's libary).