The Warriors and the War

In the spring of 1962, the great Irish wit John F. Kennedy journeyed to New Haven to accept an honorary degree. He was in good form. "I now feel that I have the best of both worlds," he told the graduating class. "A Harvard education and a Yale degree." With the audience crawling into the palm of his hand, the President went on to describe his world view and to summon the young men to a life of service along the nation's new frontier. One new graduate in the front row, answering the call preemptively, reached across the back of his chair and shook hands with a friend in the second row, sealing their pact to join the Peace Corps. The atavistic, oxymoronic Peace Corps. Pure Kennedy, the Ivy League imperialist.

In that same spring, the President spoke to another graduating class, this one at the United States Military Academy at West Point. For this audience, he put aside the suave circumlocutions that had served him well in New Haven, Cambridge, Georgetown, and other capitals of the New Class. For, as he looked out over the serried ranks of freshly-minted second lieutenants, he did not see just another class of campaign aides and briefcase toters. No, these men would bear any burden and fight any foe. He saw something special, and to them he vouchsafed his ideas on how to fight a new kind of war. As he saw it, this new war would involve not just military convention, but diplomacy, maneuver, counterinsurgency—nation...

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