The War: One-Way Traffic on a Two-Way Street

"Escalation" is one of those windy words that are foisted on the public by military bureaucrats, interminably parroted by the press and kept in the vernacular long after losing any real meaning. Though the word—let alone its antonym, de-escalation—appears in neither Webster's Second nor the Oxford English dictionary, it has become synonymous with the U.S. commitment to Viet Nam. More specifically, it has become a pejorative term encompassing any American increase in the level of fighting.

Escalation has thus become a one-way word on what is clearly a two-way street. For the...

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