Military and civilian language / Goodbye, Lou Reed
McMaster's own prose is lucid and easy to read, but he's writing history based on extensive archival research about the planning of a war, so his prose is naturally dotted with the jargon of its subject: ECXOM, SEACOORD, CINCPAC, OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense), and so on.
To my surprise, I adjusted easily to the alphabet soup. Not so to obfuscation such as:
"Taylor had to contrive an assessment of the South Vietnamese government that was more optimistic than the one contained in his report two days earlier. The delay ostensibly permitted `thickening the fabric of the Khanh government in the next two months,' a task that Taylor had described as virtually impossible."
"Bundy ... expressed hope that the `pretty high noise level' might threaten North Vietnam with the possibility of `systematic military action' in the future."Thickening the fabric? What the hell does that mean? What does it say that shoring up or strengthening does not? Why noise level rather than noise? And is it mere coincidence that such wordiness and pomposity crops up when leaders are deliberately deceiving the public. (The civilian leaders and Taylor were seeking to postpone action on Vietnam until after Lyndon Johnson could be reelected president in 1964.)
The answer doesn't matter, of course, because obfuscation and wordiness have won. Noise has lost out to noise level, just as no news or sports reporter or jabbering lawyer or business person will write skill when skill level sounds so much more impressive.
Here's the first Lou Reed song I became aware of in the version I heard first.
© Peter Rozovsky 2013