All the talk I hear in America lately about the necessity of naming a virus for Asian origins — to play racist blame games instead of saying COVID-19 or even 2020 pandemic (both obviously superior choices) — has started to remind me of the 1960s CIA “training” for Vietnam with Kipling’s book “Kim” and how they got it and another of his works completely wrong:
Americans back home became impatient for results in Vietnam, proponents of the war were always quoting—or, rather, misquoting—a little-known poem of Kipling’s (just four lines, written as a chapter heading for “The Naulahka”), saying that “you cannot hurry the East.” The phrase, Benfey writes, “wormed its way into the very highest levels of decision-making.” But what the poem actually says is that you cannot “hustle” the East, and even then, Benfey demonstrates, the word had connotations of cheating and deception. You come away from his book thinking that it might be a good idea to stop your ears whenever someone in authority starts invoking Kipling, unless it’s to quote from his “Epitaphs of the War”
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
The doctor who was principle architect of aggressive and successful South Korean response to COVID-19 put it like this, when reviewing the current US and UK approach to a pandemic:
…refusal to implement mass testing for the coronavirus in the United States will have “global repercussions” […] “The United States is very late to this,” he said. “And the president and the officials working on it seem to think they aren’t late. This has both national and global repercussions […] We in Korea were thinking, ‘Are these people in their right mind?'”
See also the new Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) timeline of South Korea’s response.