Monday, August 27, 2007
Iraq As Vietnam...Or Vice Versa
'There is nothing new under the sun'...Ecclesiastes
President Bush recently outraged the Left with a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City that compared the situation in Iraq with the one in Vietnam.
Essentially, the president said that America’s gravest mistakes in Iraq are in the past and that the counter-insurgency strategy devised by General Petraeus is working well, but that a major question remains: "Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they’re gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground?"
By `elected leaders' it was apparent President Bush mostly meant `Democrats'.
Is he right? Oddly enough, only in domestic political terms. Even stranger, when you expand the context beyond mere domestic politics, there are similarities with Vietnam with enough mud to slime both the Administration and its opponents.
In an election year, with a war with Islamic fascism looming in spite of widespread denial, the last thing Democrats want to hear is the `V' word.They much prefer trying to sell the electorate a Clintonesque retreat from history.
For the most part, the Democrats have been absolutely obsessed with trying to force a military retreat from Iraq, fueled in no small part by a personal hatred of the President and a lust for a return to power that dates to the `stolen' election of 2000. In this they were aided by the somewhat murky justification for invading Iraq in the first place and the Bush Administration's serious errors in managing the war.
This obsession goes as far as the leaking of classified information by members of Congress to the partisan press, the vilification of our troops, comments and speeches that can only be described as aid and comfort to our enemies and even the suspension of an entire defense spending bill that torpedoed a pay raise for the military and vitally needed equipment by Senate majority Leader Harry Reid out of sheer malice when he found out that he lacked the votes to attach a deadline for withdrawal to it.
This kind of conduct reeks of the Left's behavior during Vietnam.
It's a common misnomer that the North Vietnamese `won' the war in Vietnam and that it was a military defeat for the US when in fact the victory that North Vietnam won was right here in the US, on the home front.
North Vietnam's greatest achievement - with the willing help of a number of Americans - was the propaganda victory that painted America as imperialist and its troops as `baby killers' while cheerfully ignoring the terrorist barbarism and aggression of the Communist NVA and the Viet Cong. They were able to successfully paint the conflict as unwinnable, as a civil war, and a `quagmire'.
The North Vietnamese and their helpers here in the US were able to this so well that they literally saved the regime from defeat.
As General Giap and others have admitted, the NVA suffered a catastrophic defeat when they decided to face US firepower head on in the 1968 Tet offensive. After that massive debacle, there was hardly anything left on the ground to oppose US and allied forces from invading the North and ending the war...except the Left and the media here at home, and a Democrat president who still hoped to be nominated by his party for re-election by appeasing them. Lyndon Johnson's unilateral ceasefire and halt to the bombing of the North gave the Viet Cong and the NVA the breathing space they desperately needed to regroup, replace their losses and rearm.
But the real victory for the communists came later. One major difference between Vietnam and Iraq is that then, the Left at least waited until our troops were safely home before the final betrayal.
In 1972, Richard Nixon was re-elected by a landslide against an anti-war Democrat, George McGovern on a platform of ending the war honorably without a US defeat, and in fact he and Henry Kissinger almost achieved it.
The 1973 Paris Peace Accords called for North Vietnam to withdraw all its forces from Laos and Cambodia, including its Khmer Rouge allies and to not overthrow the Saigon government. In addition, in order to get South Vietnam's Theiu and Cambodia's Lon Nol to sign the accords, the US promised them military aid and air support in the event of a communist invasion.
Those American pledges were shamelessly abandoned by the Democrats in Congress who came to power in the wake of Watergate...a number of whom are still in Washington today. They refused to honor a treaty signed by the United States Government and fund or authorize the promised US military aid, leaving the South Vietnamese and the Cambodians defenseless against the communist invasions by the NVA and the Khmer Rouge in 1975.
Millions died or were condemned to the slavery of communist gulags as a result.
Invoking Vietnam reminds people of this shameful legacy, and is the reason the Left went bananas. Nevertheless, the memory of Vietnam has been instrumental in getting most of the Democrat leadership to hedge their positions on Iraq as the news gets better while still catering to the Angry Left of their party, with Senator Clinton perhaps the most egregious practicioner of this reptilian sidewinding.
President Bush simply had the bad taste to bring up this historical comparision right out in the open. Even if there were some things he left out.
Now, I wouldn't expect the president to mention it, but if we're talking about similarities between Iraq and Vietnam, there are a couple of others that come to my mind.
Neither war was properly declared by Congress, and the reasons for sending our troops in were never adequately and clearly explained to the American people.Like Iraq, Vietnam was a proxy war, with more at stake than was apparent at first.
Then as now, we had a `bidness' president in office who embraced tactics designed to support a defensive, non-winning holding strategy with restrictive rules of engagement and untouched sanctuaries next door from which our enemies could attack our troops and the civilian population at will. Billions of US dollars were spent in both countries on military bases, infrastructure and aid and a good part of it was stolen outright, with neither administration really all that bothered about it.
In both cases, the US allowed a corrupt and ineffective native government to come to power, though in fairness to Lyndon Johnson, at least Diem and Ky weren't cozying up with our enemies. And in both cases, these policies allowed the support of the American people for the war to erode..and justifiably so, since Americans like victory and have an instinctive understanding that sitting on defense and allowing the enemy to hit you is a route to defeat.
If, as President Bush says, our worst mistakes in Iraq are behind us and our new military strategy is working, it's to be hoped that he has some of the other parallels with Vietnam in mind as well as the ones he mentioned.