Monday, June 20, 2005

The Vietnamization of the Iraq War

“The White House insists that all is going swimmingly in Iraq,” according to the editorial page editor of a local paper.

No one in the White House ever has made such a claim.

Polls show “popular disgust at the continued killings of civilians” in Iraq, and “an inability to suppress the insurgency in Iraq is finally beginning to disturb members of the U.S. Congress.”

The word “finally” suggests the editorial writer had been disgusted long before congress tardily came to its senses. But disgust is a double edged sword: It moves some people to increase their resolve, especially when faced by the horrific crimes against humanity committed by what the writer is pleased to call "the insurgency." Others lose courage. The “insurgents," many of them Saudis, are surging into Iraq from outside the country. The border between Iraq and Syria is particularly porous.

“Growing talk” among supporters of the president – Connecticut Rep. John Larson is not one of them -- that Bush needs “an exit strategy” had induced the president to plan “a more aggressive defense of his conduct of the war in the coming weeks.

“But what can he possibly say? There will likely be no fundamental change in the Bush strategy of training Iraqi security forces and waiting for them to get control. And that may not happen soon. Do we really want to wait?”

Sen. John McCain, much praised by Connecticut's liberal press, has said that the troops should remain in Iraq for at least two years.

The editor does not disclose in this editorial what “fundamental change in the Bush strategy” would assure success in the Middle East, nor is it clear that anything the president may say will unsettle the editor's hardcore opinions.

A “non-binding resolution” – oxymoron alert! – “calling on President Bush to start bringing home troops by Oct. 1, 2006” has been characterized by one of its sponsors as a “target date,” not a withdrawal date, the editorial writer advises, though the editor himself later refers to the “target date” as “the October deadline.” Among newspaper folk, deadlines are not target dates.

The editorial writer nearly pins a medal of valor on the chest of Connecticut Rep. John Larson for having called for a withdrawal date a year ago.

“Only Larson, among our congressmen, voted yes” on the measure.

“But now Republican (emphasis original) members of Congress are growing squeamish at the prospect of having to justify their support for a war that was based on false premises and false information; has not helped American interests in the Middle East, despite assurances that it would; and seemingly will not end.

“Indeed, it is not even clear that Iraq is more stable with U.S. troops there. It might stabilize with our withdrawal.

“But the bottom line, the most serious consideration, is the U.S. soldier. Once again, his life is being put on the line for a war without a solid reason, strategy. Or chance of decisive victory… Once more, he may have to die for a mistake. Think of that soldier, or his parents, and say we should stay in Iraq ‘as long as it takes.’”

Justifying support for a war that can be won is not rocket science. If there is a possibility of winning, surely we do not want to abandon the soldiers in the field – not to mention the honored dead who have shed their blood in the war or their parents – to a losing strategy.

The “once again” mentioned in the editorial points backwards to Vietnam, and this editorial may be taken as the beginning of the Vietnamization of the Iraq war in Connecticut.

The editorial writer’s analogy, however, does not compute, however uplifted Larson and others who oppose U.S. military intervention in the Middle East – Sen. Joseph Lieberman is not a member of this chorus -- may be by the comparison.

There were three reasons why the United States did not win the war in Vietnam: Its military could not destroy the source of supplies of the Vietcong, which originated in China; its military, for complex reasons, could not capture and hold territory; and political support on the home front collapsed under a barrage of negative publicity, some of it justified. Jane Fonda and the Vietcong won the propaganda war in the United States.

One of the countries supplying the so-called Iraqi "insurgents" – They are really "outsurgents" -- with arms and material is Syria, a country that lately has been forced to withdraw from Lebanon. Some people, Larson and the editorial writer not among them, think the Bush strategy in the Middle East had something to do with the liberation of Lebanon. Afghanistan is no longer the threat it was before American troops and Afghan fighters liberated it from Osama bin Ladin and the virulent form of Wahibism practiced by the chief architect of the destruction of World Trade Center in New York.

It is true that the support for the Iraq war among some members of congress was based in part on false premises and false information. Whether congressmen may be able to justify the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the continuing democratization of Iraq is an altogether different question. Many justifiable wars – including World War II and the Civil War -- initially were prosecuted on questionable premises. No one any longer questions whether either war advanced the interests of the United States.

Has American military intervention in the Middle East “helped American interests?” Would a diplomatic intervention, after 9-11, have been more helpful to American interests?

Different interested parties will answer this question differently. The president of Afghanistan and the women of that country, no longer chattels, have good reason to be hopeful at the changes brought about by American military intervention in their country, whatever the precipitating cause of the intervention. The French and German presidents obviously feel differently –as do Larson and most editorial page editors in Connecticut.

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