Monday, March 13, 2006

Flogging the Iraq=Vietnam meme... again.

Gathered together to give a panel discussion on “Vietnam and the Presidency” a group of former high-ranking government officials just couldn’t help themselves. In their very diplomatic speech, they contend that Iraq is just Vietnam without the triple-canopy tree cover. Former Kennedy advisor Theodore Sorenson, LBJ White House staff member Jack Valenti, and former Secretaries of State Kissinger and Alexander Haig were to discuss the history of Vietnam in the context of the actions and decisions of the Presidents who were in office during that war. Unfortunately, they just can’t seem to keep themselves on topic.

The banner on their dais read "Vietnam and the Presidency" -- ostensibly, the subject of a high-powered conference that brought historians and former policymakers to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library for two days ending Saturday.

But, as the speakers talked about anti-American insurgents and faulty U.S. intelligence and the search for an honorable way out in Southeast Asia, nearly all found bitter parallels to the current conflict in Iraq.

"It appears to me we haven't learned very much," said Alexander M. Haig Jr., Kissinger's assistant in the Nixon White House and secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan.

I’ve been told by some very smart folks that when the only tool you have is a hammer, the world starts to look like a nail. Steeped and stuck in Vietnam as this crowd apparently is, it is little wonder that every conflict will look just like that war. The critical factor is right there in the 2nd paragraph I’ve quoted above. When the end-all and be-all of your involvement in anything is to search for a way out - honorable or not - then you’re involved for the wrong reason. Scarred by Vietnam, that’s all this group was thinking about from the moment we committed troops to something other than handing out water bottles and blankets in some natural disaster. “What’s our exit strategy?”, is the only question of importance to people like this. Victory is immaterial because they simply cannot bring themselves to believe that any such thing is possible anytime, anywhere. That is the critical difference between these people and our enemies. The enemy is still quite convinced he can succeed.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s another quote from the story:

"You cannot win against an insurgency that springs from the population," said Jack Valenti, former special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. "There's never been an insurgency that doesn't prevail against a mighty power..." [Link]

Tell that to the Polish citizens who rose up against the Russians in 1830. The November Uprising was supported by a pretty good chunk of Polish society. They got crushed, folks. That’s just 1 example I was able to call immediately to mind. Do you think that some studied research into the matter might come up with others? Vietnam was the first war that was lost as a result of the winning side’s populace becoming convinced they were simply losing and coming to that conclusion in real time. If there’s any parallel to the Vietnam War, then it’s the relentless advocacy journalism pounding out the “we’re losing and we’ve gotta get out of here” drumbeat being pushed by the MSM.