Is Iraq like Vietnam? Wrong question.

By mw | Related entries in Foreign Policy, Iraq, War

Saigon Evacuation

Last week the President formally announced the designated autumn 2007 argument for justifying a continuing US military presence in Iraq.

” … one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens, whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps’ and ‘killing fields’ …”

The Designated Argument: Since the Democrats voted to cut off funding for Vietnam in 1975, and massacres occurred in Cambodia and Vietnam, irresponsible Democrats were to blame and Congress must continue to support the President to avoid the same outcome in Iraq. The argument is usually illustrated in blogs by the iconic photo of the helicopter evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon seen at the top of this post.

This is not a new argument. It has been a staple on right-of-center blogs and comment threads since Republicans realized there was a possibility of losing their congressional majorities in the mid-terms. It was used last year to argue why it was so vitally important for the Republicans to retain majority control in Congress [October 2006 RedState example here]. We have already seen how effective that argument was with the American electorate in the midterms. It will be equally ineffective now. The argument is intellectually bankrupt for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, we will hear it over and over again before, during, and after the Petraeus report next month.

The Wrong Question. The Right Question.

The primary problem with invoking Vietnam as a reason to stay the course in Iraq, is that the argument is a red herring. Arguing whether presumed actions and consequences in 1975 Vietnam are applicable to 2007 Iraq is a fundamentally unresolvable and ultimately unknowable argument. It serves only to distract attention from the real question. The real question is not “Is the 1975 Congressional cutoff of funds for Vietnam an appropriate historical lesson for 2007 Iraq?” The real question is “Can we trust the judgment of this President and this administration to understand/predict the consequences of any military decision or action in Iraq?”

continued at “Divided We Stand United We Fall”


This entry was posted on Friday, August 31st, 2007 and is filed under Foreign Policy, Iraq, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Responses to “Is Iraq like Vietnam? Wrong question.”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    There might be a day in America where we ask whether a future war is another Iraq war, not a Vietnam. The question isn’t whether this war is like another. It’s whether this war is just as injustice and ill-conceived as the last.

    The radical war mongers of Vietnam era said the same things the radical war mongers of this generation are saying, that if we leave “they will win” a we will have to come back and clean up a bigger mess. That turned out to be a totally false assessment. It’s the year 2007, 32 years after that conflict and we are now “trading partners” with our former enemies. We’ve established a trade agreement with them. Now, what about all the prophecies of warmongers saying: “we will have to go back and fight them on their terms” and “if we don’t fight them over there, we will have to fight them over here?” Well! here we are, 32 years later and all of that was total bullshit. Just as the statements by Bush and his neocon war mongering lackeys are spouting today.

    The Bush administration was right when it first said that Iraq is not Vietnam, it’s worse. Every unjust war deserves to be opposed for its unique injustices. This is our unjust war. It’s our responsibility to expose it and depose it just as the Vietnam era of Americans depose their unjust war.

    There’s a reason the vast majority of Americans didn’t depose the Second World war, because we have justice on our side. When justice is under threat America will always willing to sacrifice its blood to stop its demise. But when it is we that are acting out the injustice, it is we that must right the path and return to the promise of America always being there on justices side, even if that means looking in the mirror to find that we, ourselves are the threat to our beloved justice and freedom.

  2. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    What a cop out, MW. Asking yourself what might be the consequences of a premature pullout from Iraq is independent of Bush’s credibility about why we invaded Iraq in the first place.

    There’s a reason the vast majority of Americans didn’t depose the Second World war

    A majority of Americans opposed U.S. involvement in the European theater before Pearl harbor. After the attacks in the pacific, FDR was very articulate and managed to convince the American public that opposition to fascist imperialism on any front was vital to the future liberty, and therefore the United States.

  3. Jeremy Says:

    “A majority of Americans opposed U.S. involvement in the European theater before Pearl harbor. After the attacks in the pacific, FDR was very articulate and managed to convince the American public that opposition to fascist imperialism on any front was vital to the future liberty, and therefore the United States.”

    Or perhaps it may have been because Germany and Italy declared war on America first?

  4. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    So did Saddam Hussein.

  5. Jeremy Says:

    I know you are but what am I?

  6. mw Says:

    “What a cop out, MW. Asking yourself what might be the consequences of a premature pullout from Iraq is independent of Bush’s credibility about why we invaded Iraq in the first place.”

    I am not ignoring comments here. After posting this I jumped in the car and drove north for the weekend to dive for abalone. Getting on-line is a bit problematic here. Bacvk Tuesday.

    That said. I agree that how and when we leave Iraq is indeed independent of why we went in. However, accepting GWB’s analysis of the consequences is not independent of the fact that he has zero credibility on any aspect of this war in/out/force structure/timing consequences/ all of it. If you read the full post on DWSUWF, you’ll note that I do not comment specifically on when and how we should leave. The point is that I do not have any confidence in Bush/Cheney to make that determination. In fact, I would put Congress’s judgement on the right course to take in Iraq before this administration. Not because I think Congress running a war is a good idea. Its not. Its a really bad idea. We just have no choice, until we get a new president. Because we know for an absolute fact that we cannot trust the judgement of this administration to make the right call

    I don’t knwo if this reply is coherent or not – if not, it’ll just have to wait till I get back.

    BTW, I also posted part 2 of this 3 part post at DWSUWF and will x-post here when I return with my limit of abalone.

  7. Jeremy Says:

    “I don’t knwo if this reply is coherent or not – if not, it’ll just have to wait till I get back.”

    lol, wipe your butt. We’ll be alright until your return.

  8. Donklephant » Blog Archive » Is Iraq like Vietnam? Dubious history. Says:

    [...] is the second of three posts examining the question “Is Iraq like Vietnam?” In our last post we concluded this is the wrong question for Americans to ask about our involvement in Iraq now. In [...]

  9. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    I do not comment specifically on when and how we should leave. The point is that I do not have any confidence in Bush/Cheney to make that determination.

    Fine, but this is different than the mere questioning of what will inevitably happen to Iraqi society following a premature pullout. Besides, many pundits had predicted a humanitarian disaster in Iraq well before Bush even addressed the issue in his “autumn 2007″ argument, and considering the sectarian violence that has emerged since the end of Saddam’s regime, such possibility seems self-evident. Therefore I would say Bush’s credibility on predicting consequences is irrelevant here; however, his credibility on carrying out tasks certainly is in play – because he is a moron.

    The real questions should be as follows: 1) what is the likelyhood of a humanitarian disaster in the wake of a pre-mature pullout? (regardless of what Bush or Cheney think) 2) If such a disaster is likely, how will that affect long-term American national security (i.e. will global terror-supporting power structure emerge from the chaos?) 3) is it important to us, or do we have a humanitarian obligation to prevent a wide-scale humanitarian disaster in Iraq for the sake of innocent Iraqis.

  10. mw Says:

    “The real questions should be as follows: 1) what is the likelyhood of a humanitarian disaster in the wake of a pre-mature pullout? (regardless of what Bush or Cheney think) 2) If such a disaster is likely, how will that affect long-term American national security (i.e. will global terror-supporting power structure emerge from the chaos?) 3) is it important to us, or do we have a humanitarian obligation to prevent a wide-scale humanitarian disaster in Iraq for the sake of innocent Iraqis.” – J

    OK. I’ll play. My assessment in reverse order:

    “3″ – Yes – we have a humanitarian obligation and strategic imperative to minimize the damage done by our screw-ups in Iraq as we leave Iraq. However, that objective can be accomplished while setting a streic goal that we are leaving. The point of my post was that we cannot trust that this administration is competent to find or execute that path, so until we have a new president, we have no choice but to trust our elected representatives in Congress. Not optimal, not good. Just no choice.

    “2″ – Whether a disaster is “likely” is not known. If a bipartisan solution comes out of Congress, it will be shaped by Senators like Biden, Hagel, Warner, and Webb none of whom are talking about precipitous withdrawal, all of whom understand the stakes, all of whom are looking to forge a responsible path out that gives us the best chance of avoiding a humanitarian disaster. It is all relative of course, when we have a situation that a humanitarian disaster continues every single day in Iraq, despite our commitment to the region. There is no guarantee that a disaster can be avoided if we leave. There is no guarantee that a disaster can be avoided if we stay.

    “1″ – It is ultimately unknowable with any certainty the likelihood of a humanitarian disaster in Iraq if when and how we leave. It is very possible that it will happen, it is also possible that it will not. The operative word in your formulation is “premature”. Who determines what is “premature”? The President? Congress? The next President? Ultimately, we have a representative democracy, and must put our confidence in elected leaders to formulate an exit strategy. The president refuses to do so. That leaves Congress. I am good with that.

  11. Donklephant » Blog Archive » Is Iraq like Vietnam? Lessons learned. Says:

    [...] for the Vietnamese and Cambodian people, and we should now apply that lesson to Iraq. In the first post of this series we conclude it is the wrong question to ask about future steps in Iraq. The second [...]

  12. George Maness Says:

    The insurrectionists fighting us and the government we are trying to establish in Iraq have been fighting this war for nearly 900 years—they are not going to stop now. The Christian crusades are not ancient history, they are the topic of everyday conversation in coffee houses all over the middle east. In their published writings and videos, the leaders of all of the militant Islamic factions exhort their followers to continue resisting the Crusaders.

    In the eyes of the militants, we are trying to force them to live in an alien, un-godly way. They will fight against this forever. Whether we leave next summer or half a century from now, the government we leave behind will fall and all the “collaborators” will have to leave or die.

    It is sad and horrific, but there will be a bloodbath after we leave. A good argument could be made for leaving sooner rather than later because the government we leave behind will be weak and thus the conflict following will be shorter and less bloody.

  13. Sampson Elly Says:

    Not truily alike.

    Saigon-governed South Vietnam was 9nitially invaded by the regular troops of the Stalinist North Vietnam regime–aided by their proxy in the ?South, the so-called National Liberation Front. That was the pretended uprisin gof the people of the South, which never occurred. To the contrary more than a million refugees fled from Hanoi’s grip to the South.

    Saigon finally fell to a massive invasion by regular North Vietnamese troops, artillery, and tanks. No poppular uprising could have felled it–and none occurred.

    Iraq? No formal regular troops mounted an invasion. No likely invader now, not even Iran.

    Pity, thopugh, that Iraq’s government is still nowhere as effective as was Saigon in 1975.

    We must, tjherefore, wait and hope — and presumably pray.

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