The utterances of George W. Bush overnight invoking the memories of America’s inevitable departure from the Vietnam theatre in 1975, to my mind, amount to clear a admission for the first time that his misanthropic adventure into Iraq is an abject failure.
For a variety of reasons, and with hindsight, we now know that this expeditionary flight of neo-con fantasy was always doomed to fail. Rumsfeld’s misguided belief that small. hi-tech forces engaged in a modern version of blitzkrieg would succeed, laid the ground work. A complete lack of understanding of the religious sectarianism and ethnic hatreds bottled up for years under Hussein and most importantly, an arrogant self-belief that America going anywhere and spreading her own version of democracy was a done deal, have all contributed to the stalemated quagmire Iraq has become today.
When Bush invoked Vietnam, and America’s hasty departure, he conveniently did not admit that from a political perspective, America could not have stayed even if the social and political will existed to support her. Vietnam at the end was a classic case of ten little men beating one big man, and very nearly to a pulp. Vietnam became what Iraq is today. An insurgent action, bolstered by the forces of Communist China, North Vietnam and homegrown South East Asian guerilla elements. Vietnam would never have been ‘won’ no matter how long America had stayed because America failed to understand the culture, the ethnicities and the politics of the war they’d waded into. Just as with Iraq.
America staying in Vietnam would never have countered the Khmer Rouge, Viet Minh nor the Pathet Lao because she didn’t understand their ethos, nor their political drive. Dropping iron bombs by the ton from 30,000 feet is no substitute for real detente, just as invading a sovereign nation on the basis of misguided ideology is not spreading democracy. Both are prime examples of arrogance.
The trouble with Bush invoking the ghosts of failure in Vietnam is that time, to a great extent, heals all wounds in a political sense. The generations he preaches to today don’t remember Vietnam. That was 32 years in the past and the killing ended a long time ago. The world trades with the amalgamated Vietnam today, in fact, she is one of the emerging industrial entities of South East Asia. Cambodia and Laos haven’t recovered from the Vietnam era and the immediate aftermath quite as well. Still, at least they have come out of the ‘Killing Fields’ which Bush claims a continued American presence in S.E.Asia would have avoided and moved forward. Had America persisted in bombing and denuding the jungles, it’s highly likely that neither nation would exist today.
The world knows Vietnam was a failure. A war which could never have been ‘won’. Claiming that America must stay in Iraq because she couldn’t stay in Vietnam is reverse logic at best. Blatant untruth at worst. Because she failed in Vietnam, America should recover her glory by staying the course in Iraq, come what may, despite the escalating death toll among American military personnel? Utter lunacy and very poor treatment of an electorate which deserves more respect. Comparing Iraq and Vietnam at this late stage is puerile. Vietnam cost America almost 60,000 dead, 350,000 casualities and untold social impacts. It cost the host nation far, far more in civilian casualities. One wonders if Bush even considered these aspects before drawing the comparison. More than likely not.
Iraq for George W. Bush has become a matter of personal pride. He simply doesn’t want to, or more likely cannot accept, that the failure is entirely his.