Reliving Vietnam.

August 24th, 2007

This will be brief, since many many others have weighed in on President Bush’s analogy comparing a potential U.S. pullout from Iraq to the disastrous conclusion of the Vietnam War.

Mr. Bush’s argument suffers in several ways:

  1. He himself is introducing the dreaded comparison of Iraq to Vietnam — the very comparison that has been so strongly rejected by supporters of his Iraq policy. The comparison carries big political risks, not only because it explicitly links Iraq to Vietnam, but more specifically because it removes the ability of Bush’s supporters to claim that there is no apt comparison between them.
  2. In historical terms, the comparison is probably specious. For all of its immense political and ideological complexities, the Vietnam of the 1960s and 1970s was largely homogenous in terms of race, language, and religion. It was also not the crossroads of fighting between partisans of two powerful neighboring countries. The contrast between that setting and Iraq’s today hardly needs belaboring.
  3. Bush is essentially trying to play the role of Nixon here, acting the part of the savvy foreign-policy maker trying to make the best of a bad hand dealt to him by others. But when comparing Iraq to Vietnam, Mr. Bush has played the roles of JFK, LBJ, and Nixon: he got us in, he escalated the thing, and then he protracted the thing. Whether you do now or ever did support the policy, it remains incontrovertible that this is Bush’s baby, through and through. So if we’ve come to the pass where a U.S. withdrawal opens the door on disaster for Iraqis . . . whose fault is that?
  4. Separately from all of this, Mr. Bush’s assertion that a “free Iraq” is within reach does not comport with the realities on the ground in Iraq as generally understood.

I’m surprised that Bush would make the comparison with Vietnam. It may be apt, but the comparison doesn’t do him any favors.

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Addendum:  Jim Macdonald of Making Light has more links and analysis on why Bush’s analogy is bogus.

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