Saturday, May 19, 2007

Iraq Isn't Like Vietnam -- Except When It Is -

Iraq Isn't Like Vietnam -- Except When It Is - "That leads us to another important similarity. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior officials have warned that defeat in Iraq would have a catastrophic impact on U.S. credibility. Wittingly or not, they are echoing the assumption from LBJ's 'best and brightest' and Nixon's national security team that a quick exit from Vietnam would undermine the United States' standing abroad -- turning a superpower, as Nixon put it, into 'a pitiful, helpless giant.' In fact, withdrawal did no such thing. What truly hurt America's international reputation on Nixon's and Kissinger's watch (Watergate aside) was the continuation of the conflict for four futile years, which encouraged major powers to conclude that the United States couldn't let go of a failed war. In fact, U.S. credibility was enhanced by ending a war that it could not win -- a war that was costing the country vital resources that it could better use elsewhere."


"Bush's current hope is that history will vindicate him, even if 2008 may not. If he uses LBJ and Nixon as his measuring sticks, however, he will find that history is far more likely to condemn him -- not just for manufacturing reasons to fight an unsuccessful war, and not just for bucking public opinion, but also for failing to think seriously about the past. "Nations and governments have never learned anything from history," Hegel said. Historians like to think that's not true, but there are times when it's hard to believe otherwise."