November 30, 2005

Worse Than Vietnam (Reprisal)

Back in August 2003, I worried about the long term consequences of Bush's war of choice. Thinking about what I knew about Vietnam, it seemed likely that Bush's Iraq adventure could be worse than Vietnam, despite the fact that we had only been there for a few months. After all, when we withdrew from Vietnam, the consequences on the United States and much of the world was pretty minor. The threat of Communism winning the day because we allowed a domino to fall didn't occur. And even though things were pretty awful in Southeast Asia after we withdrew, the world didn't fall apart and the only real problem for the US was the "Vietnam Syndrome" where the right wing railed against the left for the shame of "losing" Vietnam because we didn't let the military finish the job and how awful it was that America was more reluctant to go to war after Vietnam.

Here was what I wrote in August 2003:

It's worse than Vietnam because it doesn't look like we can leave without creating a worse outcome....Vietnam had a functioning opposition and when the US finally left, they were able to pickup the pieces and carry on. Besides a loss of face, we in the US barely noticed that things had changed. Today I cannot find any reliable sources that believes we can leave Iraq without severe consequences to the rest of the world including the US.

This week Martin Van Creveld, one of the world's foremost military history professors, wrote that, yes, withdrawing from Iraq will be much worse than Vietnam.

What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.

Confronted by a demoralized army on the battlefield and by growing opposition at home, in 1969 the Nixon administration started withdrawing most of its troops in order to facilitate what it called the "Vietnamization" of the country. The rest of America's forces were pulled out after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a "peace settlement" with Hanoi. As the troops withdrew, they left most of their equipment to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam which just two years later, after the fall of Saigon, lost all of it to the communists.

Clearly this is not a pleasant model to follow, but no other alternative appears in sight.

Whereas North Vietnam at least had a government with which it was possible to arrange a cease-fire, in Iraq the opponent consists of shadowy groups of terrorists with no central organization or command authority. And whereas in the early 1970s equipment was still relatively plentiful, today's armed forces are the products of a technology-driven revolution in military affairs. Whether that revolution has contributed to anything besides America's national debt is open to debate. What is beyond question, though, is that the new weapons are so few and so expensive that even the world's largest and richest power can afford only to field a relative handful of them.

Therefore, simply abandoning equipment or handing it over to the Iraqis, as was done in Vietnam, is simply not an option. And even if it were, the new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was. For all intents and purposes, Washington might just as well hand over its weapons directly to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Clearly, then, the thing to do is to forget about face-saving and conduct a classic withdrawal.

And worse yet, he says that even though we might want to withdraw completely, we will not be able to do so. There is too much at stake now that cannot will not allow us to just pick up our marbles and go home. Americans will be trapped in the Bush flytrap for decades to come even if we withdraw most of our troops from Iraq.

I must concur with Professor van Creveld when he says:

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

Let's continue to do our part to helping them have their time to mull over their sins. Write letters to the editor. And let your representatives know that you expect them to hold President Bush and his administation accountable for the folly of a war they started.

Posted by Mary at November 30, 2005 11:23 PM | Iraq | Technorati links |

Go sign the petition on Senator Reid's website

Posted by: sam at December 1, 2005 01:55 PM