Friday, April 29, 2005

Sometimes, it simply isn't Vietnam

Since the end of the Vietnam War, anytime the US becomes involved in hostilities, the left and the other usual suspects bring up the spectre of Vietnam. They did this during the Gulf War, the invasion of Afghanastan and once again with the Iraq War. Teddy (The Swimmer) Kennedy was one of those leading the "Iraq is another Vietnam" mantra. Let us not forget the cries from the liberal MSM such as "quagmire". Now Jonah Goldberg explains why these usual whiners, teeth gnashers and defeatsts were wrong once again in his commentary.

The gravitational pull of Vietnam analogies is so powerful in some quarters that it can bend not only light but logic. At The New York Times, especially, there seems to be a hair trigger for such comparisons. It's as if their computers have macros designed to bypass the laborious and go straight to the lugubrious; so that R.W. “Johnny” Apple & Co. needn't even type words such as “quagmire” or phrases such as “echoes of Vietnam” when deadlines loom.

For example, on Day 24 of the war in Afghanistan, Apple wrote, “Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past, the ominous word ‘quagmire' has begun to haunt conversations among government officials and students of foreign policy, both here and abroad. Could Afghanistan become another Vietnam?” Apple pondered. “Echoes of Vietnam are unavoidable.” For some, the echoes stopped suddenly when the Taliban fell a few days later.
The MSM went quiet very quickly on Afghanastan and the Vietnam comparisons. Now Afghanastan has an elected government and is a functioning demacracy. There are still issues to be resolved there, but it is no quagmire or Vietnam, much to the chagrin of the leftists.
In Iraq, meanwhile, it's nothing but insurgency now. But, unlike the Viet Cong, Iraq's insurgency is ideologically diverse. Some are terrorists seeking to impose a pan-Arab theocracy, some are looking to restore the secular bacchanalia of fear they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein, and others are just gangsters. Vietnam was a jungle war that started against the French in the 1950s. Iraq was a desert war that permanently toppled Saddam's regime in a month. The technologies in play are incomparable. The terrain, the political will and ideologies behind the efforts, the cultures — almost every single point of comparison doesn't add up — save the common bravery of America's military. Perhaps most important: Casualty rates are vastly different.

Now, none of this is to say that the Iraq war was right (though I believe it was). The point is that a war can be completely different from Vietnam in almost every major respect and still be wrong — and hard. We've come to think that any military blunder or challenge must be akin to Vietnam (in much the same way some people think that if a law is bad, it must be unconstitutional). The war on terror and the Cold War are profoundly different enterprises, so it should only follow that the conflicts they generate would be different, too.

Of course, there are some similarities between Iraq and Vietnam — including the press' attitude toward both. But such similarities are inherent to all wars and national struggles in a republic such as ours. The Spanish-American War, for instance, would probably be a far more fruitful point of comparison for critics of the Bush administration, but that would require they read up on it first.
The left is still enamoured with the idea that Vietnam was won by a popular insurgency, which could not be further from the facts. The Viet Cong were more or less destroyed as an insurgency during the Tet Offensive. The left is still in denial that Vietnam was a state to state war. The MSM has tried in vain to make the Iraqi insurgency looklike the Viet Cong, to the point that they alluded to the Falujiah battle as the Iraqi Tet Offensive. Ironically, they were in a sense correct. Falujiah reduced this so called insugency into just what it always was, terrorism pure and simple. Of course the liberal MSM still think the Viet Cong won the Tet Offensive. - Sailor

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