Skip to comments.Iraq is not Vietnam, not by any stretch
Posted on 08/21/2005 10:54:41 PM PDT by naturalman1975
The American left may like to reprise Vietnam, but they're badly wrong, writes Michael Gawenda.
THE New York Times columnist Frank Rich is the voice of America's late middle-aged baby boomers for whom opposition to the Vietnam War became the prism through which they would subsequently judge US foreign policy.
Rich, who was once the most feared theatre critic in America when he was initially on the Times, able to close a Broadway show with a lukewarm review, is now back at the paper writing a weekly column that has become a rallying call for opponents of the war in Iraq and the subject of vitriol from the war's supporters.
More than any other liberal columnist - Maureen Dowd, for instance, or Paul Krugman - Rich, who both opponents and supporters agree is a terrific writer with a withering wit and a talent for wounding sarcasm, challenges and ridicules the triumphalism of the neo-conservative columnists and their cable television fellow travellers who have been a remarkably successful cheer squad for the Bush Administration.
Last week, Rich declared the war in Iraq lost and over, based on a comparison of support for George Bush's handling of the Iraq war - 44 per cent - and Lyndon Johnson's in 1968 - 32 per cent. He even recalled Johnson tearfully declaring on television that he would not be a candidate for the presidential election that year.
"No president can stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him," he wrote.
Rich then goes on to catalogue all the standard anti-war stuff - the lies about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, the lies about the connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq, the neo-con determination to invade Iraq long before September 11, the botched occupation.
But it is Rich's use of the debacle of Vietnam to declare the Iraq war lost that resonates most powerfully with both the middle-aged opponents of the war and its supporters.
Vietnam was a defining war, not just for those who opposed it and declared victory when the last US chopper lifted off the roof of the US embassy just ahead of the arrival in Saigon of the victorious North Vietnamese army.
For the budding neo-conservatives, some of whom had initially been opposed to the intervention in Vietnam, and who would become a major intellectual influence during the Reagan presidency and later, of course, in the Bush Administration, Vietnam and, in particular, the nature of the anti-war movement, was their great awakening.
The Vietnam War was lost because America had lost confidence in itself, because the '60s cultural revolution, of which the anti-war movement was a part, had undermined American institutions and shared values.
For them, the lesson of Vietnam was not that the war was a mistake based on a fatal misreading and misunderstanding of Vietnamese nationalism and the historic antipathy between Vietnam and China that meant the war was always going to become a bloody aimless quagmire. Instead, never again meant that never again should the US fight a war that it was not prepared to see through to victory and that America's security depended on a confident and assertive, militarily unassailable, America.
All this explains why the claim that Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam resonates so powerfully with the ageing baby boomer left who despise Bush and his neo-conservative supporters, many of whom were once their comrades.
And to be confronted with the accusation that far from fulfilling their pledge of never again, the mistakes of Vietnam, at their urging, are being repeated in Iraq, enrages the intellectual architects of the Bush doctrine of a confident and engaged and dominant America spreading democracy and freedom, if necessary, by armed force.
In the wake of the reality as opposed to the fantasy of regime change in Iraq, the ascendancy of the neo-conservatives and their faith in American power and American exceptionalism that in part, came from their reaction to Vietnam, is over.
But Iraq is not Vietnam and the world of 2005 is nothing like the world of 1968. There are no lessons from Vietnam that can be applied to Iraq.
And the Cold War, which was the context and the pretext for the American intervention in Vietnam shares no similarities with the war on terror or the struggle against extremism or whatever you want to call it. None at all. It's time all those old baby boomers for whom the Vietnam War and those halcyon days of protest and love, was the most intense time of their lives, got on with planning their retirements.
Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq last year, camped outside the Bush ranch in Texas demanding to see Bush so she can demand that he withdraw all American troops from Iraq, has become a lightning rod for the US anti-war movement.
She has the sympathy, if not the support, of most Americans, but there is no mass anti-war movement in America. Most people do not support Cindy Sheehan's demand for an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq.
Even most opponents of the war, even Frank Rich, do not think that the US should simply get out of Iraq and leave Iraqis to deal with a murderous Baathist insurgency and imported fascist terrorists. This is not Vietnam.
Michael Moore is a discredited and marginalised figure, having had his 15 minutes of fame when Bush haters, during the presidential election campaign, hailed Fahrenheit 9/11 as a master work when they must have known it was little more than crude - if powerful - propaganda.
Unlike Vietnam, there are no Tom Haydens to lead campus revolts against the Iraq war and the "corrupt system" that produced it. There haven't been - and there won't be - collections in America or Australia for the Baathists and terrorists, as there were for the Vietcong during the Vietnam War. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is not Ho Chi Minh. Mick Jagger has written and recorded an anti-war song called Sweet Neo Con. Having read the lyrics, it seems unlikely to become the anti-war movement's anthem.
It is so bad that it might even encourage some of the old veterans of the anti-Vietnam War movement after they hear it, to stop banging on about the lessons of Vietnam. If that happens, Mick Jagger will deserve our thanks.
Michael Gawenda is United States correspondent.
The left will be just as wrong about Bush and this war as they were about Reagan and the Soviet Union during the cold war. The same thing all over again. They marched, they threw fits, they called Reagan an idiot warmonger, etc, etc. blah blah. Ive seen it all before.
Reagan changed the map of the world for the better.
And so is Bush. And this time we have a great record of all their idiocy archived on the internet to shove back down their throats and show again just how wrong they were.
Just as with Reagan, it takes time. But history will prove Bush was the right man at the right time.
The only thing that is like Vietnam is the same liberal idiocy getting voice through the sympathetic MSM. Only this time, there is the internet and talk radio and at least one network that actually shows both sides. That alone has changed who wins elections in America.
Another differance between Vietnam and Iraq: the enemy did not kill thousands of Americans in their own land. This is like the war against Japan only the enemy is too weak and cowardly to fight in the open!
Fantastic post ping
An exellent article......This is not another Viet Nam no matter how much the liberals and America/Bush haters want it to be. I can't stop everyone but I can make sure that anyone who talks that wishful horse poop around me learns different.
I remember the Fulbright Hearings.....I was 17 and oh so cool. I didn't realize that I didn't know squat. But I didn't so I believed all the crap that I heard from my oh so liberal parents and their loony berkeley friends.
Maybe I'm the only one, but the more I learned about John Kerry (and connected the dots) the more I became filled with rage at the deceit that he had foisted on those of us who were not in a position to know any better. Never again will I believe the crapola that the LLL churns out. I'm alot older now, and wiser. I can look back on how the left used their lies about Nam to tear this nation apart. I always heard "don't date Vietnam vets........they are all crazy drug addicts". Well I dated more than a few, and they were regular guys. Not all of them were gigalos like Kerry.
I won't let Cindy Alsheehani and her over educated white elitest band of losers smear our troops, our country and out president. It's not going to happen again, not here in by back yard, not in any newspaper I read. As Meryl Haggard said...."now you're walking on the fightin' side of me".
Hear that Cindy? If you really are so wistful for the 60's I'll tell you all about them, if you promise to take your meds and STFU. You're just a comunist narcisist media freak and a damned ugly one at that.
Oh and while your schmoozing with Biaz why don't you ask her to tell you all about how that not paying taxes thing worked out for her?
We won. Free elections. The enemy is abunch of street thugs who cannot confront us in the open.
Chicago per capita is far more dangerous than Iraq... and we have gun control. -600- murders, reported, per year out of 2.6 Million population. Gee, I think I'll take Iraq!
Amazing that this was in the Age, which is just about the most left leaning newspaper in Australia (next to the Sydney Morning Herald).
Frankie, I TOLD you not to quit your day job!
Yeah, it's pretty hard to preach to the choir, especially when most of the members have no more intellectual/moral/political/etc. investment in this situation than it is a FASHION STATEMENT to protest....
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
Dam, too long for a tagline
Thanks for the ping.
Rank Fish said this week that the anti-war movement in the US is a home-grown insurgency.
He deserves to be mocked. Publically.
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