Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Ghost From Vietnam

Fire of Liberty

Jonah Goldberg has a good column in USA Today which shows how the Democrats are very quick to point out that our current fight in Iraq is like Vietnam but tend to be forgetful about how the war zone in Iraq could turn into Vietnam circa 1975 if we follow the same advice of withdrawal they offered up back then. So instead of me confusing you further, just check out what Jonah wrote:

The Democrats are incapable of escaping the gravitational pull of the Vietnam myths they've nurtured for decades. At the same time, the liberal memory of the Vietnam War has become so gauzy and saccharine with nostalgia that they're unprepared to grapple with the downsides of their own all-purpose analogy. All that seems to matter is proving that the Iraq war not only has been lost but must be lost, lest the Vietnam worldview be invalidated. As my colleague Rich Lowry said in regard to Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha's effort to sneakily thwart the Bush surge: "It used to be that the war had to end because it was a failure; now it must fail so that it can end." For example, Massachusetts' Sen. Edward Kennedy ridicules the notion that a withdrawal from Iraq would have grave humanitarian costs.

"I heard the same kinds of suggestions at the time of the end of the Vietnam War," Kennedy told NBC's Tim Russert, mocking the notion that we'd have a "great bloodbath" with more than 100,000 dead. "And for those of us that were strongly opposed to the war, (we) heard those same kinds of arguments."

Yes, but those arguments were right. Our withdrawal from Vietnam did contribute to a great bloodbath. More than a half-million Vietnamese died at sea fleeing the grand peace Kennedy and his colleagues orchestrated. And more than 1.2 million Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, thanks to the power vacuum created by our "humanitarian" withdrawal. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a presidential candidate, insists that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq can't make things any worse. In 1975 he took a similar line: "The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambodian people is peace, not guns. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now." Someone rent Dodd a DVD of The Killing Fields.

Of course, the costs of defeat in Vietnam were hardly just humanitarian. America's loss at the hands of a small, comparatively weaker nation arguably prolonged the Cold War and has long served as an emboldening example to enemies eager to believe Uncle Sam has a glass jaw — from Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden.

In the wake of 9/11, Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's lieutenant, warned: "O, American people, your government is leading you to a new losing war. O, U.S. people, your government was defeated in Vietnam and fled scared from Lebanon. It fled from Somalia."

The Democratic Party itself — once the leader in vigorous internationalism — has since Vietnam been perceived as fundamentally unreliable on foreign policy by many American voters. Indeed, someone in the party recognizes this, which is why Democrats are working so hard to avoid being seen as the primary authors of U.S. defeat in Iraq, the way they were perceived after the Vietnam War.

The New Yorker's George Packer wrote in 2004 that since its experience with Vietnam, "the Democratic Party has had no foreign policy." Though Democrats were eager to spout the language of liberal internationalism in the 1990s, Packer noted, the Clinton administration nonetheless "allowed a genocidal war to bleed away in the Balkans for two-and-a-half years before acting to end it."

Sealing a defeat

I don't think it's fair to say the Democrats have had no foreign policy — it's more that they've had lots of them. But Packer's invocation of Clinton's intervention in the Balkans illuminates an important point. Today, liberals proudly tout the Yugoslavian campaign as nigh upon the sole proof that Democrats believe America can use its military power as a force for good. Forgotten are the anti-war left's opposition to an American empire, Clinton's circumvention of the United Nations (at least Bush had U.N. resolutions to back him up), or the ups-and-downs of public opinion. All people remember is victory.

If President Bush's surge is successful, odds are Americans will think it was all worth it. If, on the other hand, the Democrats are successful at ending the war in defeat, it's not at all clear Americans will see our loss as the unambiguous triumph Kennedy remembers in Vietnam. Nor is it clear they'll congratulate Democrats for securing a sure defeat rather than chancing a possible victory.

I have this makes you wonder what kind of foreign policy we'll get from the current crop of Democrats running for president in 08. To me, the Republicans have an advantage in foreign policy due to the fact they have far more hawks seeking the 08 bid.

No comments: