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Friday, August 24, 2007

The Vietnam Bandwagon

This follows up with a post from yesterday where a great discussion has started in the comments section.

While the media is busy trying to claim that Bush's reference to Vietnam in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was a blunder, and the liberal blogs are jumping on that bandwagon, there are a few that are seeing some pretty accurate, if incomplete, comparisons.

Lets start with Max Boot, in the Opinion Journal who makes these points:(via memeorandum)

President George W. Bush boldly abandoned that template with his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Wednesday. In a skillful bit of political jujitsu, he cited Vietnam not as evidence that the Iraq War is unwinnable, but to argue that the costs of giving up the fight would be catastrophic--just as they were in Southeast Asia.

This has met with predictable and angry denunciations from antiwar advocates who argue that the consequences of defeat in Vietnam weren't so grave. After all, isn't Vietnam today an emerging economic power that is cultivating friendly ties with the U.S.?

True, but that's 30 years after the fact. In the short-term, the costs of defeat were indeed heavy. More than a million people perished in the killing fields of Cambodia, while in Vietnam, those who worked with American forces were consigned, as Mr. Bush noted, to prison camps "where tens of thousands perished." Many more fled as "boat people," he continued, "many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.

Mr. Boot then goes on to brilliantly point out some of the parallels that President Bush did not:

The problem with Mr. Bush's Vietnam analogy is not that it is inaccurate, but that it is incomplete. As he noted, "The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech." If he chooses to return to the subject in future speeches, there are some other parallels he could invoke:

• The danger of prematurely dumping allied leaders. A chorus of voices in Washington, led by Sens. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton, is calling on Iraqis to replace Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. Even Mr. Bush and his ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, have expressed disappointment with Mr. Maliki. They have been careful, however, to refrain from any calls for his ouster. That's wise, because we know from our experience in Vietnam the dangers of switching allied leaders in wartime.

In the early 1960s, American officials were frustrated with Ngo Dinh Diem, and in 1963 the Kennedy administration sanctioned a coup against him, in the hope of installing more effective leadership in Saigon. The result was the opposite: a succession of weak leaders who spent most of their time plotting to stay in power. In retrospect it's obvious that, for all his faults, we should have stuck with Diem.


• The danger of winning militarily and losing politically. In 1968, after Gen. Creighton Abrams took over as the senior U.S. military commander in South Vietnam, he began to change the emphasis from the kind of big-unit search-and-destroy tactics that Gen. William Westmoreland had favored, to the sort of population-protection strategy more appropriate for a counterinsurgency. Over the next four years, even as the total number of American combat troops declined, the communists lost ground.

By 1972 most of the south was judged secure and the South Vietnamese armed forces were able to throw back the Easter Offensive with help from lots of American aircraft but few American soldiers. If the U.S. had continued to support Saigon with a small troop presence and substantial supplies, there is every reason to believe that South Vietnam could have survived. It was no less viable than South Korea, another artificial state kept in existence by force of arms over many decades. But after the signing of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, we all but cut off South Vietnam, even while its enemies across the borders continued to be resupplied by their patrons in Moscow and Beijing.

Following in Abrams's footsteps, Gen. Petraeus is belatedly pursuing classic counterinsurgency strategies that are paying off. The danger is that American politicians will prematurely pull the plug in Iraq as they did in Vietnam. If they do so, the consequences will be even worse, since Iraq is much more important strategically than Vietnam ever was.

These are just two of the accurate parallels that Max Boot points out, please go read the rest of them to get a glimpse at the whole picture and how comparisons might not be exact, but they are highly accurate and appropriate.

Moving right along here I see, via RCP, another articles written by Times Online, which reinforces Max Boot's point about the damage a premature withdrawal will cause us now, by reminding us of how much damage it did, especially to the Democratic party and the lasting reputation they have across the world.

It also shows why the far left and the Democratic politicians imploded when Bush recalled Vietnam and made his original comparisons.

Its called "Why Democrats dread hearing the V-word"
Vietnam: a lesson in fouling up the endgame

His judgment is that what matters more to Americans is “Where do we go from here?” And here he is right that the Vietnam endgame is relevant. Public opinion dictated the timing and manner of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, and could play the same forcing role in Iraq. The consequences for South East Asia were appalling; the scars endure. The uncontroversial core of his message is that the consequences of a political panic over Iraq would be far graver.

Mr Bush’s case is that America’s gravest mistakes in Iraq are behind it, that the counter-insurgency strategy devised by General Petraeus is yielding results, but that the military have a question: “Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they’re gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground?” For elected leaders, read Democrats. In historical perspective, the Democrats do not come well out of the Vietnam debacle.

The Democrats’ obsession with forcing on the White House a congressional deadline for pulling out almost all America’s 160,000 troops from Iraq has the whiff of the Vietnam days. So does last month’s decision by Harry Reid, the Democrat leader in the Senate, to suspend the entire defence spending Bill — the first time this has happened for 45 years — when he realised he did not have the votes to attach a withdrawal deadline to it.

The poisoning of the political climate was North Vietnam’s most effective weapon. It is not yet al-Qaeda’s, but it could be. As Hanoi publicly admitted at the time, its 1968 Tet Offensive ended in costly defeat, but no one in America wanted to know. Its 1972 Easter offensive also failed; but by then most Americans believed the war was lost.

Yet even by 1972, and even though much of the US media was writing that America was the problem, not the solution, and that the Vietnamese should be left to fight it out, voters did not want to leave their ally in the South defenceless. Senator George McGovern campaigned that year on a platform of an immediate cessation of bombing and a complete withdrawal within 90 days of taking office. The result was one of the Democrats’ most spectacular defeats, and Richard Nixon’s reelection.

The strategy chosen to extract the US with the minimum of risk to its ally South Vietnam and the region was “Vietnamisation”. The US would withdraw its military, train up the Vietnamese and back Saigon with guaranteed and continuing military and economic support.

Those guarantees were written in to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords negotiated by Henry Kissinger under which North Vietnam pledged to withdraw from Laos and Cambodia and not to overthrow the Saigon Government. But Hanoi knew it could violate the accord with impunity, confident that the large postWatergate Democrat majority in Congress would never authorise renewed airstrikes. Not only that; the Democrats refused to authorise the promised US military aid, leaving the South Vietnamese all but defenceless against North Vietnam’s rapid Soviet-assisted military build-up, and its full-scale tank-led invasion in 1975.

Dr Kissinger recently observed that “one important similarity” between Vietnam and Iraq is that “the domestic debate became so bitter to preclude rational discussion of hard choices”. Six months ago, that point seemed to have arrived. To be a hawk was to court political death and social ostracism. “Hard choices” had gone out the window with the Hamilton-Baker Iraq Study Group’s sage advice to turn the problem over to the neighbours, Syria and Iran included. Mr Bush’s ratings were awful.

They still are. But with better news has come a wiser tone. Americans are heartened by early indications of progress on the ground. The New York Times was so astounded by polls showing rising support for the war that it ran them again to make sure. An antiwar strategy may not be the sure election winner that most Democrats assume. By asserting the right of Congress to set war policy, they have promised their left wing more than they can perform, appeared reluctant to support US troops in combat and stirred old doubts about whether Democrats can be trusted with the nation’s defence.

Again, read it all...

It is easy for the media to try to spin what happened in Vietnam, but these days the internet provides those too young to actually remember a very easy way to show the media spin for what it is.

History cannot be rewritten and just like with Vietnam, the Democrats are proving once again why it is not just Americans that have doubts about trusting the Democrats with the Nations defense, but those across the pond have good memories also and are telling us that they have those same doubts.

Of course Hanoi wasn't pleased either.

(NOTE: Instead of leaving you with the advertisements I usually have at the bottom of each post, I will leave you with one of the videos from Freedoms Watch) [30 second video.]

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