We can't escape the specter of Vietnam
By Carol Devine-Molin
The Democrats, their buddies in the mainstream media, and all the other Leftist elites for that matter, are convinced that they alone have the right to raise the specter of Vietnam for their own political purposes. It's generally utilized as their peacenik paradigm of "quagmire" and antiwarism, first generated during the Left's heyday more than thirty five years ago. Now, of course, these same "caught in a time-warp" types are also known as the Defeatocrats. Well President Bush has decided that the Libs don't have full dibs on lessons derived from the Vietnam experience. And, of course, he's spot on.
In response to the Bush speech, the New York Times and other Left-leaning publications argued that our withdrawal from Vietnam was not precipitous but a "deliberate disengagement." Frankly, that's too nuanced for the straightforward point Bush was making, as I'll explain below.
Not surprisingly, the political Left views Vietnam and Iraq through the same prism, which prevents them from properly evaluating today's national security landscape. Let's at least stipulate that we went to Iraq in good faith, believing that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs. Moreover, rational individuals, not encumbered by the Leftist template, are justifiably concerned regarding the al-Qaida transnational players now operating out of Iraq – These same terrorists could very well make their way into the US with plans to create havoc and commit mass murder. In contrast, we were never afraid of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese coming to the shores of America to perpetrate terror strikes. Yes, those were the good old days, but times have changed.
The truth is that the Vietnam and Iraq conflicts are largely dissimilar in nature, and Bush was making a very limited point: Simply put, when we pulled out of Vietnam, it destabilized Southeast Asia and generated horrific consequences for the people there. Likewise, if we withdraw from Iraq now, we can expect a host of dire repercussions that will readily befall the Iraqis. Shouldn't we factor this into the larger equation when considering American troop withdrawal from Iraq?
Highly negative consequences include, but are not limited to, continued bloodshed and sectarian violence, efforts by both Iran and Turkey to fill the power vacuum in Iraq, and establishment of a terror haven by al-Qaida and its affiliates. Saudi Arabia has also threatened to directly involved itself in the conflict if we greatly diminish our troop strength before Iraq is stabilized, coming in on the side of their Sunni brethren so that they don't get wiped out or displaced.
Noteworthy, circumstances "on the ground" are beginning to move in a favorable direction, which will certainly be delineated by General Petraeus when he returns to the capital in mid-September. The US would be foolish to pull its troops out of Iraq in a hasty manner since sectarian violence is dissipating and we've got al-Qaida on the run. The surge tactics are working, Iraqi security forces are improving, and the locals, who now understand the depths of al-Qaida's depravity, are now providing us with better intelligence in order to kill or capture terrorists.
As to Vietnam, the president explained: "Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."
President Bush also cited the words of Osama bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, both of whom commented upon America's Vietnam experience in past interviews. The al-Qaida leaders observed a demoralized America that ultimately left the Vietnam region in chaos and the people vulnerable. Bush quoted al-Zawahiri who discussed "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they (the Americans) ran and left their agents." Because of America's final "retreat and defeat" strategy in Vietnam, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were clearly emboldened to attack and challenge America on 9/11.
Bush further extrapolated: "If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America."
In other words, we want to keep al-Qaida under siege, making it difficult for them to project power. Our military presence in Iraq certainly helps the Iraqis, and we're glad to be of assistance, but we're primarily there in our own self-interests. Essentially, we've established a beachhead from which to operate in the Middle East, and it's doubtful that we'll be completely exiting Iraq anytime soon, particularly since this global war against radical Islam will probably last for decades.
Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.