It's the talk of the beltway this week: Bush compared Iraq to Vietnam.
This is a major change for Bush, who heretofore consistently denied that there was any comparison between Iraq and Vietnam. Let's examine this:
Unpopular government propped up by American arms and devoted to engaging its own corruption rather than helping the people: check.
Insurgency driven by deep and widespread hostility to both the current government and the American presence in the country: check.
Rival nation supplying the insurgency with weapons, training and other support: check.
Enemy determined to fight despite any and all setbacks and casualties until America leaves and the existing government falls: check-a-roonie.
Unwinnable war that wastes American lives and money to no good end: check.
OK, so the comparison holds up pretty well.
But what lesson should we take?
Well, here's what Bush says:
"Whatever your position in 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,' "
In other words, Bush thinks it was a mistake for the United States to get out of Vietnam.
Oh, wait- here's another quote:
"The militarists of Japan and the Communists in Korea and Vietnam were driven by a merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity. They killed Americans because we stood in the way of their attempt to force this ideology on others."
Um, right on Japan and Korea, wrong on Vietnam. (And let's not forget that in Korea we fought to maintain Singman Rhee, every bit as much a dictator as Kim Il Sung, the North Korean leader.) In Vietnam the vast majority of the South Vietnamese supported Communism- and more to the point supported Vietnamese unity and nationalism, and resented a puppet dictatorship imposed on them by force of American arms. It was first the French, then the Americans, who tried to force the Vietnamese to follow their ideology- an ideology in which the Vietnamese were nothing more than pawns in a greater Cold War against the myth of monolithic Communism.
And on these grounds- not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the past- Bush wants us to stay in Iraq... indefinitely.
Until the Iraqis no longer resist our presence.
No matter how much the Iraqis, or the American people, want us out.
Well, what can you expect from a man who defended the Houston Ship Channel and rural Alabama from the Viet Cong?