Center Comment: Bush Compares Vietnam and Iraqby Ronald Pecorry Editor Satire and Comment
(ACPA-Atlanta) It's rare to hear the word "Vietnam" without the word "Quagmire" following close by, so when President Bush recently compared the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam there was universal surprise. Liberals howled with derision and hawks shuffled nervously hoping the Commander in Chief had not lost the plot completely.
The comparison is certainly either a last desperate effort to spin another version of reality or a Rovian stroke of genius out of left-field.
Many officials have repeated the total lie that Iraq had a connection to 9/11. Sadly a staggering amount of people believe this nonsense. Despite this, there is a growing push, approaching a universal consensus that we need to leave Iraq. All that is stopping withdrawal is the Democrats willingness to continue to approve funding for the war.
Were the Democrats to refuse funding, then the President would be obliged to end the war. However, if during the exit-process US military were killed and the deaths were linked to the funding cut, then the Democrats risk being labelled as the cause of those deaths. Thus the Democrats are stuck between a political rock and a hard place on this one and don't have the backbone to fulfil the mandate they were given by the people in last years Congressional elections.
The Vietnam Comparison
So in this political stalemate Bush has come out and stated "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".
Here at the Atlanta Center, our initial reaction is that it's very risky for Bush to make this comparison, especially as he previously is on record as stating the two wars are not similar. We will not address the veracity of his statement rather we will consider his purpose in making the comparison.
A very smart appeal to Liberals
When the US Military leave Iraq there will be a reckoning of some sort between various religious groups. So consider this question - who is most concerned about a potential genocide between various Muslims groups? Military Hawks? Republicans? We don't think so. The people who are most concerned are the same liberals who are today calling for intervention in Darfur. They are the same liberals who called for action against Serbia in the 1990's. These liberals still remember the Rwandan massacres.
In short Bush is appealing to the very people who are calling for withdrawal and putting these people in a very awkward position. "Liberals" the President is asking," try to rationalize this - on one hand you are calling for troops to go into Darfur to prevent massacres but on the other hand you are calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq knowing this will cause massacres". "Is that not frankly a very hypocritical stand to take?"
Taken to its conclusion, when the Liberals force the issue and US troops leave Iraq, Bush and the Hawks can blame these liberals for the massacres that follow and avow all responsibility. It matters not, of course, that they set up the initial conditions because it's now too late to change the realities on the ground. So in some ways you could say Bush is admitting it's a mess over there but he is very cleverly trying to force liberals to take ownership of his problem and not force withdrawal.
It is certainly bitterly ironic to reflect on this but Bush is quite correct in pointing out the contradictory stance of the activist movement towards different crises.
A Military Culture
The fundamental cause of the Iraqi mess is that the US is a very militaristic society. Unlike many other Western countries where there is only modest respect for the military, the US has a very strong pro-military culture. It's this culture that has meant that the US is at practically always at war somewhere in the World. It's this culture that had the US military charging into Iraq with righteous indignation and not a lot of thought. Until there is a liberal activist culture as strong the military culture, the US is doomed to repeat cycles of intervention followed by subsequent disaster.
What will happen if the US leaves
It does not appear that a pluralistic democratic system can be sustained in Iraq. Perhaps the people of Iraq would be happy with such a system but there are so many significant armed groups with other agendas that we must conclude that democracy as we understand it to be will not survive. Instead the outcome will probably be some sort of realignment of power with the Shiites controlling the South, Sunnis in the middle and the Kurds in control of the North.
Iran, the great winner of the US-Iraq invasion, will have a significant influence in Southern Iraq and will prevent the more militarily experienced Iraqi Sunnis from taking over. Likewise Saudi Arabia and other countries, including the US, will prevent the Iranians and Shiites from completely dominating the Sunnis. Turkey may briefly invade or even occupy Northern Iraq to keep the Kurds under control.
The Great Realignment
We can only speculate to the extent of violence that will occur during this great realignment. It may not be as bad as Bush is now implying. But if it is - then we know now it's the fault of the anti-war movement. So Bush can sleep well with clean hands and an improved legacy. The only way to prevent a humanitarian disaster is to keep US troops in Iraq long enough for a secular government to become entrenched. That should take about fifty years.
Perhaps Karl Rove suggested the Vietnam analogy, if he didn't then the genius who did should be Rove's replacement. It might take a few weeks for Bush's subtle message to become clear but you can already hear Bush saying "I told you so".