Monday, September 26, 2005

Iraq and Vietnam, Parallel Universe

Just how alike are Iraq and Vietnam? The analogy seems to popping up all over the MSM and blogosphere. For some of us, it has always been there since Vietnam has become something of a touchstone against which all foreign policy is tested. And so, I began thinking how are they alike, how are they different, and how could Iraq become more like or different from Vietnam.

How Iraq and Vietnam are alike:

1. Both began with bipartisan support.
2. Both were a failure in perceiving the eventual cost of getting involved.
3. Both lasted longer than we thought they should.
4. In both, the killing of noncombatants occurred.
5. In both, America's announced enemy found sanctuary in neighboring countries.
6. In both, civilized warm-hearted individuals became cold-blooded killers.
7. Both had atrocities, but that is the nature of all wars.
8. Lyndon Johnson and George Bush were both more interested in domestic policy at the start of their presidency.
9. In both, life goes on pretty much normal for those not involved or related to someone involved in the conflict.
10. In both, the U.S. military won all major battles

How Iraq and Vietnam are different:

1. We went into Vietnam as an aged and tested policy to stop a communist domino from following for fear it would start the dreaded Domino Effect. We went into Iraq to initiate our own Domino Effect.
2. We fought Vietnam with the regular military augmented by draftees. We are fighting Iraq with the regular military augmented by reservists and guardsmen.
3. Young men joined the reserves and guard to avoid going to Vietnam. Young men and women avoid going to Iraq by choosing not to volunteer.
4. Between the second and third year of our involvement in Vietnam, little protest or opposition occurred. Protests against the Iraq war are making the evening news and front pages of daily newspapers.
5. Returning Vietnam veterans had the old GI Bill to help ease the transition back to civilian life. Returning Iraq veterans have some assistance but nothing like the good old GI Bill.
6. People serving in Iraq can communicate almost instantaneously with people back in the U.S. There were major bases in Vietnam where someone could call home after waiting in line for access to a telephone – there were never enough during Christmas.
7. Vietnam had more of the homogenous population that Wolfowitz spoke of in regards to Iraq prior to the invasion. In Iraq, many Sunnis and Shiites hate each other more than they hate American.
8. The number of Americans being held prisoners in Iraq has not grown to the significant numbers it did in Vietnam.
9. Iraq is not divided into two nations as Vietnam was between north and south.
10. The Iraq War must last through more than one presidential administration to be more like Vietnam.
11. Forces friendly to the North Vietnamese never attack the U.S. on a domestic front. Al Qaeda has made significant attacks in the U.S. and is present in Iraq.
12. After we left Vietnam, a fundamental shift or realignment of forces in southeast Asia did not occur. Even before we leave Iraq, by giving the Shiite majority a significant voice in running the government, we may have changed the balance of power in the Middle East among Islamic factions that will have a greater consequence than the removal of Saddam or the attempted introduction of democracy.

How Iraq could become more like or different from Vietnam:

1. We will eventually have to exit Iraq from the roof of our last stronghold. We will retain a presents in Iraq after the government attains true sovereignty.
2. The government that takes over after we leave will become the least friendly to us in the area. Iraq will remain friendly with us.
3. If we kill Osama bin Laden or hear that he died, Iraq holds a day of mourning for him. South Vietnam did when Ho Chi Minh died. They will be different if bin Laden’s death is celebrated in the whole of the Middle East even more than in the U.S.
4. Lyndon Johnson tried to wage war on poverty and Vietnam leading to double-digit inflation. George Bush cut taxes while fighting a significant war, if that does not lead to double-digit inflation by the end of this decade, Vietnam and Iraq will be different.
5. The Democratic Party became undone during the 1968 presidential election. We will have to wait until 2008 to see similarities and differences. The 2006 midterm election may portend the presidential biggie.
6. The Tet Offensive. A major uprising of the Viet Cong which lead ultimately to their almost complete annihilation. A major victory for the U.S. military which was viewed as a major political loss at home. Will there be a major attack by the Iraqi insurgents which will in turn become a major victory for the U.S. military in which all important insurgency leaders and centers will be destroyed but will be a major political loss for America’s image which the administration cannot recover? Stay tuned.
7. How well insurgents and opponents to the Americans and current government in Iraq can use neighboring countries to Iraq as a hiding and staging area will determine how alike Vietnam and Iraq are.
8. While the communist finally took over all of Vietnam, the free world won the greater Cold War. Iraq's outcome and consequence with the War on Terror is yet to be determined
9. To be like Vietnam, Iraq can have no precedent on which to use to help make future decisions. Ultimately to truly be like Vietnam, Iraq can be no more like Vietnam than Vietnam was like Korea.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hell Hath No Fury

When I was younger, during the heyday of the spread of communism, I feared a combination of Christian fanaticism and communism. I thought the ideologies had the potential of being kindred spirits or “fellow travelers” in the language of the times. “To each according to his needs; from each according to their abilities,” sounds almost biblical. Luckily for all of us and the rest of history, in the short sightedness of the communist fundamentalist, religion was viewed as an “opiate of the masses.” They missed one of those golden opportunities of history to hitch their wagon to a major driving force in all of humanity.

What happened in Iran and what the Islamic fundamentalist would like to do to all of the Middle East could easily have happened in the West if communism and Christen fundamentalist had join forces to control society.

But then communism as a force with which to be reckoned for all practical purposes came to an end at the end of the last century, and I thought, my fears could be forgotten and regulated to those that the young are ought to have. But it would seem I was premature in ignoring my feeling of uneasiness and putting it off to young exuberance.

George Bush came to town with his faith-based government. He was re-elected and the self-righteous right claimed the credit; they had one of their own in the most powerful position in the world. God became the Presidents most important advisor.

Now as we look at the 2008 election – with the stutter step of the mid-term election – where will they turn? Who will insure they do not lose power? Whom can they support that will insure they (and their God) retains the power in the White House? John McCain? Never! Frist? Maybe, if no one else is there to choose? Senator Rick Santorum? Good one – he walks and talks the walk’n’talk. But too young. Dick Chaney? Too old, weak heart (his natural one, his spiritual one is perfect for the job). How about Cheney in a one-termer with a young VP to take it for the next eight years? Perfect!

Once again, I must retire to my mental attic and pull out an old fear that I thought had been stored away to be forgotten with other youthful angst. Hell hath no fury like righteous indignation. The greatest of atrocities have been committed in the name of God. If one claims God, one can act the most ungodly.

Just as in the Cold War, I came to realize that I had more to fear for my personal freedom from the anti-communist than I did from the communist, now it is the self-righteous right that I need to fear than the sinners for which they claim to be trying to save but for which they stand in such judgment. Remember, it was their kind that crucified Jesus Christ. It was not the dregs of society that stood in the court yard and called for the crucifixion of the Son of God; it was the most faithful, the one who listen to their religious leader, who where the majority that voted to condemned Jesus. So much for religion in politics.

Pray God protect us from faith-based government.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fickle Finger of Fate

After seeing the recent turn of events in regards to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I’m reminded of a piece of work on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In called the “Fickle Finger of Fate”. It would seem George Bush deserves the award.

While no matter how much is proven that Bush was wrong about Saddam and Iraq as far as WMD’s, mobile bio-labs, and connections to Al Qaeda or 9/11, Bush seems to avoid the political fallout of being totally wrong. Whether it was his administration’s masterly use of spin or fate, he is not held accountable for getting into a war we can never really win and for reasons that seemed to be forgotten and overlooked in surveys of his popularity. At the least, his drop in popularity in no way corresponds how totally wrong he was in justifying our invasion of Iraq.

And now he is being held accountable for the lack of response to the aftermath of Katrina. The fault may well belong more to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Like Bush’s Necon war planners for Iraq, they fail to realize that when you do the math, there is an aftermath. In the footage I saw of the governor and mayor shortly after Katrina passed through, they seemed overwhelmed. One can appreciate the likes of Rudy Giuliani when his caliber of leadership is absent in national emergencies.

Bush’s and other government bodies’ investigations of what went wrong in New Orleans may very well point out that the failure was with the local and state governments. But here’s where the fickleness of fate’s finger is so wickedly mean. Just as society seems to ignore his total failure as a leader in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, society will hold him responsible for the failure of leadership in the aftermath of Katrina. No amount of truth seems to hurt him about Iraq, and no amount of truth will protect his legacy from the misconception that he failed to act in Katrina’s aftermath. Oh! That wickedly fickle finger of fate. This finger is for you, George.