Clueless and complicit

Democrats say leaving Iraq may take years

Oh really? And how does this make their stand any different from that of Bush? Answer: It doesn’t. But what none of them realize or want to admit is that leaving Iraq, just like in Vietnam, will almost certainly not happen on a US timetable.


  1. From the article:

    “Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico stands apart, having suggested that he would even leave some military equipment behind to expedite the troop withdrawal. In a forum at a gathering of bloggers last week, he declared: ‘I have a one-point plan to get out of Iraq: Get out! Get out!'”

    Other than that, they are complicit and, I suspect, have their eyes on their own slice of a trillion-dollar pie.

  2. I’m somewhat more charitable toward the Democrats. The Republicans have been tarring the Democrats with the “Who Lost China?” question for almost 60 years to the point where it’s metasticized into an inability of anyone in public life to argue that a given policy is wrong because doing so would (1) undermine the war effort and (2) make us look like a helpless, pitiful, giant (as opposed, I suppose, to a clueless, stupid giant).

    There are, of course, many strands in common between the Democrats and Republicans, including Wilsonianism (surely the vilest corruption of constitutional principles to come along in the 20th century) and American exceptionalism (we lead because we are superior). However, the ability of the right to play the “Who Lost China?” card against any opponent of the war should not be denied. We haven’t yet found a way out of the conundrum, and I’m not sure that American voters will ever become hard-hearted enough to resist the siren calls of “we’re such a glorious country that we can do no wrong abroad; we only want to hlep!” which politicians of all stripes want to sell to get elected. If we find a way to neutralize the effectiveness of the allegation that the Democrats really feel, then we’ll be out of Iraq in no time.

    I, for one, ain’t holding my breath.

  3. There are boatloads of irony in that. The Dems could respond by asking, “Who lost Vietnam?” except that no one wants to talk about it. And except that the president who actually lost Vietnam was Truman, by refusing to accept Ho Chi Minh as an ally. Once the war began in 1954, Vietnam was inevitably lost. I am reminded of one of the closing lines of the movie “We Were Soldiers Then,” when the Vietnamese commander says that in spite of his defeat (at the hands of the Americans in 1965), the result will be the same, the only difference being the number of men who would die.

    In my mind, Trumanism– which boils down to the idea that we must have an enemy– is one of the vilest concoctions of the 20th century. And it forms the foundation for the current Republican foreign policy!

    No matter how Iraq plays out, it will have been George W. Bush who lost it. Because when we removed Saddam without a valid plan for what happens next, making civil war inevitable, we destroyed any possibility that Iraq would become our friend, at least during my lifetime.

    OTOH, Lind suggests that Nixon actually WON the Vietnam War by opening relations with China, and that a thinking diplomat could “win” the Iraq War by taking this opportunity to niormalize relations with Iran. This wouldn’t be a popular course of action at home, but would likely be the best thing to happen to this country in a generation.

    Unfortunately, we’re a little short on thinking diplomats. The only candidate running with any diplomatic experience is Richardson, and we may never know whether he has the smarts to pull it off because his odds of beating lesser (but louder) rivals are pretty slim.

  4. DJ and I usually agree on most things, but here we’re in a bit of disagreement, at least in the focus.

    I don’t deny that many in the national security state seized upon the Cold War as an answer to their prayers. However, I don’t think you can ascribe to Truman as many of the ills as you suggest. (If DJ is suggesting that the national security state is a danger in and of itself because it is susceptible to abuse in the wrong hands, that’s another discussion, and one in which we might be closer to agreement.)

    First, the threat of the Soviet Union was, if not an existential threat, at least a serious one. Despite having done its best in two successive civil wars to destroy itself, Europe remained a powerful industrial and armaments center, one which it would hardly be advisable to allow to fall entirely within the control of Stalin. I’m reading Tony Judt’s “Postwar” right now, and I think Truman is to be for the most part commended for his foreign policy. Some things went too far, but it was brave, new world. I can hardly fault him for not paying attention to Vietnam, which was at best an insignificant backwater. Certainly the State Department made a major goof when it excluded Korea from a list of strategically significant countries which it announced in 1950, but I can’t find much to fault about Truman in Vietnam, since he had bigger and more important fish to fry.

    There are also three things about the Truman administration worthy of comment, and which are in some way commendable. First, he gave the very model of how to fight an insurgency: the problems in Greece. The problems there were of long-standing, including discrimnation against the Anatolian Turkish-speaking Greeks who were expelled from Turkey in 1922 after the Greeks so foolishly decided to invade, but Truman did not intervene directly but figured out who to back in the Greek government and had the Greeks do the fighting. Our recent escapade in Iraq suggests the wisdom of such an approach if intervention is deemed neceesary.

    Second, Truman did not place US forces in China to support the Nationalists. The long-term disaster that THIS would have been can hardly be understated, and it shows considerable courage in light of the powerful China lobby.

    Thirdly, and in a way that has been sadly neglected, Truman successfully opposed efforts by industrial concerns to use the CIA to overthrow foreign governments who were deemed unfriendly to American commerce. Truman persistently fought efforts by the oil companies and the Brit to undermine the Mossadegh government in Iran; it took a new administration to do Big Oil’s bidding. The first of many Latin American coups, after 20 years of a fairly successful Good Neighbor Policy, were stagemanaged by John Foster Dulles’ brother Allen in Guatemala in 1954 at the behest of United Fruit, which just so happened to be a big client of the law firm of the Dulles brothers. Further examples are doubtless out there, but these are just two examples which come readily to mind.

    I’ve also read the Lind article and disagree with most of the conclusions. Nixon did not go to China to deal with the Vietnam War, but to create a strategic counterbalance to the USSR. It was in the strategic interest of both countries for such a rapprochement, but I don’t see where Lind gets the argument that the opening of China prevented other Vietnams, particularly since you need appropriate conditions on the ground for a local insurgency to succeed, as Che Guervara found to his fatal disappointment in Bolivia in 1967.

    That being said, reopening ties to Iran would be the most intelligent thing the US could do, regardless of the reasons. Provoking a Sunni-Shi’a split, as Lind suggests, is geopolitical amateurism; does he not see that the states involved in such a conflict have the economic resources to go nuclear, whether through their own program or through purchase? But simply because some fool supports a policy does not make it wrong, and opening Iran would probably be the best thing that could come out of the current disaster, short of withdrawing support from Israel until she starts to deal in good faith with the Palestinians. I expect THAT to happen about the same time that we lift the equally silly embargo against Cuba.

Comments are closed.