In today’s speech in Kansas City to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Bush gave the reconstruction efforts in Iraq the historical context some of us have been writing about for some time: the need to avoid the sort of bloodbath that followed the Vietnam abandonment, and the need to try to mimic as much as possible the post-WWII success in Japan.
Of course each situation is not analogous to Iraq in its details. But there are still lessons to be learned from both histories about what to avoid and what to pursue.
Majority Leader Harry Reid begs to differ on the specifics of what those lessons might be. Reid, of course, has a dog in this race; he gave up on the surge before it even occurred, and recent surge-friendly news must be an embarrassment to him.
President Bush’s attempt to compare the war in Iraq to past military conflicts in East Asia ignores the fundamental difference between the two. Our nation was misled by the Bush administration in an effort to gain support for the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, leading to one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our history.
So it seems, oddly enough, that Reid must believe that the controversy over the validity of the Gulf of Tonkin incident must be resolved in Lyndon Johnson’s favor (I happen to agree with that assessment, by the way). Perhaps it’s odd of the antiwar Reid to take that position—if he thinks about it at all, that is. But then again, Johnson was a Democrat.
John Kerry is another person with a rather large dog in this race, and a personal one at that. Kerry says Bush’s words in invoking the Vietnam analogy to defend his Iraq policy are both irresponsible and ignorant of what Kerry calls “the realities” of Vietnam.
Kerry should know about those realities. After all, he’s one of those who failed to predict them. Read the words Kerry spoke in June 1971 in his famous debate with nemesis John O’Neill on the “Dick Cavett Show:”
MR. CAVETT: No one has said that there’ll be a bloodbath if we pull out, which is a cliche we used to hear a lot. Does either of you still think there would be a –
MR. O’NEILL: I think if we pull out prematurely before a viable South Vietnamese government is established, that the record of the North Vietnamese in the past and the record of the Viet Cong in the area I served in at Operation [unintelligible] clearly indicates that’s precisely what would happen in that country.
MR. CAVETT: That’s a guess, of course.
MR. KERRY: I –
MR. O’NEILL: I’d say that their record at Thua, at Daq Son [phonetic spelling], at a lot of other places, pretty clearly indicate that’s precisely what would happen. Obviously, in Thua, we’ve discovered, how many, 5,700 graves so far, at Daq Son four or five hundred.
MR. KERRY: The true fact of the matter is, Dick, that there’s absolutely no guarantee that there would be a bloodbath. There’s no guarantee that there wouldn’t. One has to, obviously, conjecture on this. However, I think the arguments clearly indicate that there probably wouldn’t be. First of all, if you read back historically, in 1950 the French made statements – there was a speech made by, I think it was General LeClerc, that if they pulled out, France pulled out, then there would be a bloodbath. That wasn’t a bloodbath. The same for Algeria. There hasn’t been. I think that it’s really kind of a baiting argument. There is no interest on the part of the North Vietnamese to try to massacre the people once people have agreed to withdraw.
John Kerry. Part of the reality-based community.