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November 26, 2005



Murtha's withdrawal plan was indeed a phased one. Kerry recently also proposed a phased withdrawal. In fact, all the mainline Democrats who have suported withdrawal have done so under the premises supported by Laird. Why then do the Republicans pretend that what the Democrats propose is substantially different and represents a failure of will?

Perhaps because the victory they seek is not in Iraq but on teh domestic front?

I question the comitment of the Administration to win when it decries and insults the very voices on the left that it needs to embrace for victory.

but when someone with integrity and reasonably good judgment
...and without a single horse in the race, as well.
but when someone with integrity and reasonably good judgment
...and without a single horse in the race, as well.

Paging dr ngo, dr ngo to the white courtesy phone please.


Laird exposes his own biases early in his essay:

"The resulting legacy of that misinformation has left the United States timorous about war, deeply averse to intervening in even a just cause, and dubious of its ability to get out of a war once it is in one."

"Those who wallow in such Vietnam angst would have us be not only reticent to help the rest of the world, but ashamed of our ability to do so and doubtful of the value of spreading democracy and of the superiority of freedom itself. They join their voices with those who claim that the current war is "all about oil," as though the loss of that oil were not enough of a global security threat to merit any U.S. military intervention ..."

Timorous about war? HELL YES, I'm timorous about war. And fearful to spread freedom? How do we decide where to spread it? Why not N Korea, or Saudi Arabia? Shouldn't spreading freedom have reasonable near term benefits, not just potential long term benefits, all of which occur (if ever) long after the decision makers who decided to go to war are out of the picture, or even dead.

You know, if you have to be a planner, the best kind to be is a long term planner. You are always wrong, but no one ever rememebers anything, so you are safe, and rarely judged by outcomes. Instead your success is measured in how many you can get to agree with you. How foolish is that?

Finally, is war the only way to secure a reliable energy future? Just how does changing the face of Iraq morph into the ONLY way we can assure America of sufficient energy for the future? It doesn't, not in any scenario not cooked up in a meth lab.

Laird got us out of Vietnam, apparently. I am glad he did. His statement that if we had only supported the South Vietnamese for another decade (or however long he thought appropriate), they would have won. At what cost to the PEOPLE OF VIETNAM? He quotes as proof that in the Tet offensive, N Vietnam lost almost 300,000 soldiers. THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DEAD - and that was a good thing for Laird. How anglo centric is that argument? It's bs, Charles.

Finally, look at Viet Nam now. People go on vacation there, Charles, and have been for more than decade. I think, without doing the research, that you could argue the BEST thing we did was to leave the Vietnamese to solve their own problems.

What will happen if we leave the Iraqis to their own future? Is it Bin Laden and the Wahabis? Not likely. No, Charles, we have done enough, or more likely, too much. The president entered into this war with bad reasons, bad reasoning, and with bad advice. There is no reason that holds any water for the American people to assume that he is a better man today, when everything we see says that the best we can hope for is that he is no worse.

He is an abuser, Charles. He and his administration. They need to go, and their policies need to be ground into the dust of history.


Charles: I don't like the idea of a draft particularly. But I'm not sure how exactly you propose to achieve the objectives you're committed to without one. We have already damaged the army badly; we may have broken it. Raising bonuses and lowering standards don't seem to have done the trick. At some point -- and that point is soon if not now -- you have to start either adding 'wrecking our armed forces' to the list of costs of staying, or propose some serious way of avoiding it.

Well, so far it seems that they are simply relying on the old "Jedi Mind Trick" to win in Iraq.

Those who wallow in such Vietnam angst would have us be not only reticent to help the rest of the world, but ashamed of our ability to do so and doubtful of the value of spreading democracy and of the superiority of freedom itself.

Lost me on this sentence, I'm afraid. No one is ashamed of our ability to spread democracy when it's done peacefully. What we're ashamed of is our willingness to put our immediate desires ahead of other humans' right to life.

I really can't believe how far the dialog on this has shifted. Yes, Clinton was fond of this approach, but at least he used a different set of criteria (not that I agree with his approach either), but Bush ran on the opposite philosophy.

I've been reading across conservative sites about the glorious and almost duty-bound use of our military to rebuild other nations and the shameful timidity of liberals who don't see how sacred that use of our power is. Forget how opposite this idea is from what the country allegedly voted for in 2000. Forget whether there's oil or other sources of wealth leading the decisions for which nation we'll choose to bless...we're on a mission from God and anyone who stops to question it is unfit to lead this country.

Military force is the easy way out. Diplomacy is much, much harder, but diplomacy, like miltary force, sets important precedents.

But diplomacy is as impossible for Bush as holding anyone accountable for their mistakes seems to be.

So instead, we wage war to make peace. We kill Iraqis to stop Saddam from killing them. We destablize the Middle East to make ourselves safer. We restrict our freedoms at home to help protect our ability to spread freedom. And then to top it off, we have the people who elected the anti-nation-building GWB tell us we're ashamed of our ability to reshape the rest of the world with our military.

And the kicker is, they want to be taken seriously.

If I was the President, I would carefully select a panel of knowledgeable people, send them off to Camp David for two weeks to think deeply and carefully about Iraq, and direct them to come back with some kind of bi-partisan list of options for the future of our involvement in Iraq. I would choose people from a variety of perspectives purposely since there would be no point in the exercise if the panel was packed to achieve a certain result. I would pick people who were respected widely and who were not running for office. Liard could be on my dream panel.

Well, one can dream. The point is that the way to maintain the "will" to "win" in Iraq is to build bipartisan support for some senisible reality-baseed plan. The Bush administration is, as cleek pointed out, far more intersted in "winning" on the home front through partisan attacks than building consensus and support for a plan for the future of Iraq. The Republican leadership demonized and demeanded anyone who suggested a planned wihdrawal linked to developments in Iraq, calling such ideas 'defeatist" while similutaneously developing that very plan, which will now be promoted as a means of staying the course. We have always been at war with Eastasia! That's bad leadership.
I am glad that thhe Republican leadership has decided that we have to go for a withdrawal linnked to steps inn the development of Iraqi forces. That plan makes as much sense as anything. It made sense when floated by variouus Democrats, too. If the Democrats who proposed this and similar ideas were defeatists, cowards, giving aid to the insurgents, and so on then so are the Republicans now. Apologies are in order.

Charles: Until you support the draft, you're not serious about winning.

You're just blowing hot air, and everyone knows it. There's no "victory" in Iraq without the draft -- probably not even then, but no chance without it.

Without the draft, all we're arguing about is what pleasant lie to tell ourselves about why we left.

And you know it.

John Cole wrote this morning that Bush is doing the wrong thing for political reasons. He's referring to pull-outs based on what John considers to be false statements that Iraqi forces are improving. He concludes that Bush may lack the will to win.

Exactly right.

There are some serious problems with the Laird article:

- Laird misrepresents the ARVN's military record. His contention that they "never lost a major battle" between the Tet Offensive and the Fall of Saigon is at best misleading; even if for some reason we don't count the loss of Quang Tri in '72 as a defeat in a "major battle," the ARVN losses in early 1975 that set the stage for the Fall of Saigon undermine this version of events.

- The misrepresentation of the ARVN's military record allows Laird to reverse cause and effect, claiming that US aid cutoff prompted South Vietnam's military collapse. In fact the reverse is true; Congress voted to cut off aid to South Vietnam in March, just over a week after the ARVN's catastrophic defeat in the Central Highlands made it clear that external aid was not going to save them. Nor did the cutoff take effect in time to be used as an explanation for the Fall of Saigon at the end of April.

- These problems in turn undermine Laird's whole "abandoning our ally" narrative, since if a lack of US aid wasn't responsible for the South Vietnamese collapse, something else had to have been. The crucial factor that Laird goes to great lengths to ignore is South Vietnamese corruption, widely believed at the time and since to have siphoned off the bulk of American aid and to be responsible for the sorry state of affairs the ARVN eventually found itself in.

IOW it seems to be Laird's Vietnam history that's "revisionist" here. The more usual historical explanation -- that South Vietnam eventually collapsed under the weight of its own corruption, and probably would have done so no matter how much American aid it received -- still seems the correct one. In view of which, it's probably a good idea to take with a large grain of salt Laird's recommendations about "Iraqization" and how Bush can solve his problems with better PR.

(There is another commonplace distortion in Laird's article, incidentally; the Tet Offensive was not and has never been widely portrayed as "a defeat" operationally for the Americans, but as a wake-up call and possible exposure of White House dishonesty or delusion, since according to Westmoreland's progress reports such an action was supposed to be impossible for the Communists to mount.)

Doctor Slack, how dare you bring reality based arguments into this? Loser-defeatist! Clap louder!

Others have already highlighted the moral idiocy of killing tens to hundreds of thousands (in Iraq) or millions (in Vietnam) to deliver freedom to them. Let me instead touch on practical, political matters.

The reason that support for President Bush and the war in Iraq have plummeted is simple: it has become obvious that the administration has been dishonest. Leave aside the justification for the war. Just consider the length of time that Donald Rumsfeld denied that there even was an insurgency -- it was about a year. Then there's Abu Ghraib -- a series of denials followed by exposure after exposure of a larger problem.

Now the dam has broken (yes, an allusion to Katrina). Trust, once lost, is very difficult to regain and there's no sign so far that the President even acknowledges his problem. The old technique of demonizing opponents so ably demonstrated by Dick Cheney has ceased to work.

"Rewriting history" seems to be much in the news lately. Here is another example by Melvin Laird via Charles. No doubt we will see more and louder attempts in the months to come.

Boy, I sure hope history's stocked up on the Astroglide...

Whatever the faults of the evidence or argument here, and I'm still thinking through them, this is a much more interesting and persuasive post than your last counter-argument to Murtha, Charles, so thanks.

If you believe...your dreams will never lie.

Winners always win!

Those who wallow in such Vietnam angst would have us be not only reticent to help the rest of the world, but ashamed of our ability to do so and doubtful of the value of spreading democracy and of the superiority of freedom itself.

Who on earth is Laird talking about? I am SO VERY TIRED of b.s. placed in the mouths of straw men.

Spreading democracy is great. I'm all for it. Just not at gunpoint, which seems to me a little undemocratic.

Helping the rest of the world is great. We had a chance to "help" the Shiites and Kurds in 1991, and it was probably an error not to. However, invading the country and occupying it for 2 years (& running) is not "helping." The Iraqis are much more lively in opposing us than they ever were in opposing Saddam. Maybe they're the ones who are "doubtful of the value of spreading democracy."

What Anderson said. I am completely in favor of spreading democracy. I was in favor of it back when Republicans were backing death squads in Guatemala. One of my problems with the war in Vietnam was that the government we were backing was not a democracy, and had, so far as I can tell, very little popular legitimacy (though dr. ngo can correct me on this.)

It is getting very tiresome to read articles informing me that because I opposed one particularly harebrained way of doing this, I am about to transform myself into Henry Kissinger. As though there were no alternatives besides supporting the decision to go to war and an amoral realism.

In addition to other points made:

They join their voices with those who claim that the current war is "all about oil," as though the loss of that oil were not enough of a global security threat to merit any U.S. military intervention and especially not "another Vietnam.

Does this mean that he feels that any country that decides to sell it's oil not to the States (or via another countries oil-companies) can be invaded?

My view is that it was better to find that Saddam had not progressed as far as we thought in his WMD development than to discover belatedly that he had.

Which is why there were inspections going on. Remember?

Bush sees Iraq as the frontline in the war on terror -- not because terrorists dominate there, but because of the opportunity to displace militant extremists' Islamist rule throughout the region.

Iraq was a logical place to fight back, with its secular government and modern infrastructure and a populace that was ready to overthrow its dictator. Our troops are not fighting there only to preserve the right of Iraqis to vote. They are fighting to preserve modern culture, Western democracy, the global economy, and all else that is threatened by the spread of barbarism in the name of religion.

Now, it was a secular country and thus it provided the best change to displace militant extremist Islamist rule? And Saddam was a big threat for modern culture, Western democracy, global economy and MORE? By is spread of barbarism in the name of religion - in his secular country?

It is a very different story in Iraq, where the Bush administration hopes to implant democracy side by side with Islam. The stakes could not be higher for the continued existence of our own democracy and, yes, for the significant matter of oil. We are not the only nation dependent on Persian Gulf oil. We share that dependency with every industrialized nation on the planet.

And though most of them were against the invasion they should be gratefull nevertheless?

Shorter Laird: "Dolchstosslegende"

Wicked, flc, wicked. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

And let's not leave out Kulturträger. How can the lesser breeds without the law be brought to democracy unless we invade their nations, kill their leaders, and convert them to capitalism?*

*Capitalism, Christianity--same thing to Ann Coulter, I'm sure.

Another unsettling similarity: body counts.

This is a bit of a change in policy since Tommy Franks' famous statement.

Please, someone ask Mr. Laird the following:

The U.S. suffered their first casualty in Vietnam in 1959, their last in 1975; a period of time of roughly 16 years; during that period, in excess of 50,000 U.S. service members were Killed in action, and tens of thousands severely injured. The accurate count of VN personnel KIA during the period is, of course, disputed, but many consider it to be close to 1 million. This being the case, how can Mr. Laird and others like him, state that the U.S. "cut and run" from Vietnam?? We were in that country over 15 years!!! The answer, of course, is that the U.S. did not cut and run. It's just a conveinant line of attack for Republicans (Mr. Laird was a long time Republican congressman, prior to being appointed Sec. Def. by Nixon in 68)to drag out when discussing the failures of the Nixon admin.

We were in that country over 15 years!!!

We will sell no whine before its time...

Which is why there were inspections going on. Remember?

sorry. that bit of history has been revised. please consult your local GOP HQ for the latest version.

Well, one way in which the wars are similar is that neither is about us. "We" can't win. Someone we can tolerate (like is too strong) can, we hope. More likely, we're just a Smith and the Jones family reunion.

The great big difference, of course, is that you absolutely cannot compare the foreign schmoes and wannabees available to the insurgencies to the NVA. Thus, the consequence of our departure is a completely different animal: instead of near immediate conquest by a hostile force, what happens, at worst, is that a couple of provinces are 'failed states' in the midst of a broader state. And to the extent that people try to export their agenda from the failing provinces, they will be resisted better than we'll ever be able to do. The likelihood of Sunni Arab domination -- either Ba'ath or Islamist -- of Kurdistan is near zero, and the same can be said for 'Sumer.'

Unless, of course, we create a national army capable of dominating either region against its will.

I'm thinking well armed federalism is the best of the available solutions, other than the hopelessly utopian one. And who knows, maybe a generation of armed federalism can give way to the state CB is dreaming of.

cleek: [re. inspections] sorry. that bit of history has been revised.

Revised, indeed. I'll never forget this tidbit:

The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region.

Remarks by the President and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in Photo Opportunity The Oval Office, July 14, 2003

Said by President Bush with Kofi Annan present in the room!

"Those who wallow in such Vietnam angst would have us be not only reticent to help the rest of the world, but ashamed of our ability to do so and doubtful of the value of spreading democracy and of the superiority of freedom itself."

What universe does that man live in??

When, under Nixon or Reagan or Bush, did the US ever "spread freedom and democracy"? Not in Vietnam, Cambodia, or China. Not in in Angola, South Africa, Iran, Kuwait, or Iran. Not in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Nicaragua.

Under Nixon, Reagan and Bush, the US made it its business to prop up whatever dictator was convenient; trained death squads to discourage its pet dictators' opponents; and overthrew democratically elected governments when it didn't like the results.

"Wallowing in Vietnam angst," give me a freaking break.

We supported the military action in Kosovo.

We supported the war in Afghanistan.

We were lied to about the war in Iraq.

We were lied to about why Bush wanted it, we were lied to about the "gathering, growing threat," and we were lied to about the cost in lives and dollars.

We were lied to about every important aspect of the war, at every step along the way, and yet we should believe anything the Bush Admin says about it now?

We were lied to about every important aspect of the war, at every step along the way, and the best you can do is quote Melvin "I Remember History As I Wish It Was, Not the History We Actually Made" Laird?

Sell that crap to the Credulous Fools' Chorus over at RedState.

I'm not fully convinced, but Laird makes some good points. At least he's not just pounding the "all it takes is will" drum. The essential problem is that you go to war with the political environment you have, not the one you might like to have. The administration has failed to adapt to the realities on the ground, and they've prioritized domestic politics and cronys above getting results.

The real question is - Given the realities of the administration, how do common citizens encourage them to do the right thing?

Another point worth noting - there is not just one possible route to victory (however defined). There are many possible strategies. There is also an enormously larger set of strategies which lead to disaster.

Well, its no surprise that someone who is fact-challenged as frequently as Charles would find Laird's poorly written revisionist history about Viet Nam to be compelling.

Doctor Slack already covered the more important details. Others are also (scroll to bottom) on this one. Examples -- there was no cut-off of funding in 1975 -- that is a total right-wing myth, and Laird is basically lying to posture his remarks around that canard. The US funding for fiscal 1975 was $700 million and was not changed. It was less than during the height of the war, and as troubles mounted in 1975, more was requested but not sent. Maybe that is the origin of the myth. And its worth noting that huge amounts of the funding was being stolen by corrupt South Vietnamese leaders right up to the end.

Also, there was little military action in 1974 by the North -- the South was not "holding its own." The big push by the NVA did not begin until January, 1975, and the ARVN collapsed almost immediately even though it had twice as many troops and more and better equipment. It did not collapse from lack of funding.

p.s. -- no decent historical acount of the Viet Nam war found "Vietnamization" to be effective or a success. Blaming it on lack of funding in 1975 is delusional.

As for the Iraq parallel, I would say that the Bush administration has shown far less willingness and competence than the effort in Viet Nam. So its not surprising that the nation-building effort in Iraq has gone so badly. Fortunately, the Iraqi resistance is not as resourceful as the NVA, nor foreign backed.

The most striking parallel between the two wars, as shown by the Laird piece, is the use, once again, of myth-making to scapegoat others for the failures of Republicans, the gang that cannot shoot straight.

Paging dr ngo, dr ngo to the white courtesy phone please.

dr ngo here, but only briefly. (We "doctors" are not simply at the beck and call of ordinary mortals, you know!) There's a lecture (on contemporary Thailand) to write and football on TV. So this is the very short version.

Shock Headline: Laird Defends Nixon Policy

OP-ED quote, by guest columnist Mandy Rice-Davies: "Well he would, wouldn't he?"

Seriously, the Nixon gang lost Vietnam more than 30 years ago, and they've been denying it ever since. Nixon himself, Kissinger, and now Laird keep repeating the same old story: "We were really winning, until we were BETRAYED by the Protestors, the Press, and the Pusillanimous Congress." At least they stay on message, unlike wobbly Robert McNamara, who actually reconsidered his policies and even repented of some of them. But the hardcore Nixonites are saying _exactly_ what they said in 1975.

It didn't convince the American people then. It hasn't convinced any serious historian of Vietnam, so far as I know. (Some US military historians have bought the line, but all they know about VN is what the army taught them.) South Vietnam did not fall because of lack of money or arms -- Saigon still had far more of both than Hanoi in 1975. RVN fell because its armies would no longer fight for it.

If you want Iraq to turn out like Vietnam, by all means listen to Laird. If you'd prefer an alternative outcome, seek wisdom elsewhere.

Gotta run - 2d half is about to start.

Dr ngo - a queation: I've seen sources I trust suggest that the Paris peace talks of 1968 were effectively sabotaged by Kissinger passing info to Nixon, who passed it to South Vietnam. I certainly have no reason to trust either Kissinger or Nixon, but I'd be interested in hearing more on the subject from someone who knows more about it. What's the straight dope?

togolosh: I had heard something similar, but it involved Nixon (or one of his emissaries) making assurances to the South that if Nixon won, a better deal for them would be forthcoming. However, I'm not sure where I heard this, except that I seem to recall its being discussed by Christopher Hitchens, which I have to really try not to take as an actual proof of its falsity. (I mean, presumably Hitchens also believes that triangles are three-sided, so I shouldn't just believe the opposite of what he believes.)

I'd be fascinated by any insight on this, though I recognize that dr. ngo has other things to do besides gratifying my curiosity ;) (Though -- dr. ngo -- we could arrange a swap: if you're curious about anything to do with Kant, or stem cells, or ethics, or anything else I might know about, just ask. ;) )

However, I'm not sure where I heard this, except that I seem to recall its being discussed by Christopher Hitchens, which I have to really try not to take as an actual proof of its falsity.

Hitchens definitely brings this up in his biography of Kissinger since that's where I first heard it (at least as something more substantive than sheerest rumor).

By way of thanks to the good doctor, I have to think that one of the reasons this board may seem so harsh to a least one brand of conservatives is because of the presence a world class vietnam debunker.

btw, I'd also be interested in his take on the current Muslim unrest in Southern Thailand.

On the Paris negotiations, I had to review my notes a little, and I'm still rough on a few of the details. (If, god help us, we're still making Iraq-VN comparisons in the spring, I should be sharper, because I'm teaching my VN war course again then, though I won't get to the early 1970s until about April.) (And if any of my future students should find this thread in some archive, be warned: it's NOT a suitable scholarly citation, even if your professor has shot off his mouth in it!)

Briefly, then: the Paris peace talks began in 1968 (under LBJ). Initial negotiations seemed likely to founder over Hanoi's insistence that the US halt the bombing of the north before talking could begin. Anna Chennault (!), representing the Nixon campaign, informed RVN officials that LBJ was about to stop bombing and start talking, and suggested that Thieu should refuse to participate in any talks prior to the US elections, since talks would help the Democrats, and a Nixon win would be better for RVN/Thieu. (Source: I'm citing Robert D. Schulzinger, A Time for War (OUP, 1997), p.271; RDS in turn cites monographs by Sieg, Ambrose, De Loach, and Gardner.) Thieu complied.

LBJ was furious with Nixon at sabotaging the talks, but decided not to publicize the Thieu-GOP link, probably because he didn't care that much for Humphrey (his own VP and Nixon's opponent) either. Finally, on 31 October 1968, he announced the bombing halt, but Thieu still balked at participation, until election day (November 5), when he agreed to come to Paris. (RDS cites same sources, plus notes on LBJ's meeting from the LBJ library.)

Nixon thus deliberately sabotaged US foreign policy in order to gain electoral advantage, and quite possibly won the election by so doing. (An earlier start to the talks might have tipped the balance to the Democrats.)

OTOH, it's not clear - or at least not self-evident - that the war would have ended any sooner had Nixon not intervened as he did. Please indulge my going beyond the questions asked to cover (sketchily) the next few years.

Negotiations basically stagnated for four years because neither side was interested in compromising. Critics of Nixon and Kissinger (who was carrying out secret talks with Le Duc Tho parallel with the open talks) claim that they did not negotiate in good faith. This is probably true -- very little that N & K did was in good faith -- but it seems to be equally true of the other side. Both Washington and Hanoi still believed in Victory, and were unwilling to concede anything that might compromise it. Whether HHH in the White House would have been more conciliatory is hard to say. He certainly was not a "peace candidate" during the 1968 campaign, but perhaps he might have changed his views over the subsequent years.

Once the negotiations began, Thieu was officially in the loop (though he was NOT included in the Kissinger-LDT secret talks) and our logic seems to have been: RVN cannot stand without a strong leader like Thieu (we'd already run through most of the alternatives), so we mustn't agree to anything he would balk at. Since the number one demand of Hanoi was getting rid of Thieu, no progress was made.

(Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of Americans went on dying.)

By 1972, however, the situation had shifted somewhat. Nixon was going to China, ending the bugaboo about dealing with the Commies. The US was turning increasingly anti-war, and Nixon knew we had to get out (for his political ends, if nothing else), but needed it to look like it was NOT a surrender. Hanoi was also looking at alternatives, e.g., weighing the thought that they could put up with Thieu for a while if the US could be persuaded to leave. And neither was making the military breakthroughs they hoped for. So negotiations finally began in earnest ...

By October 1972, a draft agreement was worked out, in which the US would leave and Thieu would remain at the head of a coalition government. Kissinger announced "peace is at hand." Nixon won the election.

Thieu, however, would have nothing to do with the peace plan, since he saw the handwriting on the wall; the agreement would only create (as one US official later put it) a "decent interval" between the time the Americans left and the fall of Saigon. (Henry K was indeed feeding all the details to Thieu, but I'm not inclined to chastise him particularly for *this* [as opposed to many other crimes], since Thieu would have had to sign off on the agreement eventually, unless we jettisoned him entirely.)

Nixon then gave Thieu private (and, so far as I can tell - IANAL - extra-legal) assurances that the US would take "swift and severe retaliatory action" if Hanoi didn't abide by the agreement. Thieu was unconvinced. Nixon then launched the infamous "Christmas bombing" of Hanoi and Haiphong (Codename: Linebacker II), the most intensive bombing of the entire war. (Over 11 days, some 40,000 tons of bombs were dropped.)

Ostensibly, this was to force Hanoi to make further concessions. In fact, the agreement signed at the end of January 1973 was almost identical with the draft agreement of October 1972. (But thousands more had been killed.) What had changed was not the putative obduracy of Hanoi, but the attitude of Thieu - it seems the ferociousness of the bombing convinced him that the US would in fact intervene again if he got in trouble. That, and yet another secret assurance from Nixon.

Nixon and Kissinger both were almost pathologically secretive, which allowed them in the short run to get away with stuff that later would rise up and bite them in the ass. Nixon made promises to Thieu that were never authorized by Congress, and not likely to be, given the temper of the time. He also made promises to *Hanoi* of massive aid once the war was over; again, these were unauthorized, and when the US government refused to pay up later, we were understandably accused of dishonesty.

Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating the Paris Peace Agreements of 1973, which crumbled immediately and collapsed entirely within two years. He was proposed as the head of the committee investigating 9/11, although he withdrew his name from consideration, ostensibly because it might compromise his extensive global consulting interests.

Le Duc Tho was offered the same Nobel Prize (the other half of it) for negotiating the other side. He refused to accept it.

Richard Nixon spent the next twenty-plus years re-inventing himself as a statesman and savant. Many people took him at his own evaluation. Some wept at his funeral.

Nguyen Van Thieu resigned and fled the country shortly before the fall of Saigon in 1975. He lived in Taiwan, England, and the United States until his death in 2001, emerging from time to time to announce that he was still the rightful ruler of RVN and to blame the US for the fall of his regime.

During the war, 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam, as did uncounted millions of Vietnamese.

Draw your own conclusions.

Odd little discrepancy on Laird, using only sources cited in the original piece here.

CB notes that Laird "decides to speak up after three decades of relative silence", to support which he cites Laird's own words ("I have kept silent for those 30 years ...") and the fact that only two books authored by him are listed with

Wikipedia, however, which CB quotes on the "intact" reputation of Laird, also has this to say:

Since 1974 he has written widely, in Reader's Digest and other publications, on national and international topics.

It does not appear that there was all that much "silence" to break, after all.

"in Reader's Digest"

If you say it in RD, is it really said?

I overlooked that component of togolosh's question asking about the involvement of Kissinger in the 1968 Nixon "leak" to Thieu. Schulzinger says nothing, which may say a lot, because his own specialist work is on Kissinger.

What I know is this: (1) Kissinger was involved in pre-negotiations with the Vietnamese (for LBJ) in 1967, but these petered out; (2) Kissinger was working for Nelson Rockefeller in the 1968 campaign, but had contact with Nixon as well.

I'm not sure what K. would have known in the fall of 1968 that Nixon didn't already know, e.g., from the confidential briefings on foreign policy that presidential candidates get prior to the election. (See, e.g., JFK in 1960, making campaign allegations about the missile gap [IIRC] that he knew were not true because of these briefings, a fact that frosted Nixon no end.) I doubt K. either could, or needed to, tell Nixon that LBJ was considering a bombing halt to try to get talks going before the election.

So pending someone coming up with evidence from Hitchens (or whoever else) on Kissinger's involvement in this particular "dirty trick," I'm inclined to give K. a pass on it for now. There's plenty else to hang him for.

Thank you, Doctor, for such a concise yet thorough recap.

I bow to your far greater knowledge of the situation that if Humphrey had been elected, the ultimate outcome in Vietnam would have been no different. My impression has always been that the war was unwinnable, for a lot of reasons.

I don't remember how much HHH was "pro-war" and how much he was being a loyal VP to (and therefore stuck as a stand-in for) LBJ's policies. It's hard to imagine him being as completely duplicitous as Nixon, though, esp. in terms of coming up with a 'peace deal' just long enough to get re-elected in '72. So maybe US forces would have left Vietnam that much sooner - though probably not any less calamitously for the Vietnamese.

It's also hard to distinguish which calamities might have been avoided, or at least ameliorated, if we'd pulled out sooner, and which ones were the product of actions already taken and forces already unleashed we had no control over (if, say, the war had not been widened to Cambodia, would Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge have still taken over there?).

The conventional wisdom on the anti-war side has been that those last few years' horrors, duplicity, and deaths hardened and radicalized the North's leadership (and Cambodia's leadership) far more than they would have been if the US had left earlier - but I have no idea if that's true.

LJ: btw, I'd also be interested in his [= my] take on the current Muslim unrest in Southern Thailand.

The article you link to strikes me as pretty solid, and I'm not quite sure what I could add that might be edifying.

The Muslim Malays of this area have been under Thai sway (first vague suzerainty, eventually sovereignty) for hundreds of years. They have a different religion and culture (and mother tongue) from the vast majority of Thai, which has been a source of potential discrimination, neglect, and friction ever since the central government started to try to impose its will on outlying regions (roughly 115 years ago). Because of its location on the border with Malaysia, the region has also been a center for smuggling for some years (at one point they were actually smuggling apples across the border[!], though unfortunately I can't remember in which direction), and for general cross-border rowdiness (i.e., clubs that allow Malays to be naughty in ways that would be prohibited back in Malaysia).

But all of this has been around for years, punctuated by occasional riots and atrocities, yet without the systemic violence described in the article. Visitors to the country were advised to be cautious in the south, but not to avoid it entirely.

So: What set the current uprising {?} off? Who's behind it? Likely enough the "trigger" is abusive Thai authorities, and certainly the general background would include rising Islamic radicalism within Southeast Asia, but neither of these factors seems to me the complete answer. I'll let you know if I learn more. IHTH.

Remember the debate before the war?

This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism vs. No it won't

March 26, 2003 | Issue 39•11

at one point they were actually smuggling apples across the border

Are we talking the fruit of knowledge here, or personal computers?

Actual Johnny Appleseed stuff. Believe it or not, there was a world before there were personal computers. Ahh, when I was your age ...



... what was I saying?

dr. ngo: thanks a lot. And how well I recall the days before personal computers. I was later than you, but went through college before computer use, let alone PCs, were widespread. Thanks to having a computer geek friend, I was the only person I knew, besides him, who wrote my senior thesis on a computer -- everyone else had to allocate days for typing, and I still remember how much of a miracle it felt like that I could just type 'print x5' and go to sleep, knowing that five copies would be waiting for me in the computer center when I woke up.

I still regret the passing of very wide computer paper, which was wonderful for editing and revising. (You could write whole new paragraphs in the margins!)

Somebody check on CB. His head may have just exploded.



Funny -- but if your head is already made of rubber, it cannot explode...

He did manage to write the "American Forces Should Withdraw in Six Months" post only days after "The Case for Victory" post. Proof positive of a high degree of rubbery content.

I am sure he can do the partisan limbo with this latest White House spin.

Guys, guys: the price for withdrawal, in domestic political terms, is that it has to be accomplished in a way that allows the Pres and his supporters to claim victory. Deprive them of that chance, and you imperil withdrawal, and thus the lives of our troops.

Thanks, Tim, for the link. We are sooo out of Iraq now ( to quote one of my students). It's hilarious to read how the Administration has adopted Biden's plan while claiming that they thought of it first and fed the idea to Biden! Oh well, I suppose that's better than adopting Biden's plan while calling him a defeatist.

So the troops will be home in time for the election, OUR election, the one that matters to Bush and the Reppublicans.

I'm glad. Be they ever so weaselly and dishonest, I am glad that the Bush administration has decided to pull out. My only worry is that, past behavior being the best predictor of future behavior, they will manage it badly.

The flip-flop, from vilifying any pull-out talk one day to floating a pull-out trial balloon two days later can't possibly rank as a mere 180. More like a 540. Or even a 720.

Imagine Bush supporters spinning like little tops.

"...allows the Pres and his supporters to claim victory. Deprive them of that chance, and you imperil withdrawal"

And what will be the costs of 11 more years of Republican rule? How many lives will be ruined or lost in America or overseas? How many Africans will die because of "Just say No" HIV policies, for just one example?

Anything that weakens the Republican Party is a good thing for America. If your decision is to allow ten poor Americans to be pulled off dialysis to save one soldier in Iraq, then I guess your moral priorities aren't mine.

I would rather the Iraq war continues until the Republican Party is utterly destroyed and discredited for a generation. We are very far from there yet. I repeat: Repubs gain seats in 2006. That is a worse catastrophe than Iraq.

I guess your moral priorities aren't mine.

Probably so. Maybe not having lived in Texas for the last 34 years has that kind of impact.

In addition, I've learned that the small price you pay now -- charged to someone else's credit card, as it were -- as often as not doesn't yield the big benefit down the road.

That a continuation of the Iraq war would lead to a complete discrediting of the Republican Party is an appealing enough thought, but too speculative for me to endorse gambling on. I'd prefer to keep to the high road, and let them discredit themselves anyway -- which I think they'll do just as quickly on the domestic front.

I'm with CharleyCarp. It's thinking you don't have to worry about behaving creditably that leads people to get discredited. I'd rather present some sort of alternative.

Besides, I never did like the 'heighten the contradictions' strategy.

Y'know, I was merrily reading this piece, noting some points I agreed with, others I didn't, and noticing some areas of fuzziness that I hoped would become clearer as I read further, when I tripped over this bit of deep fuzziness:

Just as the spread of communism was very real in the 1960s, so the spread of radical fundamentalist Islam is very real today. It was a creeping fear until September 11, 2001, when it showed itself capable of threatening us. Iraq was a logical place to fight back, with its secular government and modern infrastructure and a populace that was ready to overthrow its dictator.
Why was Iraq the logical place to fight back? It was secular already, and there seemed little chance that Hussein would tolerate any al Qaeda-style tomfoolery that would weaken his hold on the nation. Pakistan, on the other hand, is another story.

On top of that, the process of invading Iraq without having either the intelligence data or the diplomatic wherewithall to convince the international community (or even the opposition within teh US, for that matter) meant burning a lot of diplomatic bridges in the process. As we can see with the failure to oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions, that cost alone isn't worth any potential gain in Iraq.

So I stopped reading there. Throwing out nonsense like this without explaining the reasoning behind it is either misleading or simply publicly exposing one's fantasy life in an embarrassing way.

CharleyCarp: "Guys, guys: the price for withdrawal, in domestic political terms, is that it has to be accomplished in a way that allows the Pres and his supporters to claim victory. Deprive them of that chance, and you imperil withdrawal, and thus the lives of our troops. "

Cooperation with this administration will not yield better results, because Bush & Co. will spend that cooperation on their own goals, and screw everything up on top of that.

By now, this is clear.

So I'll pass on that blackmail - please file it under 'dochslosslegende'.

Walker's World: New crisis for Blair's War
UPI Editor

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- This will not be a happy Thanksgiving for President George Bush, but he need just look across the Atlantic to know it could be worse. His only reliable ally, Britain's Tony Blair, now seems to be facing the full-scale parliamentary inquiry into the Iraq war -- its justification, conduct and aftermath -- that Bush has been able to avoid.

Leading opposition figures from the Conservative, Liberal-Democratic, Scottish National and Plaid Cymru (Welsh) parties have banded together to back the cross-party motion titled "Conduct of Government policy in relation to the war against Iraq" to demand that the case for an inquiry be debated in the House of Commons. They seem assured of the 200 signatures required to get such a debate -- and then the loyalty of Blair's dismayed and disillusioned Labor members of Parliament will be sorely tested.

"This apparently modest motion may be the iceberg toward which Blair's Titanic is sailing," said Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond.

Labor Party rebels have already inflicted one unprecedented defeat on Blair in this parliamentary session, and on the issue of Iraq, he commands little confidence. One leading Labor rebel, Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham, has already signed on to the motion.


Maybe this belongs in the Vietnam analogies thread. I spent a little while in the rightish side of the 'sphere this evening and came across more than a few references to US troops engaging "fighters" within Syria. Here's the Telegraph in late Oct. The rather dubious-looking DebkaFiles is reporting (23 Nov., halfway down the page) that Syrian "Desert Guards" have engaged US Marines at Abu Kemal (just barely inside Syria). There seem to be other reports that indicate that some US military may have recently been wounded or died within the Syrian border.

I do not know if these reports are true. Still, I do know that many mainstream news outlets have reported on "border operations" on the Iraq-Syria line. I know that our diplomacy with Syria has recently been privileging the stick over the carrot. I know that the PNAC statement calls for Syria to be the next candidate for regime change. I'll take "Christmas in Cambodia" for 300, Alec.

Dear God, people. In England, it's the Labour Party. Proper noun!

Bizarrely though, it is the Labor party in Australia. An explanation is found in the talk page for the entry, which is often the most fascinating part of Wikipedia articles.

Hilzoy: It's thinking you don't have to worry about behaving creditably that leads people to get discredited. I'd rather present some sort of alternative.

What makes you think that Bush & Co care about behaving creditably? What the past five years has made clear to me is that they care about making their base think they have behaved creditably - and that they need go to very little trouble to do this.

Murtha's withdrawal plan was indeed a phased one.

Where in his language was that ever expressed by Murtha, Aziz?. Murtha was very clear in his statements that he wanted an immediate withdrawal, to be completed in six months. With 170,000 troops in country, it's going to take six months for that to happen in an orderly fashion.

In fact, all the mainline Democrats who have suported withdrawal have done so under the premises supported by Laird.

I don't know about the mainline Democrats, but Murtha is not one of them. He's already given up.

At what cost to the PEOPLE OF VIETNAM?

Laird addressed that, Jake: Two million refugees were driven out of the country, 65,000 more were executed, and 250,000 were sent to "reeducation camps." Add to that a whole nation living under communist tyranny for decades to come. The North Vietnamese government is responsible for the losses of theirs.

I don't like the idea of a draft particularly. But I'm not sure how exactly you propose to achieve the objectives you're committed to without one.

Our recruitment/retention goals are already pretty close, Hil. We also have the option of redeployments from Japan, Germany and South Korea, and we also haven't fully explored more and better incentives.

Add to that a whole nation living under communist tyranny for decades to come. The North Vietnamese government is responsible for the losses of theirs.

I finished up a research project into English education in Vietnam, and made two trips there. If that's what a communist tyranny for decades to come is like, maybe we should outsource Iraq to the Vietnamese.

Charles: you and I must be reading different news stories. As far as I know, recruiting and retention are down, especially in the guard and reserves. Moreover, this NYT story cites a GAO report that says that if you look at critical specialties, the picture is even worse than it seems from the numbers alone:

"The military is falling far behind in its effort to recruit and re-enlist soldiers for some of the most vital combat positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new government report.

The report, completed by the Government Accountability Office, shows that the Army, National Guard and Marines signed up as few as a third of the Special Forces soldiers, intelligence specialists and translators that they had aimed for over the last year.

Both the Army and the Marines, for instance, fell short of their goals for hiring roadside bomb defusers by about 20 percent in each of the last two years. The Army Reserve, meanwhile, failed to fill about a third of its more than 1,500 intelligence analysts jobs. And in the National Guard, there have been consistent shortages filling positions involving tanks, field artillery and intelligence.

The report found that, in all, the military, which is engaged in the most demanding wartime recruitment effort since the 1970's, had failed to fully staff 41 percent of its array of combat and noncombat specialties. (...)

Some military experts also said the gaps would be dangerous only if they continued. Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the problems posed by the shortfalls would be eased if the military began to reduce its deployment in Iraq.

"We are taking a gamble here that the Iraq mission can be wound down before the cumulative problems become really serious," Mr. O'Hanlon said."

Laird addressed that, Jake

With the usual implication that pretty much anything was preferable to communism. And I suppose that would seem convincing to someone who believes that they would have really won Vietnam if it wasn't for that meddling Congress!

Charles: Until you support the draft, you're not serious about winning.

One word, morat: Nonsense.

The Iraqis are much more lively in opposing us than they ever were in opposing Saddam.

I would venture that the "lively" ones who opposed Saddam were not lively for long, Anderson. A faulty measure.

Shorter Laird: "Dolchstosslegende"

Shorter flc:

We were lied to about the war in Iraq.

Prove the lie, Casey.

During the war, 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam, as did uncounted millions of Vietnamese.

Draw your own conclusions.

I expected you to jump in, dr ngo, and I'm glad you did. The conclusion is that we lost the war, for many reasons. The lousy South Vietnamese leadership was a big one to be sure. Our piss-poor way of fighting the war another. Still another was our own funding reductions. In FY 1973, we provided $2.27 billion to the SV govt. In FY 1974, the amount was cut to $1.01 billion. In FY 1975, the administration asked for $1.485 billion and Congress slashed the request to $700 million. These severe cuts in funding emboldened the enemy. General Deng, NV Chief of Staff: "The reduction of U.S. aid made it impossible for the puppet troops to carry out their combat plans and build up their forces...Nguyen van Thieu was then forced to fight a poor man's war. Enemy firepower had decreased by nearly 60 percent because of bomb and ammunition shortages. Its mobility was also reduced by half due to lack of aircraft, vehicles and fuel". The North Vietnamese violated the January 1973 agreement, and when they saw our weakness, i.e., our lack of commitment to funding Vietnamization, they attacked. With severe shortages in bullets and materiel, South Vietnamese military morale was shot to hell prior to the NV invasion, especially with inflation growing by 330 percent from Jan-1971 to Sep-1974. It was never just one thing, but our failure to adequate fund the SV was a big one.

Charles, I am saddened that our leaving Viet Nam created so many refugees, so many deaths, so many "relocations".

Excepting only that I believe it would have been far worse had we stayed the course. What is 65k dead, a months worth of the war, perhaps 2 or 3?

When you are there for the wrong reasons, and doing a bad job of it, as we were and are, best to just stop making things worse.

We are not competent at preemptive war, or wars that are not clearly defensive in nature, Charles. Frankly, that is a good thing.


The (...) leaves out importation information, Hil. To fill in the big blank:

David S. C. Chu, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, denied that the military lacked what it needed to complete the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the report failed to appreciate how the Defense Department handled its recruiting efforts, and had "failed to take into account the dynamic nature of the problem we're trying to solve."

"This report tries to cast that pall on what's going on, but it's misread the fundamental mechanics of how the department actually manages personnel," Dr. Chu said. He said the targets the G.A.O. used to calculate shortfalls were annual guideposts for staffing levels, which could be adjusted according to circumstance. "The report assumes that all positions will always be filled," he said. "That's not in fact the strategy."

It's not as one-sided as you portrayed.

Charles, if that's an answer, I missed it. To me it sounds like obfuscation. As in, cover it with bull shit and nobody will know WHAT it is. Annual targets that are adjusted to circumstances? Circumstances like, say, not meeting the targets?

Time will tell. We are at the end, or nearly so, of the recruitment gains from 9/11. Those contracts are about to run out. How many will be forced to stay in the Army and Marines? It will be interesting to see. If there is a date to get out of Iraq, I bet we see people ride it out. If there is no end date in sight, recruiting will go down hill even further.

Unless, of course, the continuing lack of jobs for young people gets even worse.

I understand that I am stepping in the middle of what is obviously a long ongoing discussion, and I apologize if in doing so I also step square in the shitter. I speak not to convince you so much as I MUST speak somewhere.

Obsidian Wings seems a good somewhere to speak.


Jake, your comments are great, but you might want to look through the posting rules (up on the right-hand-side); profanity is discouraged, as it invites a free-for-all that drowns out civil discourse and makes the site lopsided and unsafe for work browsers. Or at least that's the way I've always understood the argument.

Thanks, Charles for hanging in. Pretty damn good post.

It really isnt a Vietnam situation so much, however, because after the US lost Vietnam, the Russians and Chinese were not emboldened enough to attack the US directly. But AQ already has attacked the US, predicted we would retreat the same way as in Somalia, and after all we are now fighting "Al Qaeda in Iraq".

We may yet have a really, really big attack against the US and then have to counter with a really really big response. I think that is even more likely than in the Cold War. I would prefer that this not happen, and I think that if Iraq turns out well, this doomsday scenario is less likely to happen.

We may yet have a really, really big attack against the US and then have to counter with a really really big response. I think that is even more likely than in the Cold War.

I don't disagree that we may see another terrorist attack, and that seeing one is much more likely than a nuclear attack was in, say, 1969.

What I don't see is the relationship between the likelihood of a terrorist attack and different results of the ongoing war in Iraq.

What makes an AQ attack more likely than a Soviet attack is the complete inability to deter. Indeed, AQ -- like our own bob mcmanus -- likes to pursue a 'heighten the contradictions' strategy, and wants us to engage in a really big response. It wants this because we can't really get AQ with such a strike without also killing enough civilians to make the strike a net loss for us in the values war, which is what the thing is about.

But surely if we "win" in Iraq -- and at this point, I think one would define winning as the main Sunni communities deciding to participate substantially (turnout over 40%) in the political process and expelling the foreigners -- the likelihood of an attack in the US goes up, not down. Today the central front in the WOT is in Iraq because we have presented AQ with a convenient battleground that plays to its strengths. When that battleground is no longer available, what do you think AQ is going to do? Shrug, and say 'geez, I guess George Bush was right after all'?

On the other hand, if we do not "win" in Iraq, but rather leave it for the Iraqis to sort out themselves, it takes a little longer for the foreigners to be expelled, and when they are, they'll still be looking for a way to jump start their cause.

To take the nightmare scenario -- and I don't think this is even remotely likely -- if AQ ends up ruling Anbar in the wake of our departure, and proclaims the Caliphate, the incentive for AQ to attack the US is lessened, rather than increased. (Indeed, one might argue that allowing AQ control of Anbar -- with the inevitable purges -- would do for the reputation of Islamism what Pol Pot did for the reputation of agrarian communism. One would have to have a bit more of an ammoral 'heighten the contradictions' mindset to actually advocate such a thing, but I can see what the case would look like. We certainly need not fear that Zarqawi could run an efficient prosperous state that would be a model for anyone.)

As I think about it, there are two versions of the Seven Samurai playing simultaneously in Iraq right now. Sunni communities are tolerating AQ, barely, because the latter fights the invader, while Shi'ite communities feel the same about our soldiers. In both cases, should victory be acheived, the samurai had better be watching for pitchforks in the back.

I'd be interested to know what our utopians think of>this sort of thing. Just saying that Freedom is on the March kind of reminds me of a prior utopian president who compared Afghan mujahadeen to our own Founders.

Or is this just more evidence that AQ trains people to lie about their treatment at the hands of the US and its allies?

No question that leaving Iraq in the hands of another group of thugs is unacceptable. And the rest of your analysis is very good, too. But we simply must have some kind of civil society in the ME that is an alternative to the Baathists and AQ.

Jackmormon, having read both the posting rules and many, many comments, I used those words carefully, even if from an excess of passion.

Perhaps hilzoy will clarify for me whether or not I stepped over the line.


Jake: yes, you did, not with the tone or content of your comment, but with one little word. -- The policy against profanity was, iirc, originally put in place for the sake of people who wanted to read ObWi at work and had annoying profanity-screening filters, but it also helps to keep the level of vitriol low. So we try to enforce it, even when (as in the case of your comment) vitriol isn't an issue.

LOL! Ok.

One of the other places I post uses the euphemism "TOS" (Terms of Service) whenever an otherwise proscribed profanity is called for. Perhaps I will use TOS when I feel an excess of passion coming on. :)

Thanks, hilzoy.


Charles, if that's an answer, I missed it. To me it sounds like obfuscation. As in, cover it with bull shit and nobody will know WHAT it is. Annual targets that are adjusted to circumstances? Circumstances like, say, not meeting the targets?

So what do you want, Jake, timetables for withdrawal or withdrawal based on prescribed achievements? Personally, I'll take door #2.

Charles, prescribed achievements sound good, but they are totally unenforeceable. There are always caveats. Elections were the original goal - but wait, those didn't work out quite the way we wanted. So a constitution was next - except it didn't work out quite the way we wanted.

There will always be something, Charles. The truth is that we don't belong there, that we are making things worse, not better, and that no matter when we leave, unless it is maybe 40 years from now and Iraq is clearly a vassal state, it will not stay as we leave it.

In thinking about this, the only way I see to create a democracy that will live beyond American occupation is to declare Iraq the 51st state. Or at least a protectorate like Puerto Rico. IOW, a permanent occupation.

I think you could reasonably argue that we STILL occupy Germany and Japan - 60 years later.

Charles, it is the sheer hypocrisy of choosing to invade Iraq that so sticks in my craw. For me, feelings of revulsion for our tainted leadership combined with their clear incompetence to prosecute ANYTHING other than a Swiftboating leads me to the conclusion the Iraqis are already on their own. The only question is how many must die, both Americans and Iraqis, before some stability returns to Iraq. I believe stability will return more quickly, with fewer lives lost, if we leave.

So if it is door 2 you say we must choose, then tell me what you beleive we will find behind that door. This is not a game show. If it is a totally random and unguessable choice we must make, then we are even more TOSed then I had imagined.


DaveC sez: "But we simply must have some kind of civil society in the ME that is an alternative to the Baathists and AQ"

this sentence, to me, encapsulates perfectly the major difference between the pro-war and anti-war positions.

DaveC is taking the MBA / pres. bush position: the US must force the middle east to become more subject to the rule of law.

now, there are lots of very good reasons for wanting to achieve that goal, from civil rights to oil stability.

but to this anti-war voter, it sounds a lot like underpants gnomes' business plan:
1. invade a secular ME state
2. ???
3. pro-west political groups launch velvet revolutions across the middle east.

it's step 2 that's the doozy.

As tacitus has pointed out ad nauseam, pro-west democracy can be achieved at the point of a gun. he has cited japan, germany and the american south as success stories.

so while victory, as defined by CB, tac, and Dave C, appears possible, there is never much discussion by the pro-war forces about replicating the particular conditions necessary to repeat those victories.

so, DaveC, take it away. how do we get from where we are to where you want to go?

how do we inculcate nationalism and extirpate tribalism / religious factionalism?
how do we bring real security?
and, most importantly, how do we get this new iraq to lean to the west instead of iran?

Charles Bird: So what do you want, Jake, timetables for withdrawal or withdrawal based on prescribed achievements? Personally, I'll take door #2.

And a pony.

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