Thursday, March 09, 2006

Through the prism of Viet Nam

That's how someone of my age sees any U.S.-initiated war.

One of the sources of my deep uneasiness about backing James Webb for Senate is that he stands on the other side of the great gulf in our generation and our party over Viet Nam. Despite Webb's sound and early opposition to the war on Iraq, he makes no connection between it and the Viet Nam war. Far from acknowledging that war as a fundamentally doomed assault based on lies, Webb was actually a proponent of the late 1970s "stabbed in the back" Viet Nam narrative that poisons our politics to this day.

In contrast, William Odom's assessment seems sane and accurate. In Iraq Through the Prism of Vietnam he outlines the three phases of the earlier war and their failures:

Phase One...began with hesitation and a gross misreading of American strategic interests (the “containment of China”). It concluded with the U.S. use of phony intelligence that made it seem that North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked U.S. ships in the Tonkin Gulf without provocation.
Phase Two...was marked by a refusal to reconsider the war’s strategic rationale. Rather, debate focused only on tactical issues as the war went sour.
Phase Three...was marked by “Vietnamization” and “make-believe diplomacy” in Paris, policies still ignoring the strategic realities at the war’s beginning. ... The key problem in South Vietnam had always been achieving a political consolidation among anti-Viet Cong elites. It was not building effective military and police forces.

Odom goes on to marshal persuasive parallels with the Iraq war, and puts us at late stage two/early stage three. Given how much more quickly we're moving through the stages, unless we withdraw soon, it may not be much longer before the helicopters start to lift off.



At 11:42 AM, March 10, 2006, Blogger Donald said...

I didn't know you had a blog until Jim Henley mentioned it. You need to be more self-promoting. Has Jeanne linked?

At 12:43 PM, March 10, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

LOL! No point in self-promotion when I'm posting at the torrid rate of once a week (at best). I still find it much easier to write comments on other blogs than posts on my own.

At 8:38 PM, March 10, 2006, Blogger Donald said...

Yeah, I understand that. In my more torrid guest-blogging days at Jeanne's, I thought about blogging myself. I thought about it for about two seconds--at best I might have 5 or 10 (getting optimistic there) decent posts in me and then I'd just repeat myself over and over again, or just shut down.

At 12:50 AM, March 14, 2006, Blogger janinsanfran said...

Yup -- Vietnam on crack.

At 9:54 AM, March 14, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Swopa said this yesterday, which I'm afraid is the sad truth:

We can't sustain our already-insufficient supply of troops beyond the next few months. Having overseen the polarization of Iraq's factions for three years, and helped to set the "dirty war" in motion in our flailing attempts to manipulate them, we'll have no choice but to retreat and watch them tear the country apart even further.


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