So entrenched are those lessons that McCain sounds, at times, like he wishes they could be applied retroactively. "We lost in Vietnam because we lost the will to fight, because we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting, and because we limited the tools at our disposal," McCain said at a speech on Iraq at the Council on Foreign Relations on Nov. 5, 2003. And for that reason, it might be advisable to take him at his word when he says he'll stay in Iraq for 100 years. Whether Vietnam is the prism through which he judges national security decisions, or the rationale he uses to explain whatever position he decides to take -- and even if the lessons he says he's learned from Vietnam often seem contradictory -- he has applied his Vietnam test to Iraq and come up with the decision to stay.So, what is 100 years, 10,000 years if we can declare victory at the end of it?
In fact, McCain has applied some lessons to Iraq that seem to conflict with earlier statements about Vietnam. He had previously said, in connection with Somalia, that staying in a war because chaos would ensue on American departure was not a good reason to stay. Last Tuesday, he said the U.S. needed to stay in Iraq because chaos would ensue if we left, as we learned in Vietnam. (And despite having shared in GOP rhetoric during the 1990s disparaging President Clinton's foreign policy initiatives as "nation building," he now publicly embraces remaining in Iraq to build democracy.
The prime lesson McCain seems to be applying to Iraq is that we need to stay in it to win it. In fact, McCain has argued that the United States' failure to adhere to that last maxim after a decade of war in Vietnam provides a "cautionary lesson" for the war in Iraq.
Some foreign policy experts think that the commitment of a large, long-term troop presence in Iraq does little to spark action in a lethargic political reconciliation process in Iraq, the ultimate key to success there. They draw a very different parallel with Vietnam. "It does not provide an endgame, which puts us right back in the problem of Vietnam in trying to push an ally or a host nation to try and change," explained Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "We are giving them the breathing space because of our large force numbers, but their belief is that because we have made such a large commitment, we are not going to leave, so they don't really have to change."
Hoffman said McCain is "right to invoke Vietnam, but he is drawing the wrong lesson ... People misapply history to fit their view of the world. This seems like another example."
I have an idea. How about we change the meaning of the word 'victory' like the right has tried to change the word 'fascism' and has fuglied the word 'liberal'? We say victory means staying until ... oh... April 27th, 2008.
Then we hit the date, declare victory achieved, and leave.
Then those who need to can yell,"We've won!" We can have our parades for our soldiers, create a G.I. bill that supports our troops and restarts the economy, and begin rebuilding our country and our Constitution.
crossposted at Rants from the Rookery