FULL GABARDINE JACKET: Brent Bozell exclaims, “Enough Vietnam Analogies” from TV newscasters:
1. We lost 58,000 American soldiers in Vietnam. Our casualties in Iraq now aren’t on the same planet as the losses in that war.
2. We didn’t liberate Vietnam from communist dictatorship and then have trouble reorganizing it along peaceful and democratic lines. If we were in Month Six and still struggling to depose Saddam Hussein–while losing thousands of lives in the process–the comparison would be more realistic. In Vietnam, we withdrew in defeat and left with the whole country united under tyranny and concentration camps. In Iraq, we liberated the entire country from tyranny and torture chambers in three weeks.
The anchors are now anxious to make us forget this.
3. In Vietnam, anti-war activists and anchormen could more plausibly argue (though still incorrectly) that the complete consolidation of communism halfway around the world was not a threat to the domestic security of the United States. Since September 11, are these same anti-war activists and anchormen finding it reasonable to assume that America faces no threat, and the proper response to world terrorism and the states that sponsor it is once again withdrawal and negotiated humiliation?
The only Vietnam analogy that works is the comparison in press coverage. As in Vietnam, the press is eager to discredit American military action, to discourage American support at home for military action, to disintegrate the noble cause of the fight, and to bury any victory under a tidal wave of gloom.
As I noted back on February 27th, almost three weeks before fighting actually broke out in Iraq, CNN actually used the Q-word to describe the upcoming war.
As good as Bozell’s essay is, I’d argue that there’s another Vietnam analogy that works: the protestors of this war, like television anchormen, are also stuck in 1968.
UPDATE: No sooner did I post this, I read this article by John O’Sullivan, in which he argues that Vietnam, properly understood, wasn’t a quagmire:
What of the significance of Vietnam as a local skirmish in the Cold War? Here we have the testimony of Asia’s principal elder statesman, Lee Kuan Yew, First minister of Singapore. He has pointed out that the American intervention in the war halted the onward march of Communism southwards for 15 years–roughly from 1960 to 1975. In that crucial period, the new ex-colonial states of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, maybe India itself, took advantage of this incidental American protection to develop their economies from poor agricultural and trading post economies into modern industrial and information societies. By the time the war was over and North Vietnamese tanks were surging into Saigon, these countries were prosperous NICs (i.e. newly industrializing countries), more or less immune to the Communist virus and capable of resisting external attack.
Nor does the story end with the safety of Singapore. In the late 1980s, when the Soviet politburo was debating perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev cited its success–tiny Singapore, exported more in value than the vast Soviet Union–as demonstrating the need to dismantle the socialist command economy. (At the exact same moment, Hanoi was embarking on its own hesitant liberalization. Coincidence?)
If Lee Kuan Yew is to be believed, then, the U.S. intervention in Vietnam was a major factor is achieving the West’s overall victory in the Cold War. It held the line while freedom and prosperity were established in non-Communist Asia–and that provided the rest of the world, including the evil empire itself, with a “demonstration effect” of how freedom led to prosperity.
Incidentally, Stephen Hayward made that argument as well.
But be sure to read the rest of Sullivan’s piece–he does a remarkable job of placing Vietnam in perspective.
Speaking of Vietnam, but apropos of nothing in Sullivan’s article, this is as good a place as any to hang an observation: it says much about how things work in the “red states” of America, that of the stars of Full Metal Jacket, Lee Ermey is a folk hero. And Matthew Modine has largely dropped off the cultural radar.