Owning Defeat

Jonah Goldberg writes, “lo and behold, the Democrats are behaving as if Iraq is Vietnam all over again. But it is only now dawning on the Democrats that the Vietnam War wasn’t exactly their finest hour”:


The Democratic pickle is exquisitely simple: In the past election, they ran as the anti-war party and promised to bring the war to a close, but, like the dog who finally catches the car fender, they’re at a loss about what to do now. As Virginia’s Rep. Jim Moran says of his fellow Democrats, they “want to make sure this is still President Bush’s war,” but the only way they can end the war is to take possession of it. The Democratic base thinks that’d be fine. But, one gets the sense, someone in the party’s leadership understands that might be a problem.

Long-lasting myths

The Democrats are incapable of escaping the gravitational pull of the Vietnam myths they’ve nurtured for decades. At the same time, the liberal memory of the Vietnam War has become so gauzy and saccharine with nostalgia that they’re unprepared to grapple with the downsides of their own all-purpose analogy. All that seems to matter is proving that the Iraq war not only has been lost but must be lost, lest the Vietnam worldview be invalidated. As my colleague Rich Lowry said in regard to Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha’s effort to sneakily thwart the Bush surge: “It used to be that the war had to end because it was a failure; now it must fail so that it can end.” For example, Massachusetts’ Sen. Edward Kennedy ridicules the notion that a withdrawal from Iraq would have grave humanitarian costs.

“I heard the same kinds of suggestions at the time of the end of the Vietnam War,” Kennedy told NBC’s Tim Russert, mocking the notion that we’d have a “great bloodbath” with more than 100,000 dead. “And for those of us that were strongly opposed to the war, (we) heard those same kinds of arguments.”

Yes, but those arguments were right. Our withdrawal from Vietnam did contribute to a great bloodbath. More than a half-million Vietnamese died at sea fleeing the grand peace Kennedy and his colleagues orchestrated. And more than 1.2 million Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, thanks to the power vacuum created by our “humanitarian” withdrawal. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a presidential candidate, insists that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq can’t make things any worse. In 1975 he took a similar line: “The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambodian people is peace, not guns. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now.” Someone rent Dodd a DVD of The Killing Fields.

Of course, the costs of defeat in Vietnam were hardly just humanitarian. America’s loss at the hands of a small, comparatively weaker nation arguably prolonged the Cold War and has long served as an emboldening example to enemies eager to believe Uncle Sam has a glass jaw



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