Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Vietnam Analogy

The administration is apparently preparing a new public tack on the Iraq War, one we've already heard echoed hear and there: leaving Iraq now would be equivalent to the tragedy of giving up on Vietnam. But, as usual, scratch off a bit of the patina and the analogy gets wacky.

As for the analogy, Josh Marshall:

Going forty years on, it is not too much to say that virtually none of the predicted negative repercussions of our departure from Vietnam ever came to pass.

Asia didn't go Communist. Our Asian allies didn't abandon us. Rather, the Vietnamese began to fall out with her Communist allies. With the Cold War over, in strategic terms at least, it's almost hard to remember what the whole fight was about. If anything, the clearest lesson of Vietnam would seem to be that there can be a vast hue and cry about the catastrophic effects of disengagement from a failed policy and it can turn out that none of them are true...

"Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens, whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields,' " the president will say.

The story of the 'boat people' is unquestionably tragic. And there's little doubt that there are many Iraqis who will pay either with their lives or nationality for aiding us in various ways during our occupation of the country. But to govern our policy on this basis is simply to buy into a classic sunk cost fallacy. A far better -- and really quite necessary -- policy would be to give asylum to a lot of these people rather than continuing to get more of them into the same position in advance of our inevitable departure.

More concretely though, didn't the killing fields happen in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge rather than Vietnam? So doesn't that complicate the analogy a bit? And didn't that genocide actually come to an end when the Communist Vietnamese invaded in 1979 and overthrow the Khmer Rouge regime? The Vietnamese Communists may have been no great shakes. But can we get through one of these boneheaded historical analogies while keeping at least some of the facts intact?

Furthermore, on the "strategic" front:
The president will also make the argument that withdrawing from Vietnam emboldened today's terrorists by compromising U.S. credibility, citing a quote from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden that the American people would rise against the Iraq war the same way they rose against the war in Vietnam, according to the excerpts.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a better example of President Bush's comically inept strategic thinking. Actually, lack of strategic thinking. I'm sure you've noticed how, as the president's policies go further and further down the drain, he more and more often cites the authority of Osama bin Laden as the rationale for his policies. In this case, we must stay in Iraq forever wasting money and lives and destroying our position in the world because if we don't we'll have proved Osama bin Laden right.

Sigh, return to Exhibit A....

See also D at LGM for more.


C.M. Mayo said...

I'd like to see more about the Mexico analogy. I mean, the French in Mexico in the 1860s.

MT said...

I'd like him or someone else draw the same analogy at his impeachment. I'm starting to think that with the massiveness of the Big Lies we're hearing we've come close to evidence for brane worlds and string theory.

helmut said...

Nice, both of you.

Yes, we've apparently shifted to an alternative possible world at some point. Hope to get back to the other one someday soon. I left some things there myself.