Sunday, April 8, 2007

The light at the end of the tunnel?

We just surveyed the sad final months of the Lyndon Johnson presidency, in which he viewed the failing US effort in Vietnam as a public relations problem. He believed he could "sell" the viability of the war to the American public with some high-profile speeches and appearances among the troops in Vietnam. This effort came to a definitive halt with the so-called "TET" lunar New Year's offensive, when the Viet Cong launched attacks against the US embassy in Saigon as well as in 50 cities and towns across south Vietnam. Suddenly all those assurances about how there was finally light at the end of the tunnel, the enemy was finished, it was all but over, etc., rang hollow. It was obvious to everyone that the OPPOSITE was true--we were in deep trouble, in deep quagmire, with no easy exit in sight. Lyndon Johnson was subsequently forced to withdraw from the l968 Presidential campaign and retired to his ranch in Texas.

Now John McCain, fresh off a public relations disaster of his own in a Baghdad neighborhood, is going to rerun the Johnson strategy. To quote the Washington Post, "Senator John McCain will launch a high-profile effort this week to convince Americans that the Iraq war is winnable, embracing the unpopular conflict with renewed vigor as he attempts to reignite his stalling bid for the presidency."

We faced one civil conflict in Vietnam, the north Vietnamese Communists vs. the south Vietnamese status quo, and didn't come close to victory. Now we face... Shiia militias and mobs fighting each other for power and influence over the lucrative Basra port, religious Shiia militias fighting each other for the allegiance of believers, Sunni Iraqis vs. the Shiite central government over power and influence in the national government, Al Quaeda and Baathist insurgents vs. the United States in Anbar province, and now Arabs vs. Kurds for control of Kirkuk and its oil. That's at least five different wars, and McCain thinks that we can prevail in military terms?!

Is this delusional thinking or an old navy man's "damn the torpedoes" stubbornness? Either way, it's hard to see how he avoids LBJ's outcome.


jodmeister said...

Well, if he presents facts and not ideologies, I'm all ears.

german said...

actually it is a winnable war. its just amatter of figuring out when is it stabile enough to leave without a dictatorship rising from the chaos. the newly freed iraq's need to step up to the plate and start sharing more of the burden for restoring law and order. it might take a few from the old regime but they might be trusted.

moville said...

Well, I don't see how on the military side, because there isn't any nation to be re-established...there's only sunni, and shiia, and kurds. there is no iraqi identity there, just as there was no yugoslav nationality after tito.

I actually have heard some people talking sense in the last few days, though...they are talking about trying to re-settle the arabs out of kirkuk, so they won't have explosive conflict there over oil, and maybe even re-recruiting former baathists into the army. other than that, situation bleak and unchanged.

SS97 said...

I'm not particularly optimistic about the future of the new Iraqi government, but I think up and leaving would be extremely irresponsible. It seems like many of the same folks who want to pull out of Iraq, also want the US to intervene in Darfur, and yet if we left Iraq there'd probably be genocide in Iraq too.