November 20, 2005
The Malady Recurs
triumph in Desert Storm and Tommy Frank's brilliant run up to
Baghdad, the Vietnam Syndrome is with us yet.
really purged it from our system.
the meaning of 40 Senate votes on a resolution demanding that
President Bush give quarterly progress reports and a timetable
for getting us out of Iraq. While 58 senators voted no on timetables,
they bought into the rest of the resolution.
is the message? We are not going deeper into Iraq, as McCain urges.
We are not going to stay the course, as Bush insists. America
is coming home. It is but a matter of time.
dictionary defines syndrome as "a group of signs and symptoms
that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality."
of the Vietnam Syndrome, clearly visible now, include a deepening
divide in the country, a new savagery in politics, a reluctance
to spend more blood in a cause in which one no longer believes,
wounded protests that one was deceived and the portrayal of one's
loss of nerve as a principled advance toward a higher moral plane.
percent of the nation no longer believing Bush an honest and truthful
man, and 60 percent believing Iraq was a mistake and we should
start bringing the troops home, it is impossible to see how the
president can sustain the war effort. The Senate Democrats have
gone over the hill, and the Republicans only await the bugle call
enemy is not stupid. They can see the American home front crumbling
and know that if they can hold on, they will not much longer be
facing 150,000 U.S. troops.
problem is that, while we are not losing this war, we have not
crushed the insurgency. And if a guerrilla army does not lose,
it wins. The only way America can win this war is with a massive
infusion of U.S. troops. Yet, even John McCain is not advocating
appears unwilling to pay the price in blood, money and years to
achieve what Bush calls victory. Whether that represents a failure
of will on the part of the American people or a failure of leadership
on the part of President Bush, the result is the same.
the nation to turn against the war and our war president needs
to be studied for what it tells us about ourselves as a people.
are lousy imperialists. We lack the patience and perseverance.
We will not support the daily loss of American lives, with pictures
of the fallen on TV every night and in the paper every day, unless
we are persuaded something vital is at risk. And who rules Iraq
is not something Americans are willing to bleed or die for indefinitely.
But as the
air is full of allegations of lying, we at least need to tell
ourselves the truth about what we are inviting, what we are risking,
if, as seems possible now, America should lose this war.
is that many Iraqis who cast their lot with us will pay the price
Algerians loyal to France paid when the French departed in 1962.
And if the U.S. Army and Marine Corps could not crush an insurgency
in three years, it is difficult to see how an Iraqi army, trained
by the U.S. Army and Marines, can do the job.
United States must accept the possibility, if not probability,
that our enemies will control the Sunni Triangle and contest Baghdad,
thus leading to breakup of the nation and civil war. For the Kurds
and Shia are not going to accept Sunni rule again.
would aid the Kurds and Iran the Shia in any such war. The Sunni
would look to fellow Arabs for help, the price of which might
be the head of Zarqawi. As for the impact of any such war on oil
prices, the only question is how devastating it would be.
home, there would be years of bitter recrimination, as there were
after Korea and Vietnam. The Democrats might do well to recall
the fate of their fathers who voted to take us into Vietnam, then
to cut off funding for the war. Between 1968 and 1988, Democrats
lost the presidency in five of six elections, ruined their reputation
as reliable custodians of the national security and lost the nation
As for Bush,
a retreat from Iraq and defeat there would mean a failed presidency.
The Bush Doctrine of employing U.S. power to unhorse dictators
and impose democracy will be dead.
will adopt a new non-interventionist foreign policy, except where
vital U.S. interests are imperiled. The tragedy is that we did
not do, voluntarily, 15 years ago, what a foolish, failing neoconservative
foreign policy may now force us to do in the not-too-distant future.
2005 Creators Syndicate