As our troops fighting in Iraq are at what could be a tipping point, Inkwell is immersed in…historical novels.

The Princes of Ireland, Edward Rutherfurd’s latest, contains, like all Rutherfurd novels, scenes in which men and women must choose sides in a historic conflict.

As in all Rutherfurd’s novels, there are many people, the vast majority, in fact, who make the choice based solely on calculations of what’s best for them and their families. 

Are we making the choice of America hard for average Iraqis? Being Americans, we want to win their hearts and minds, but the more important thing making it clear that we will be the victors.

According to Roll Call’s Morton Kondracke, we’re not doing this. Kondracke is brutally critical of Senator Ted Kennedy, who has been peddling the “another Vietnam” line recently, and to Senator Robert Byrd for picking up the refrain:

“[I]t’s unconscionable,” writes Kondracke, “for two senior Senators to declare, amid the most serious combat that U.S. troops have faced in months, that they are engaged in, in Kennedy’s words, ‘a quagmire’ — i.e., a war that America should be pulling out of.”

The Kennedy-Byrd refrain has been picked up in Iraq:

“America’s new sworn enemy, Shiite firebrand Muqtada Al Sadr, picked up on the theme, calling on the American people to align with him or ‘Iraq will be another Vietnam for America.’

“Fortunately, [Senator John] McCain responded to Byrd, ‘I happen to know something about Vietnam, and I know that we do not face another Vietnam.’ He made the points that Iraqi insurgents have no superpower backing or off-limits sanctuaries, as North Vietnam had, and that the enemy is a fraction of the Iraqi population, not the whole.”

Christopher Hitchens also finds the comparison to Vietnam inappropriate, though, of course, Kennedy and Byrd aren’t the only ones who are making it: 

“Of what does this confrontation remind you?” Hitchens writes on Slate. “Why, of Vietnam, says Sen. Edward Kennedy. No, more like Lebanon in 1982, says the New York Times. The usually admirable Colbert King, in the Washington Post, asking how we got ourselves into this, compares pro-American Iraqis to the Uncle Toms on whom liberal opinion used to rely for advice about the black ghetto. And Thomas Friedman, never more than an inch away from a liberal panic of his own, has decided that it is Kurdish arrogance — in asking to keep what they already have — that has provoked theocratic incendiarism.”

Then Hitch offers a few fond memories of  the real Vietnam:

“If the United States were the nation that its enemies think it is, it could quite well afford to Balkanize Iraq, let the various factions take a chunk each, and make a divide-and-rule bargain with the rump. The effort continues, though, to try and create something that is simultaneously federal and democratic. Short of that, if one absolutely has to fall short, the effort must continue to deny Iraq to demagogues and murderers and charlatans. I can’t see how this compares to the attempt to partition and subjugate Vietnam, bomb its cities, drench its forests in Agent Orange, and hand over its southern region to a succession of brutal military proxies. For one thing, Vietnam even at its most Stalinist never invaded and occupied neighboring countries (or not until it took on the Khmer Rouge), never employed weapons of genocide inside or outside its own borders, and never sponsored gangs of roving nihilist terrorists. If not all its best nationalists were Communists, all its best Communists were nationalists, and their combination of regular and irregular forces had beaten the Japanese and French empires long before the United States even set foot in the country, let alone before the other Kennedy brothers started assassinating the very puppets they had installed there.”

Meanwhile, John Kerry has an op-ed about Iraq in today’s Washington Post. It’s not a bad op-ed, though there’s plenty of boilerplate about the “failure” of our current policies. The op-ed does indicate that Kerry would not pull out our troops.

“Finally, we must level with our citizens. Increasingly, the American people are confused about our goals in Iraq, particularly why we are going it almost alone. The president must rally the country around a clear and credible goal. The challenges are significant and the costs are high. But the stakes are too great to lose the support of the American people.” 

How can the American people not be confused with Kennedy and Byrd constantly making the Vietnam analogy?

Speaking of the Vietnam analogy, I have a feeling that, if Kerry wins in November, it will become more apt.

We’ll have a government forced to prosecute a war in which it does not believe. That’s Vietnam.