Despite the plot foiled in London, the last week or so have been the bleakest period since 9/11. For starters, it’s the conservatives who are talking about Vietnam:
Republicans have turned a corner in the past week, it’s likely because, although wars are often unpopular in America, losing a war is rarely a winner at the ballot box. It is here that the Vietnam experience may prove to be pivotal. After more than a decade of a hard-fought (if often restrained or ill thought out) military campaign, the America withdrew from Vietnam to watch it collapse under communist control. Many Democrats seem untroubled by this history. But few of the nonpartisans alive then or who grew up in the political aftermath of that withdrawal can be happy with the results: insurgent communist forces abroad and economic malaise and a loss of national confidence at home.
The Vietnamese call the two decades that followed the fall of Saigon in 1975 the ‘Dark Years.’ That period came to a close only after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire, when the regime in Hanoi, though still communist, began to liberalize. The U.S. didn’t suffer for nearly as long–Jimmy Carter was a one-term president, after all–but the blow to American confidence was nonetheless severe. It wasn’t until the first Gulf War in 1991 that the U.S. was willing to put hundreds of thousands of boots on foreign ground again to wage a large-scale military invasion. And in the years that followed, President Clinton again hesitated to use American troops on foreign soil after 18 soldiers were killed in the streets of Mogadishu. Mr. Clinton did wage war in Kosovo, but only from the skies. And as late as the invasion of Afghanistan in the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, serious people were still warning of ‘another Vietnam’ in the far-flung mountains that had once swallowed up Soviet troops.
Withdrawing from Iraq now would usher in a new dark period in the U.S., one in which the nation makes clear it is unwilling to confront emerging threats. Leaving Iraq in chaos would leave the U.S. a hobbled nation that would be unable or unwilling to protect its own national security interests.
If we lose this time, we will experience something more acute than malaise. Why won’t we fight to win? Partly andwering this question, Bernard Goldberg makes a scary point about one adversary in critiquing Mike Wallace’s failed interview with Iran’s Ahmadinejad:
In fact, instead of seeming like a modern Hitler (a not unreasonable comparison, given that one wanted to exterminate all the Jews while the other wants to wipe Israel off the map), Mr. Ahmadinejad came across as, well, a fairly typical, run-of-the-mill liberal. I listened carefully as he laid out his position on the war in Lebanon and on the Bush policy in Iraq, and I could not detect any significant difference between his views and those held by a lot of blue-state liberals, especially the liberal intellectuals on our college campuses. ‘Killing innocents is reprehensible,’ he told Mike Wallace. ‘Why are Americans killing Iraqis?’ he asked. Hey, I just heard the same thing on Air America.
Read the whole piece. Goldberg is also good on how media savvy Ahmadinejad is.