President George Bush invoked Vietnam and other historical events in an effort to defend his policies in Iraq. I am going to try and be diplomatic here, but frankly, the man spent the Vietnam War partying while his peers fought and died for America, so this is going to be a challenge. I will be concise and just discuss the logic of some of his key statements and avoid too many digressions. Even more, I will try to give him credit where credit is due, I’m really tired of Bush bashers and would rather remove myself from that crowd, they are doing the country more harm than good.
Well, first Mr Bush says that there is a legitimate debate about the Vietnam war, both about how and why we got into it, and about our withdrawal. True enough. In fact almost anything can be legitimately debated, so it’s not exactly a stretch to say this, but still, got to give the man his props for being willing to debate an issue. Then he followed up with:
“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,’ “
….If this is Bush’s idea of providing historical justification for remaining in Iraq, I am underwhelmed. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that he is either unfamiliar with history or deliberately misusing it to make his case. I can think of better examples for heaven’s sake, the Philippines or Puerto Rico for starters. I can only assume that his examples were chosen because they represented such extremes of both positive and negative, and he is hoping that the typical American will not be able to see how tortured and inaccurate they are as historical analogies. Speaking logically what Bush is mostly doing is called observational selection or “counting the hits and ignoring the misses,” with some slippery slope arguments thrown in or implied.
Looking at the above graph, I would suggest drawing a different lesson from the Vietnam War. Let’s get out now and save thousands of American lives. Yes, bad things are going to happen in the Middle East as the locals settle their scores. It’s too late to prevent that, in fact it’s already happening. Keeping Americans in the crossfire isn’t going to help, and arguably is making it worse. Not only is there nothing shameful in admitting a military campaign has failed and pulling back, it conserves our strength and increases our options.
Even Julius Casar knew that withdrawal is always an option, he invaded England twice and both times realized it was hopeless and withdrew. This doesn’t seem to have hurt his place in history. And no, English barbarians didn’t become emboldened and get on ships and sail to Rome to attack the Coliseum.