Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bush Finally Goes to Vietnam

So, GWBush has gone to Vietnam. He is parroting the line that "we'll succeed unless we quit," and seems to think that's the lesson of Vietnam. Of course, the lessons of Vietnam are quite different:
1. A homegrown nationalist foe is rarely the mere puppet of a hostile foreign ideology and outside agitators. Vietnam was not a mere surrogate for the USSR and communism. Thinking it was blinded us to the fact that it was not a proxy war between two equally motivated (or un-motivated) foreign powers, but a colonialist struggle. Iraq is not primarily a fight against foreign terrorists (even if they are there), and thinking so is a recipe for disaster.
2. Time is not on your side. A strategy for victory that requires an occupier to outlast a homegrown foe is doomed to fail.
3. An occupying power has no chance of winning the "hearts and minds" of local people unless it behaves better and treats them better than the homegrown foe. A wonderful new book about the early phase of the American revolution by historian David Fischer called "Washington's Crossing" shows how the British (who had an excellent chance of winning the hearts and minds of their American cousins) blew their chance of crushing the rebellion in the winter of 1776-1777 throught he occupation of New York and New Jersey. They mistreated prisoners, often refusing to take prisoners (claiming that they were unlawful combatants unprotected by the rules of war), raiding and plundering the countryside for food (particularly the hated Hessian mercenaries, who would show up with empty wagons in towns and loot them), and the ever present problem of rape. They also made it clear that colonial government as they had known it would not be permitted to resume.
4. Truly remaking a country, as in Germany or Japan, succeeded because it was preceded by a total defeat and submission of the people, plus overwhelming military force during occupation that behaved honorably. It also succeeded because it worked with existing institutions (e.g, German political parties).


Anonymous said...

"We'll succeed unless we quit" is an amazing line. It means that if we ever leave Iraq, we lose. The only way to win is to stay forever. That's what our president honestly believes. Think about that for a second. 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

I echo everything said here so far.

But I'll ad that there are some things in Iraq that make it even more unlikely that staying the course will work.

Unlike Vietnam, Iraq is not so much a clear fight between a nationalist movement (or two) and an occupying power. Iraq is actually in a state of civil war in which there are at least 3 major beligerants.

We cannot hope to supress this fighting (certainly not with the troop levels we as a country seem willing to deploy). Our presence serves only to get Americans killed in the cross fire. At best we we slow the rate at which these three sides kill each other but that may not be the best strategy.

I've posted before that there is good research out there that civil wars don't finally settle down until either one side wins outright or the sides all fight themselves to exhaustion. By getting between them US troops are preventing either path to a peace.

Bush would have us stay indefinitely. He actually seems to think that the problem in Vietnam was that left too soon (after 8 years!!).

The real lesson of Vietnam is that by leaving and continuing to emphasize an open world economy and democracy, we have won the peace 30 years after we lost the war.

Something Bush needs to realize is that since the US is the biggest economy in the world (that's not even counting all the like minded industrialzed democracies out there) and since democracy is the best form of government, eventually we will always win the peace - but only if we have the courage to let the war end first! 

// posted by RBR