Is Iraq like Vietnam? Wrong question.

By  | 

Saigon Evacuation

Last week the President formally announced the designated autumn 2007 argument for justifying a continuing US military presence in Iraq.

” … 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’ …”

The Designated Argument: Since the Democrats voted to cut off funding for Vietnam in 1975, and massacres occurred in Cambodia and Vietnam, irresponsible Democrats were to blame and Congress must continue to support the President to avoid the same outcome in Iraq. The argument is usually illustrated in blogs by the iconic photo of the helicopter evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon seen at the top of this post.

This is not a new argument. It has been a staple on right-of-center blogs and comment threads since Republicans realized there was a possibility of losing their congressional majorities in the mid-terms. It was used last year to argue why it was so vitally important for the Republicans to retain majority control in Congress [October 2006 RedState example here]. We have already seen how effective that argument was with the American electorate in the midterms. It will be equally ineffective now. The argument is intellectually bankrupt for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, we will hear it over and over again before, during, and after the Petraeus report next month.

The Wrong Question. The Right Question.

The primary problem with invoking Vietnam as a reason to stay the course in Iraq, is that the argument is a red herring. Arguing whether presumed actions and consequences in 1975 Vietnam are applicable to 2007 Iraq is a fundamentally unresolvable and ultimately unknowable argument. It serves only to distract attention from the real question. The real question is not “Is the 1975 Congressional cutoff of funds for Vietnam an appropriate historical lesson for 2007 Iraq?” The real question is “Can we trust the judgment of this President and this administration to understand/predict the consequences of any military decision or action in Iraq?”

continued at “Divided We Stand United We Fall”