The speech that Bush gave today isn't half bad. I generally turn off after the first stumble or rhetorical flourish that doesn't, but here he speaks well and to the point. Not only that, but the examples of America defending and building democracy are apt. This is the sort of thing that is needed.
Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. Whatever your position is on 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,' 'reeducation camps,' and 'killing fields'.
The enemy that attacked us despises and harbours resentment at the slights he believes American and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region.
And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks, destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.
If the story sounds familiar, it is. Except for one thing: The enemy I just described is not Al-Qaeda and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden.
Instead, what I've described is the war machine of imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia.
Kerry's reaction is entirely predictable, and 8 months out of date.
As in Vietnam, we engaged militarily in Iraq based on official deception. As in Vietnam, more American soldiers are being sent to fight and die in a civil war we can't stop and an insurgency we cant bomb into submission, he said.
If the president wants to heed the lessons of Vietnam, he should change course and change course now.
Petreaus is not attempting to bomb the insurgency into submission. Quite the contrary. He has taken heed of the lessons of Vietnam, and is working to an entirely different strategy. Bush has changed course; he did so when he put Petreaus in charge. It is Kerry who should heed the lessons of Vietnam, particularly that of leaving it in the lurch.