February 11, 2007

Liberals seize every opportunity to compare Iraq to Vietnam, for reasons that seem self-explanatory to those who’ve carelessly embraced the media spin about both conflicts.

Liberals do this at their peril. Vietnam and Iraq are indeed similar, but not in the way the left would have us believe.

Here are five examples of the striking similarities between them, not one of them favorable to the denizens of the left:

(1) Both in Vietnam and in Iraq, America’s military was fighting with at least one hand tied behind its back. As is often the case when a democracy goes to war, concerns about civilian casualties and world opinion restrained our forces from delivering a knock-out blow to the enemy.

(2) In both wars, partly for geopolitical reasons, our military was prevented from going after the regimes that were behind much of the trouble. In Vietnam, the North Vietnamese regime was terrorizing South Vietnam via the Viet Cong and in Iraq, the Syrians and Iranians are terrorizing the democratically elected government and the people via the homegrown insurgents and the foreign terrorists who infiltrated that land with their blessing.

(3) In both conflicts, there were serious mistakes made in executing plans for victory. In the case of Vietnam, politics barred our forces until almost the end from going directly after North Vietnam’s military infrastructure in a sustained way. In the case of Iraq, politics stopped our military from occupying the Sunni Triangle after Saddam’s overthrow. Had we done so, we could have nipped the insurgency in the bud. (Mark Steyn fans may recall his witty piece about his trip to Fallujah right after Saddam fell. Once the people discovered he was American, they treated him the way a frightened Old West town treated a feared gunman, with infinite deference and respect.)

(4) In both cases, America’s media provided saturation coverage of every misstep and miscalculation and little coverage of our military’s many successes, military and otherwise, with the passage of time. The most egregious example in Vietnam was the 1968 Tet Offensive, which began as a massive Viet Cong push that threatened to overrun U.S. military headquarters, but ended with American forces counterattacking and then decimating the VC. The media breathlessly reported the enemy’s early successes but not our ultimate and dramatic victory. In Iraq, the media’s sin is an abject failure to report the strong, steady progress in all but a portion of Iraq, including the building of a genuine civil society, especially in the non-Sunni areas.

(5) In both wars, despite numerous obstacles and its own share of errors, America’s military was poised for victory, not defeat. In the case of Vietnam, it had virtually destroyed the Viet Cong and was taking the fight directly to the North Vietnamese when Congress cut off funds. In Iraq, it defeated Saddam’s armies and deposed the mass-murdering dictator in a matter of weeks. It has since continued to foil the Sunni minority, who had tyrannized the majority during Saddam’s reign, from its many attempts to destroy the fledgling Iraqi democracy since it was instituted.

So if the left wants to compare Iraq to Vietnam, I say let’s do it. In so doing, it refutes its own cherished ideas and beliefs, while vindicating those of principled conservatives.