Saturday, August 25, 2007

Editorial: Back to Vietnam

Above: US Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into the tree line during an attack on a Viet Cong camp near the Cambodian border.

THE VIETNAM war is still such a divisive episode in US history that comparisons to Iraq are sure to be clouded by emotion. But President Bush tossed analogies around capriciously this week before the Veterans of Foreign Wars and added a few more from World War II and Korea. Since he broached the subject, it's reasonable to take the comparisons to places he might not want to go.

Here's one: It would have been better to surrender South Vietnam to the North Vietnamese communists in the early 1960s than to engage them in a struggle that cost 58,000 American and millions of Vietnamese lives before it ended in 1975 with the same result: victory for Hanoi and the suppression of non-communist opposition in the south. Would Bush agree that, similarly, it would have been preferable to allow Saddam Hussein, notwithstanding his evil regime, to remain in power than to engage in a more than four-year war that has torn Iraq apart and cost the lives of 3,700 Americans and many more Iraqis?

At least in Vietnam, there was a clearly defined enemy. The Nixon administration was able to negotiate an agreement with Hanoi in 1973 for an American withdrawal. Similarly, the United States knew the capital cities of the enemies in World War II and Korea. But what is the address of the enemy in Iraq, a nation fractured into sectarian fiefdoms and murderous gangs?

Read the rest at the Boston Globe