The question on lips everywhere seems to be, “Vietnam?”
“I don’t think so” would be my response though the realpolitik underlying American withdrawal from that particular quagmire an innate liberal democratic society squeamishness about engaging in wars that produce televisual casualties is certainly beginning to have effect in relation to Iraq. It’s less about engagement analogies and more about disengagement – or “exit strategy” maybe.
“It’s a fiasco” said Mark Latham last week, “there’s no exit strategy.”
What is all this stuff about exit strategies? When Churchill delivered his “Fight them on the Beaches” speech, was anyone asking him about his exit strategy? Are the mujihadeen in Fallujah holding regular exit strategy meetings? I suspect that they’re more focussed on seizing the moment and they have no qualms whatsoever about body counts in doing so. They’re every bit as cognisant about Vietnam imagery as Senator Ted Kennedy is. “Exit strategy,” in brutally political terms, really equates to how many bodies the electorate will bear before insisting on an exit on any terms. The mujihadeen intend to get the Coalition to that point as soon as possible.
There are many theories about Vietnam of course. I heard David Marr in ABC 702’s “Journo’s Forum” last night, observing that the West had misread Vietnam as a communist domino type of thing when it was actually all about Vietnamese nationalism – which is interesting, because neither Karl Mark nor Vladimir Lenin was noticeably Vietnamese. Even less Vietnamese were their ideas about economics and social organisation which Ho Chi Minh and his fellow bourgeois intellectuals had brought back from Paris. In fact the Vietnamese government has somewhat belatedly acknowledged the inadequacy of Lenin’s interpretation of Karl’s theories by opting for a Chinese-style mixed economy as long as the Communist Party retains it’s privileged position – and the whip hand of course. And after thirty years of abysmal failure in virtually every endeavour apart from invading their neighbours in order presumably – to instil the virtues of “nationalism” in them, it was high old time that they did so.
When the Americans did withdraw, Congress memorably refused any further funding to South Vietnam in direct contrast to the Soviet Union’s approach towards it’s client state in the North. The rest is history though it bears mentioning that around one million South Vietnamese, uncertain about the North’s big, warm, welcoming nationalistic hug, took flight – just in case. I haven’t met one that regrets the decision. and I suspect that very few of them would agree with David Marr.
And so to a piece from another commentator – Guardian journalist David Aaronovitch. In my opinion, it’s the most eloquent case I’ve yet read for remaining in Iraq the ever-growing forces of Vietnam analogy, notwithstanding.