Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 26, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

QUAGMIRE?....If you're a fan or a detractor of the quagmire theory (i.e., Iraq is another Vietnam), who better to argue for the prosecution than Stanley Karnow, Mr. Vietnam himself? He makes the case for quagmire today in the LA Times.

I don't especially endorse or reject this argument, but I think it's worth pointing out that the quagmire analogy doesn't really apply to the military struggles themselves, even if guerrillas figure prominently in both. Rather, as Karnow correctly points out, it applies to the similar political situations. Karnow makes two points:

  • The domino theory as an overarching geopolitical justification: "As they oozed into the region, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson each justified his commitment by expounding the "domino theory"....Similarly, Bush permeated with evangelical fervor has portrayed himself as a crusader and Saddam Hussein as the evil genius behind international terrorism....But just as his precursors in the White House failed to prove their case that Vietnam was indispensable to U.S. security, Bush has produced no solid evidence to back his allegations."

  • Lack of candor about progress and goals: "Perhaps the most striking similarity is this: Those of us who covered Vietnam were regularly inundated by civilian and military bureaucrats with piles of glowing details, charts and statistics devised to show progress....Today, as I listen to Bush and his spokesmen deliver euphoric accounts of the headway being made in Iraq, they remind me of the bulletins from Vietnam that reassured us that "victory is just around the corner" and that "we see the light at the end of the tunnel." As the war escalated in Vietnam, members of Congress privately began to oppose what increasingly seemed to be a futile enterprise. But they never failed to vote funds for the venture on the grounds that "we can't let down our boys." For the same reason, they will grant Bush the $87 billion he has requested."

Friends and foes may now fire away.

Kevin Drum 9:03 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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