Friday, August 24, 2007

Don't Mention It. No, Really, Don't.

Bush recently invoked the lessons of Vietnam as, get this, an argument for staying in Iraq. It was a stupid thing to say. He has failed to grasp the aptitude of the comparison before, and has been widely and deservingly excoriated for his ignorance on the matter. Once again, he has mustered the audacity to present a war he refused to serve in as a rallying cry for the current quagmire. And he is so unbelievably wrong, his credibility so minuscule, you really have to wonder who he's even trying to fool with this absurd rhetoric. I doubt it's working.

This op-ed sums up my thoughts pretty well.

Desperate presidents resort to desperate rhetoric -- which then calls new attention to their desperation. President Bush joined the club this week by citing the U.S. failure in Vietnam to justify staying on in Iraq.

Bush's comparison of the two conflicts rivals Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" utterance during Watergate and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," in producing unintended consequences of a most damaging kind for a sitting president.

It is not just that Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Wednesday drew on a shaky grasp of history, spotlighted once again his own decision to sit out the Vietnam conflict, and played straight into his critics' most emotive arguments against him and the Republican Party.

More important, Bush has called attention to the elephant that will be sitting in the room when his administration makes its politically vital report on Iraq to the nation next month. For Americans, the most important comparison will be this one: As Vietnam did, Iraq has become a failure even on its own terms -- whatever those terms are at any given moment.

That is, the administration has constantly shifted its goals in Iraq to avoid accepting failure and blame -- only to see the new goals drift beyond reach each time. Liberation of Iraqis became occupation by Americans, democracy became an unattainable centralized "national unity" government and this year's military surge has become a device for achieving political reconciliation among people who do not want to reconcile.