Thursday, August 23, 2007
President Bush delivered a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention yesterday, following in the footsteps of several presidential candidates for 2008.
Bush, like Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, praised the US Military and Veterans, and noted recent remarkable successes of so-called “surge” operations in
Whereas would-be Presidents Obama and Clinton then took the opportunity to slam the nascent Democratic institutions in
The President started with an explicit comparison between the tragic events of 9/11 and the attack which provoked US entry into full combat in WWII. The President specifically evoked the character and intent of our enemy then, in terms unmistakably shared by enemies today:
I want to open today's speech with a story that begins on a sunny morning, when thousands of Americans were murdered in a surprise attack -- and our nation was propelled into a conflict that would take us to every corner of the globe.
The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes
If this story sounds familiar, it is -- except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I've described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout
The President noted the success of Japanese Democracy after the war, and drew yet another parallel between then and now (emphasis mine):
The lesson from
There are many differences between the wars we fought in the
Like our enemies in the past, they kill Americans because we stand in their way of imposing this ideology across a vital region of the world. This enemy is dangerous; this enemy is determined; and this enemy will be defeated. (Applause.)
President Bush touched on the history of
Today, we see the result of a sacrifice of people in this room in the stark contrast of life on the
For those of you who served in
It would seem entirely unnecessary to note the comparison in fates between Northern and Southern populations following the United Nations (UN) sponsored “police action” in
No, most didn’t even note the mention of
In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in
The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In
Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from
This is bloody, red meat to many who oppose our efforts in
Not so President Bush, like many among the military and conservatives who rebel against the ostrich-like assumptions of Vietnam War critics. A different strain in military and political history, considered heresy by the aforementioned critics, considers
President Bush, like Senators Obama and Clinton, see the outstanding accomplishments of our troops in
Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in
Our fights in the 20th Century provide powerful lessons and clear direction for what lays ahead in the 21st. Our enemies today remind us of old enemies. The promise of our victories then are the promise that remains unfulfilled for others today:
Today the violent Islamic extremists who fight us in
The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator. So long as we remain true to our ideals, we will defeat the extremists in
The audience at the VFW was understandably supportive of the President’s thesis. But if not hell, some rhetorically heated near-equivalent broke out over the President’s invocation of
The NY Times stressed the President’s departure from Orthodoxy:
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — The American withdrawal from Vietnam is widely remembered as an ignominious end to a misguided war — but one with few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies.
Now, in urging Americans to stay the course in Iraq, President Bush is challenging that historical memory.
In reminding Americans that the pullout in 1975 was followed by years of bloody upheaval in Southeast Asia, Mr. Bush argued in a speech on Wednesday that
President Bush is right on the factual record, according to historians. But many of them also quarreled with his drawing analogies from the causes of that turmoil to predict what might happen in
Right on facts, apparently, but wrong on interpretation, according to the Times and their expert. Note the way in which reporter Thom Shanker separates himself (and the NYT) via the careful locution, “widely remembered,” without a clear indication whether Shanker intends the statement “but one with few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies,” as part of what is widely remembered (but perhaps incorrectly), or as a statement of fact. I’m guessing I know which side of the rhetorical blade the Times falls on.
The Times goes on to cite a Professor Hendrickson, who admits “catastrophic consequences,” particularly for
As to facts, the Times agrees on the scale of horror that occurred:
The record of death and dislocation after the American withdrawal from Vietnam ranks high among the tragedies of the last century, with an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, about one-fifth of the population, dying under the rule of Pol Pot, and an estimated 1.5 million Vietnamese and other Indochinese becoming refugees. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese who were sent to prison camps after the war have ranged widely, from 50,000 to more than 400,000, and some accounts have said that tens of thousands perished, a figure that Mr. Bush cited in his speech, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mr. Bush did not offer a judgment on what, if anything, might have brought victory in
In contrast, one might add, to what many partisans opposed to our efforts in
The Times also acknowledges Tet as a military defeat for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, but adds a little twist, asserting that this “defeat” also “illustrated the vulnerability of the
Yes, we did have a major vulnerability that became very clearly visible to our enemies then: that of public relations. Soviet propagandists planted false stories, media added more and launched a dedicated assault against the war, Hollywood celebrities consorted with our enemies and fueled enemy propaganda efforts, Academic elites fostered protests and even violent acts of provocation against the Government. We were vulnerable, for sure, but more from within than without.
The Times made one other rather startling assertion:
Other critics have suggested that the North Vietnamese imposed “order.” Unified, by force. Ordered by force. Gulags and re-education camps are orderly, no doubt. I’ll leave stronger criticism for others.
The Times concludes with some military insight:
Senior American military officers speaking privately also say that the essential elements that brought victory in World War II — a total commitment by the American people and the government, and a staggering economic commitment to rebuild defeated adversaries — do not exist for the
This is at best a misleading argument, based on a fair amount of misrepresentation and revisionist history. Many in the military, Government, and civilian populations – thought a minority -- in WWII wanted us to stay out of Europe, and fight Japan exclusively after Pearl Harbor. The commitment was far from total or uniform. Yes, rebuilding
The same critics of our efforts in
Kathryn Jean Lopez offers a transcription of commentary by Bill Bennett, posted at The Corner, in its entirety, it’s too good to excerpt:
A little from Bennett this morning on the president’s speech yesterday – I'm indenting the bulk of the monologue but I caution that I paraphrase here and there ... didn’t get every word down:
Quoting the president: “Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility — but the terrorists see it differently.”
To Bennett (who was dipping into his Last Best Hope):
here’s the important, the philosophical and moral, launching point for our discussion today folks, based on President Bush’s speech yesterday, and as we do this just remember the Democrats’ main mantra: the President’s policies have isolated us in the world and made America less popular...
a) I think President Bush’s Vietnam analogy lily needed more gilding....
—First, do not put your most important point in the mouth of the terrorists, the enemy.
—Second, don’t make this an arugment, there is no argument.
—There is NO argument that our withdrawal from
—Now, b) or our credibility and our enemies’:
—Sirik Matak, our ally in
“Dear Excellency and Friend, I thank you very sincerely for your letter and your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people, which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad, because we are all born and must die one day. I have committed this mistake of believing in you, the Americans. Please accept, Excellency, my dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.”
—Here’s what the
—That’s what happened to our allies. Now, c) Here’s how our enemies saw our withdrawal:
—Hafez Assad of
—And finally, d) What was the aftermath of
Also at The Corner, Jonah Goldberg thinks the Democrats remain under a “long term curse” due to their fecklessness on
This is a point the Democrats fail to grasp: being on the side of surrender in a war is popular enough during the war, but if you succeed lots of Americans will later get buyer's remorse and feel like it was a mistake and the next generation will see things very differently than their anti-war activist parents. Karl Rove made this point in his exit-interview with Gigot, I think, and he's right. Pulling out of
For the historically challenged, Weekly Standard plucks some instructional materials from their archives:
No More Vietnams
This time, let's finish the job.
by David Gelernter
From the May 8, 2006 issue
04/29/2006 12:00:00 AM
What is the "lesson of
by David Gelernter, for the Editors
From the October 11, 2004 issue
10/02/2004 8:00:00 PM
A Winnable War
The argument against the orthodox history of
by Mackubin Thomas Owens
From the January 15, 2007 issue
01/06/2007 12:00:00 AM
So much for the “widely remembered.”
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