What’s happening in Iraq today is nothing like Vietnam. Regardless of what Senator Ted Kennedy has to say. It might be as vicious, and it might have the same miserable result. But it is not a repeat of Vietnam.
Vietnam was an ill conceived war meant to stem the tide of creeping Communism without any clear end-game.
Also; the enemy wasn’t the Vietnamese people, nearly as much as it was the Russians, Chinese and their Communist surrogates.
The war in Iraq is a battle to Democratize (at best) a major Middle Eastern center, and reverse the tide of Islamism in a country that has the “potential” to be a modern state.
The end-game in Iraq is quite clear. Crush the Islamists. Establish some sort of a Western friendly modern leadership, and create a permanent buffer between the Shiite Persians (Iran) on one side of Iraq, and the Sunni Moslems (Saudi Arabia) on the other.
The bonus will be the pacification of Syria and greater protection for the region from Iranian and Saudi Islamists.
But I don’t think this is going to happen anytime soon.
As much as I am cheering-on the American effort, they will never be able to change a mind-set steeped in thousands of years of archaic history, to a modern secular democratic society virtually overnight.
Only the Arabs themselves can do that. Unfortunately they are not showing any inclination toward that goal.
The reason for Israel’s unbelievable and unparalleled success in the Middle East, rests exclusively on the fact that the re-established state of Israel was re-founded by secular European and North American Jews, who brought with them the rules of secular law and Democracy. The Sabra’s (born Israel’s) and Sephardim (Arab Jews) quickly adopted to the Western way.
The Arab Middle East is a much different story with no history of Democracy or rule of secular law. More than that, it is a society of tribes, sub-tribes and different sects of Islam, all of which are too often at violent odds with each other.
If the Americans are successful in Iraq, it will present the largest threat ever to the ruling religious and political classes, a threat that could forever change the nature and culture of a society loosely held together by religious fear and political thugocracies.
None of the ruling classes will ever willingly allow this to happen.
In the West, we do not accept hatred for our neighbors simply because they believe in a different God. In the case of the Middle Eastern Arabs and Islam, many hate their neighbors for believing in the same God, but in a different way.
The enemies facing the Americans are not just a few Arabs with a hate-on for anything Red, White and Blue. The haters comprise a sea of Arabs and Islamists from the entire region who hate America for attempting to bring their many backward societies into the 21st century.
The other difference between Iraq and Vietnam was proximity of violence. The USA brought the war to the Vietnamese, while the Arab Islamists brought the war to the shores of America in 1993 (the first World Trade Center bombing), and then again on 9/11.
Then there’s the diversity of the enemies.
Even as I write this, the Americans are fighting the Shiites in the South, who absolutely hate the minority Sunnis in the Center, while the Americans are fighting the Sunnis in the Centre, who hate the Shiites in the South with equal venom.
Yet, the Shiites and Sunnis seem to be temporarily burying their mutual enmity towards each other, so together they can both kill Americans.
When Ted Kennedy made his comparison between Iraq and Vietnam, he failed to mention that the Vietnamese were homogeneous, where the people were divided along political and social ideologies, but not religion, language and culture.
Kennedy was also wrong to compare what is happening in Iraq to anything else, because it is unlike anything else the Americans have experienced.
I supported George W Bush’s decision to whack Iraq. But I never supported his decision to hang around after the military deal was done.
He should have installed a secular strongman friendly to the West. Claimed a quick and relatively painless victory. And moved on.
Everyone would have been happy with the same old new status quo in the Middle East. America would have looked bigger than life. And the message to the rest of the Arab and Islamic world would have been crystal clear: DON’T MESS WITH AMERICA!
But now it’s all a bit too late, while the world watches America debate its ability to hang-on, as Iraqis shoot down Apache and Cobra helicopter gun-ships, and blow up Abram tanks.
This is not good. But what makes it even worse, is that unlike Vietnam, the USA can not at this point in time cut and run. They must stay the course, or the consequences will be horrific.
In the final analysis, on a global level, and in a different context, this might actually be much worse than Vietnam.