Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Vietnamization vs. Iraqization

Even though Vietnam and Iraq are far from the same, there are certainly similarities--although they're not necessarily the ones the "quagmire" crowd would cite. We are now engaged in a very intense part of the "Iraqization" phase of the current war, very roughly similar to the "Vietnamization" phase of the Vietnam War (I've written about the latter here).

Seekerblog has an edifying post on the trajectory of the process of Iraqization, and why there's every reason to believe it's building geometrically, and will continue to do so.

Coincidentally, in the newly-released issue of Foreign Affairs, none other than Melvin Laird, Nixon's Secretary of Defense, discusses the topic of Vietnamization, and compares it to the current situation in Iraq. Of course Laird, as the architect of Vietnamization, is defending his own record when he writes that Vietnamization (contrary to MSM spin) was actually going rather well until Congress pulled the funding plug in 1975. But I've read other pieces on much the same theme, (such as this one), and I find their arguments quite persuasive.

Laird notes an important ideological and tactical difference between Vietnamization and Iraqization, and thus has saved me the trouble of writing my own post on the subject, because--astonished though I may be to find myself agreeing with Nixon's Secretary of Defense at this late date--it's a distinction I'd been thinking of pointing out myself:

Those who call the new Iraqi government Washington's "puppet" don't know what a real puppet government is. The Iraqis are as eager to be on their own as we are to have them succeed. In Vietnam, an American, Ambassador Philip Habib, wrote the constitution in 1967. Elections were choreographed by the United States to empower corrupt, selfish men who were no more than dictators in the garb of statesmen.

Little wonder that the passionate nationalists in the North came off as the group with something to offer. I do not personally believe the Saigon government was fated to fall apart someday through lack of integrity, and apparently the Soviet Union didn't think so either or it would not have pursued the war. But it is true that the U.S. administrations at the time severely underestimated the need for a legitimate government in South Vietnam and instead assumed that a shadow government and military force could win the day. In Iraq, a legitimate government, not window-dressing, must be the primary goal. The factious process of writing the Iraqi constitution has been painful to watch, and the varying factions must be kept on track. But the process is healthy and, more important, homegrown.


Funny how the old man has gotten so much smarter over the years. I suggest you read the whole thing.

25 Comments:

At 1:34 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Good post. I especially liked the 'puppet government' distinctions, vis a vis Iraq and Vietnam.

In fact, the Iraqi insurgents are as morally bankrupt both Vietnam governments were- the south being corrupt and the north being being tyrannical (remember the murderous post war 're-education camps?)

What sets the Iraqis apart is a real desire to self govern- something not seen or even understood in Vietnam.

 
At 2:11 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger PatCA said...

I think what we're seeing is an evolution of thought on nation building itself. AFter all, until the Cold War, the rule was to demolish a country and start anew from scratch, as we did in WWII. From the ineptitude of Vietnam to the Iraqi constitution is a journey of a million miles. I'm amazed we're learning so fast!

Who else but an Iraqi could write this beautiful preamble?

"We, the sons of Mesopotamia, land of the prophets, resting place of the holy imams, the leaders of civilisation and the creators of the alphabet, the cradle of arithmetic.

"In our nation the most noble era of justice in the politics of nations was laid down."

 
At 2:36 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Minh-Duc said...

One should not forget that PM Allawi, our favorite, did not win the election. He quietly stepped down and be replaced by Jafari, a man chosen by the Iraqi people. The Iraqi parliarment is so democratic that they compose of several members who are enemies of the US to includes allied of Al-Sadr and even the Iraqi Hizballah.

 
At 2:44 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

It is the difference between the Chains of Cold War Nuclear Annihilation, and the freedom of unbridled American power exercised as we have always wanted it to be exercised.

To help others gain status, to help others unshackle themselves from the chains of humanity. To soar everlasting wtih us.

 
At 4:47 PM, October 18, 2005, Anonymous thedragonflies said...

Plus, Saddam goes on trial tomorrow. His conviction and execution may take the wind out of the Sunni attempts to stop the democratic process. Without Saddam to put back in power, they may give up the ghost and become politicians rather than terrorists.

Plus, isn't it about time for the majority of the Iraqis to turn on the foreign Islamofascists in their midst? Maybe a Saddam firing squad will energize such a movement.

 
At 6:07 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger SeekerBlog.com said...

Excellent - thanks for the Melvin Laird link. Laird's otherwise sane commentary contains one very odd statement in the paragraph leading off with "Some who should know better have made our current intervention in Iraq the most recent in a string of bogeymen peeking out from under the bed...". Laird closes the paragraph with:


They join their voices with those who claim that the current war is "all about oil," as though the loss of that oil were not enough of a global security threat to merit any U.S. military intervention and especially not "another Vietnam."



Surely Laird knows enough basic economics to appreciate that oil is a fungible commodity. The U.S. has no security interest in Iraqi oil, except for the case of anticipated destruction of the oil reservoirs (what Saddam did to certain of the Kuwaiti fields). This is true so long as the producing state needs to maximize the income from oil sales. It does not matter who Iraq deals with as the first-purchaser of their oil. Every consumer buys oil from the same virtual "tank" - the pool of global production.


The concept of an oil embargo (as in 1973) is also a fantasy. In today's market every producing state I can think of is highly motivated to maximize their net oil income. An oil embargo is only feasible for a producer state when the state's expenses are still covered by the income from significantly less that 100% production at the current price. Today even Saudi is running a fiscal deficit.


That supposedly educated liberal elites can believe that the U.S. desires to "control" the oil production of any state is truly shocking. Given the ability to accept such a patently false concept, I suppose it is not surprising that some are able to hold beliefs such as "globalization is just a form of imperialism".


If the advocates of the "all about oil" position are really saying that the U.S. policy was to steal the Iraqi oil reserves, then that at least is valid economics. That is precisely what Saddam attempted by the annexation of Kuwait.

 
At 6:50 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

The US has a remarkable history of rescuing nations who then go on to do as they please, even when we don't like it. France, Germany, Japan, and Italy from WWII, of course, but since that time we have seen South Korea, Philippines, most of Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Kuwait say thank-you and go their own way -- at the UN, in trade, in alliances.

The "globalization is imperialism" claim has at least one selfish, prideful motive underneath it, if you listen to them long enough. The wrong people benefit -- people who engage in commerce instead of theorizing and criticizing. Their status is eroding, so they conclude that national and international values must be eroding.

 
At 7:15 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Without Saddam to put back in power, they may give up the ghost and become politicians rather than terrorists.

Only if Saddam is executed days after his conviction, not 12 years like we do in good old inefficient US.

Locking someone up for 12 years on death row, with a slim to none hope of an overturn. Now that's what I call cruel and unusual punishment.

Plus, isn't it about time for the majority of the Iraqis to turn on the foreign Islamofascists in their midst? Maybe a Saddam firing squad will energize such a movement.

Isn't it about time we realized that more Americans would be dead except for the fact that Iraqis are risking their lives and their families to send in tips?

 
At 8:42 PM, October 18, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

Weeping Jesus! Leave it to the Lefty weenies to draw parallels between Iraq and Viet Nam - never mind the difference in language, culture, religion, origins of conflict, political orientations, economic and political objectives,combat tactics of both sides, terrain, technology, logistics, cadres of support, body counts and kill ratios. These are the same folks still harping about Bush stealing the election from Al Gore for cryin' out loud! The first thing that comes to my mind is the body count. 55K KIA in 10 years in Viet Nam = approx. 458 KIA a month. 1980 KIA in Iraq in roughly 32 months = approx. 62 KIA a month.
FYI - 292,000 KIA in WW2. From the attack on Pearl Harbor to Japan's surrender is approx. 45 months , or, a monthly KIA rate of 6,488 a month for the duration of that war.

 
At 7:41 AM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous Tatterdemalian said...

Vietnam, for better or for worse, is seen as the leftist intellectual's absolute victory over the strongest military power on earth. Without firing a shot, Jane Fonda and the communist propaganda machine routed the entire US armed forces. Never mind that lots of shots were being fired by the Vietcong, never mind that the Vietcong did to its captives things that the left can't even imagine the evil imperialist US forces doing to innocent villagers, and never mind that their actions were done for the explicit purpose of bringing the Khmer Rouge to power... it's all about "proving" that non-violent resistance can destroy the most powerful armies.

In the wake of 9-11, a lot of the left's beliefs in their own invulnerability were shattered. As a result, the left feels the need to "prove" the power of pure self-righteousness once again, to remind people and convice themselves that they are the real power in the world.

THAT is why Iraq is so much like Vietnam.

 
At 10:09 AM, October 19, 2005, Blogger troutsky said...

Always entertaining! Let's see what we've learned.Sigmund tells us the Vietnamese didnt understand self governance.But all "Iraqis",that monolithic group, do.Pat Ca likes the idea that Iraqis are the "leaders of our civilization", a real evolution of thought.Ymarskar likes the "freedom of unbridled American power" ( our freedom?) and is soaring while dragonflies believes it is all about outside agitators disrupting the good people.Steve tells us the US has no security interest in foreign oil and the Idiot knows of a remarkable history of the US rescuing nations but forgets Suhartos Indonesia,Pinochets Chile,Ortegas Nicaragua,Diems S VietNam, do I need to go on? Its quite a list.Goesh reminds us that unequal body counts removes all other similarities within conflicts and last , but certainly not least,Tatterdemalian is concerned that another US military loss like in VietNam could lead to a new Bolshevik revolution.

 
At 10:40 AM, October 19, 2005, Blogger Tom Grey said...

Great post.
The US succeeded in building democracy in S. Korea -- via a semi-corrupt "authoritarian" dictator phase during most of the Cold War.
The US failed in democracy building in S. Vietnam, because we were not really willing to fight the proxy war effectively -- meaning train the S. Vietnamese and unleash them. (In the air, especially).

Yes, the S. Vietnamese were corrupt -- virtually all countries getting "aid" become corrupt.

I'm in Kenya now; desperately poor kids, so cute, say "give me money" or "buy me lunch". The Kenyans are arguing about a new Constitution (did you know? almost nothing in news). It would increase the power of the (hugely corrupt) President; it would also allow women to own and inherit property.

Theft is a huge problem everywhere; yet on my drive from Nairobi to Eldoret, there were at least 7 "police checks". We didn't stop, but I understand they have a request for most drivers:
"Give me money".

I'm convinced they learned this line when young, very young and very cute. It's not at all cute when, 20 years later, the same kids use the same words when they're now cops.

Too much US "aid" is helping Iraq become corrupt (reinforcing it) -- this is the biggest threat to democratic success. It should be loans, only; with big increases in loans to those who prove to be successful in using prior loans. Democracy based corruption can also be said to be a BIG reason for loss of US political support for S. Vietnam.

Please keep looking for similarities and differences.

 
At 11:06 AM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous erasmus said...

troutsky:
How could you not include Tatterdemalian's charming, and surprising to quite a few Vietnamese, view that "Jane Fonda and the communist propaganda machine routed the entire US armed forces?"
And then you look at that picture on this blog of Jane and that daintily clenched raised fist---

What puzzles me, and neocon has discussed this thoughtfully, is what so many mean when they speak of "THE LEFT."

Is there, in this country, a monolithic left, representing one set of views (what might they be?) and one set of ideas about society, the economy, relations between nations, trade etc? Are these views based on Marx/Engels, Lenin, Trostsky, Mao? Are they communist or social-democratic? Who speaks for "the left?" Chomsky? Cockburn? Some Democrats? Are (some) liberals leftists too? What exactly makes a leftist? And I don't mean (just) opposition to this war, but a general view of the relationship between the individual and the state and the nature or role of the state itself.

We've discussed the influence of left-leaning professors to death. But if we can, for the moment, leave these profs to work on their unreadable articles and prepare for mind-numbing conference panels, who/what makes up this Left?
So many post and assume, automatically, that we all understand and agree what constitutes "the left." Who? What did "it" say or do? What makes what it said or did "left?" In any context--US history, political theory.

If I am left on some social and economic issues but conservative on cultural ones, what am I? And if I'm far left enough to suggest that the whole "system" needs to be replaced or overhauled (as Henry Adams did a century ago), would I be in the same Left if I merely wanted to improve social and economic conditions for 40% of the population within the system we now have?

 
At 11:33 AM, October 19, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Obviously, the Left is not monolithic at this late date, it's a highly derivative array of hard and softer Leftisms variously adumbrated with pomo, multi-culti and other dogmas and interests as well.

"What sets the Iraqis apart is a real desire to self govern- something not seen or even understood in Vietnam." Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

Not close, not even close, not even remotely close.

Yes, there was certainly corruption in So. Vietnam's govt. Too, it was a puppet regime, though the degree varied a great deal (increasing late in Diem's regime and moreso after his assassination in Nov. '63, but then diminishing around '70 and afterward till we pulled the plug and abandoned our commitments in '75).

However there were plenty of independence minded nationalists throughout the South who were not supportive of Uncle Ho's murderous and totalitarian regime in the North, which is not to say they were supportive of Diem's regime or subsequent military led regimes - but many, many were firmly and intensely interested in self-government and many paid the price for that commitment and opposition to Uncle Ho's lethal regime.

(Many other aspects of this could be noted. For example the North used terror, assassination and purges in both the North and the South to eliminate, in Stalinist/Maoist fashion, other nationalists and other contenders for power, beginning as early as the forties and fifties via "land reform" purges and other cullings from the population. When other contenders are eliminated via terror and murder, it tends to create some havoc and disarray, adding to the perception of corruption and decay. But blame the murderer - the North, which invaded the South, not the other way around - not the victim.)

We lied to them, we failed to uphold our promises and commitments after our own troops had left the country, in 1975 when we pulled the plug on our financial promises and commitments. It is beyond substantive dispute that the hard and softer Left conferred this deep and undeniable shame upon our history and which detracts - and hugely so - from the sacrifices made by South Vietnamese (ARVN), American and other soldiers. We allowed the Western Left and the softer and more muddled left to shame and dishonor our commitments. We live with that by lying to ourselves about large swaths of that history. Could support that with dozens of references, here's but one, focusing on an oft cited and much acclaimed literary effort.

 
At 12:16 PM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous Jp said...

To erasmus: you have a point but I'm not sure it can be answered. I would assume that liberal bloggers use "neocon" the same way conservatives use "the left," usually as an insult to other group. If I had to define it, I'd call anyone who looks at problems compassionately but without logic, as a leftist (a liberal, not a Marxist, I'll get criticized for that, I'm sure). I'll tell you this, though, this country has a serious victim mentality, and if you're one of those, you'll never be successful. For example, Two thirds of this country is overweight. Are we doing anything about it? No. 90 percent of those people eat too much and don't exercise but that's not what you see on TV. Everybody wants to be the person who "can't help it." We breed that here - liberal crap - don't want to offend anyone. That's why nobody gets any thinner. The same is true with money. 70 Percent of the population who “can’t get ahead” are spending money on cars, cell phones, and plasma TVs, but they can’t "afford" to put money in a 401k. Think they're democrats? You bet they are. It's not their fault they waste their money, rich people are to blame. If you see the glass half empty, you're a lefty, if you see it half full, you're a neocon. Don't lose any sleep over it, I’ll bet it’ll never change.

 
At 12:53 PM, October 19, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

It is somehow easier to make villains of the Left and lump them all into one camp - better to throw stones across a line than to have to single out targets in your own ranks. It's always been that way in human affairs, but it does leave us short on dialouge or at least the potential for it. On occasion, 'one from the other camp' wanders in to engage, but not often. There is some comfort in reading posts from people with similiar leanings however. Guys like Trotsky, who are still espousing the worker's paradise in Cuba and North Korea, offer little in the arena of informed debate but can provide opportunity for some sport and baiting, though most here are above that sort of thing. I'm not and I must say that any man who stands with his balls in cold water trying to catch a fish is obviously deranged (he purports to be a trout fisherman). I will credit him for living on the edge, so to speak, by being a Commie in cowboy Montana. One wonders how often he has had to flee lynch mobs up there. Perhaps he comes here out of lonliness. There can't be much sympathy coming from the hard-scrabble ranching/farming folks when Socialism is preached.

 
At 1:28 PM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous erasmus said...

Jp
I agree with you that we have developed a victim culture, but I'm not so sure its roots are in liberal illogic than in a kind of therapeutic attitude (the human potential movement) gone over the top. It has led to entitlement for its own sake: I am entitled to be thin, even if I consume Hostess cupcakes, potato chips and burgers all day long.
And yet, what do you make of the Black woman, described in a series of WSJ articles a decade or more ago: she works hard all day cleaning in buildings, comes home to her Chicago housing project on the bus by 7:30 pm, but cannot get to a decent supermarket to buy vegetables, fruits etc. for herself and her son without travelling on two buses, 30-40 minutes each way. So she buys the "bad" stuff available at the nearby bodega--and you know the fattening results. Is she a "victim?" If so, of what?
On the whole, I agree with you. At the same time, people (as this woman) get caught and tied up by forces to which they did not contribute and without much power to affect them.

 
At 2:16 PM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous Jp said...

Erasmus: There you have it, the difference between lefty and neocon. A lefty thinks that can be fixed, I know it can't. Provide assistance for her (monetary, time off from work, etc), and pretty soon, 80 percent of the people using that assistance are taking advantage of it – it’s human nature, path of least resistance and we have 5,000 years of proof. That applies to money and politics, too. My grandparents were dirt poor and they never took money from anybody. They were too proud to go on "relief," as they called it. Today people are proud of it - think they deserve it. There's nothing wrong with a little good old-fashioned shame. The bottom line is that everything we have in this world came from the scientific method, not from political correctness. People that are successful use logical models, people that don’t spend a lot of time bitching about it.too. My grandparents were dirt poor and they never took money from anybody. They were too proud to go on "relief," as they called it. Today people are proud of it - think they deserve it. There's nothing wrong with a litle good old-fashioned shame. The bottom line is that everything we have in ths world came from the scientific method, not from political correctness.

 
At 2:57 PM, October 19, 2005, Anonymous erasmus said...

Jp

Got no quarrel with you--my grandparents (farmers in Hungary, then left after WWI for Vienna, same story...)

But I was really asking about the woman in the WSJ story. She didn't want money. But, given what she earned and her ability to get around, why might there not be a Safeway or...within reach? She was proud that she could and did support herself and her son, but as the story made clear, no attempt was made by the grocery chains, the city officials et al to make a stab at healthful nutrition accessible. She knew about it, but...No, it isn't anyone's "responsibility" to put a store near her, nor is it her "right" to have one near. But the absence of one does not exactly make the playing field level.

 
At 9:46 PM, October 19, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

troutsky -- an interesting criticism, but not of the point I made.

 
At 9:57 PM, October 19, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

It is a fair criticism that many of us use the phrase "the left" to cover a lot of flesh with one poncho.

Let me allow that there are varieties and shadings which I often neglect in forming my arguments.

I will offer a partial justification for this oversimplification on my part. When some conservative makes an idiotic comment, many other conservatives will be at pains to refute the idea and disassociate themselves from it. I do not see this same discipline applied by those on the left to their nuttier colleagues.

If you (plural, generic) will not disassociate yourself from Michael Moore, then you will often be lumped with him even though you may not agree.

 
At 6:07 PM, October 20, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Assistant.
Some lefties might not agree, but will think--or so it seems to me--that Moore and his tactics are going someplace useful.
Ends and means.
Eggs and omelets.

 
At 2:11 PM, October 22, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, anything that advances the glorious new society, eh comrade? That is what they taught us at the Ministry of Truth.

 
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