Saturday, January 06, 2007

No surge, Dems urge: beware those helicopters!

You think I sing a repetitious dirge
“Iraq, Vietnam; please let the two diverge!”
But here’s some news: the Democrats they urge,
“Oh Mr. Bush, don’t recommend a surge!”

And why? They say we’re surely on the verge
Of failure. It’s inevitable. A scourge
Successor Pres (a Dem?) will have to purge
As copters on the roof, they re-emerge.

Yes, you might accuse me of becoming a bit obsessed about this Vietnam/Iraq bitter end comparison. But it keeps surfacing in the news, even if I try to avoid it.

For example, in the article in the NY Daily News that inspired my poem, this is the statement by Senator Joseph Biden that I found especially infuriating in light of history:

In an obvious reference to Vietnam, Biden said Bush intended to leave it to the next President to land "helicopters in the Green Zone, taking people off the roof."

Okay, Joe, you brought it up. And, if you want to be partisan about it, Vietnam was a war in which the major escalation and commitment of US combat forces was the decision of two successive Democratic Presidents and solidly Democratic Congresses (controlled by the Democrats with substantial majorities for the entire duration of the war).

The Republican President who succeeded the two Democrats, Nixon, presided over the drawdown of US troops known as Vietnamization. Those helicopters on the roof were the direct result of the abrupt and sharp reduction of funding voted by a Democratic-led Congress, which made the defeat of the South virtually inevitable and rather sudden, as well. A new Republican President, Ford, was left holding that bag—but the bag was filled mostly by Democrats.

President Bush is a stubborn man, it’s true. He has no intention of abandoning Iraq, although if the Democrats (and some Republicans, to be sure) have anything to say about it they will force him to. But to suggest, as Biden has, that President Bush’s motivation for wanting a surge is to delay things in order to screw the new administration (Biden probably hopes and expects it to be a Democratic one) that will succeed Bush is one of the lowest statements I’ve heard in a good long while, even from a Senator.

The article in the Daily News mentions that Harry Reid has said Bush's commanders aren't in favor of a surge, and so he's "shuffling them in and out" till he finds one who agrees with him. This article in the NY Times describes the situation as far more complex (of course) than Reid indicates. The military has long been divided into two disagreeing camps on that score. The new commander, General Petraeus, labeled as "articulate," is one of the strong advocates of the surge approach. He has overseen the drafting of a recent new counterinsurgency manual, an area in which he seems to be expert.

This doesn't mean the new effort will succeed, even if it manages to clear the Congressional hurdles being set up for it. After all, it's a military truism that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. But it's not surprising that Bush has chosen a general who believes in the same approach that Bush favors, and who represents a different point of view than those who have gone before. And it's no surprise, either, that this point of view is not in line with the defeatist stance of Democrats such as Biden, with visions of helicopters on the roof dancing in his head.

Interestingly enough, it was Saddam Hussein who presciently foresaw this course of events. As I wrote at the time of our November elections: one's ever accused Saddam of being dumb. Here's an interesting tidbit that shows how smart he really was: in the buildup to the Iraqi war in 2003, Saddam was already making the Vietnam analogy:

In the days leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, television stations there showed 1975 footage of U.S. embassy support personnel escaping to helicopters from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon. It was Saddam's message to his people that the United States does not keep its commitments ...

Too bad he isn't around to see it all, isn't it?

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