Bush, Iraq, And Vietnam

From ABC:

George Stephanopoulos: “You’ve used some pretty tough rhetoric. You said this election is ‘a choice between Republicans and Democrats who want to wave the white flag of surrender in the war on terror.’ Can you name a Democrat who wants to ‘wave the white flag of surrender’?”

President George W. Bush, referring to Senator John Kerry: “I can name a Democrat who said there ought to be a date certain from which to withdraw from Iraq, whether or not we’ve achieved a victory or not-”

Stephanopoulos: “That’s surrender?”

Bush: “Yeah it is, if you pull the troops out before the job is done. Absolutely George.”

Stephanopoulos: “So you don’t think that’s questioning their patriotism when you say that?”

Bush: “No, I know it’s not questioning their patriotism. I think it’s questioning their judgment.”

Clap, clap, clap! That is magnificent!

However, I am burying the lede. The headline of the article is, “Bush Accepts Iraq-Vietnam Comparison.” Here’s the relevant portion of the article:

“President Bush said in a one-on-one interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that a newspaper column comparing the current fighting in Iraq to the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, which was widely seen as the turning point in that war, might be accurate.

Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.

“He could be right,” the president said, before adding, “There’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we’re heading into an election.”

“George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we’d leave,” Bush said. “And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here’s how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they’re trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw.”

What was the Tet Offensive? It was a massive offensive by the Vietcong that was, from a military standpoint, a complete and utter disaster. To say that we decimated their forces during the Tet offensive is an understatement. Yet, what happened? The mainstream media in the United States portrayed an incredible American victory as an enormous American defeat.

Saying that what’s going on in Iraq is like Tet isn’t an admission that it’s a failure, it’s a way of saying that the terrorists are losing, we’re winning, and the media is botching the coverage. Of course, since portraying American victories as defeats is the standard operating procedure of the American media, it’s not surprising that they weren’t self-aware enough to understand the reference.

PS: Let me add that the war in Iraq is not going as well as I’d hoped it would. For example, I expected that we would be withdrawing a significant number of troops from Iraq this year as the Iraqi military filled the void. Of course, that still may happen by the end of the year, but it is disappointing that it hasn’t happened yet.

That being said, the terrorists cannot win unless we give up before the Iraqis can replace us. And, I’m still of the opinion that by the end of 2007, the US role in Iraq will be more similar to the one we’re playing in Afghanistan currently than the policing the streets role we’re playing now. In other words, we’ll be using special forces, air power, training the Iraqis, and helping them with logistics, but I don’t think our troops will be acting as policemen. Given the number of Iraqis that have already been trained and the number that are coming through the pipeline, there should be no reason for our troops to be filling that role at that point — and let’s face it, if the American people don’t see a lot of American troops coming home by then, the mood will get so ugly that Congress will end up forcing Bush’s hand. On the other hand, if our causalities drop off significantly because our troops aren’t patrolling and a lot of our boys get to come home, the public’s mood should improve significantly.

So, as George Bush says, there shouldn’t be a timeline, because this needs to be a decision made based on what’s happening on the ground in Iraq, not based on political maneuvering back home. But still, the Iraqis and our generals need to understand that no matter how resolute George Bush is, the American people’s patience is starting to wear thin, and the overwhelming majority of the Democrats in Congress will happily abandon Iraq to the terrorists if they think it’s politically expedient. That means we’ve got to take some more steps forward in Iraq — or more to the point, the Iraqi forces need to start standing up faster, so our troops can start standing down.

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