Earlier today I talked about Bush’s Iraq troop increase as a manifestation of his vanity. But in her column in today’s L.A. Times, Rosa Brooks points out the following interesting parallel with Vietnam (How Republicans win if we lose in Iraq):
By 1971, Nixon and Kissinger understood that “winning” in Vietnam was no longer in the cards — so they shifted from trying to win the war to trying to win the next election. As Nixon put it in March 1971: “We can’t have [the South Vietnamese] knocked over brutally … ” Kissinger finished the thought ” … before the election.” So Nixon and Kissinger pushed the South Vietnamese to “stand on their own,” promising we’d support them if necessary. But at the same time, Kissinger assured the North Vietnamese — through China — that the U.S. wouldn’t intervene to prevent a North Vietnamese victory — as long as that victory didn’t come with embarrassing speed.
As historian Jeffrey Kimball has documented, Kissinger’s talking points for his first meeting with Chinese Premier Chou En-lai on the topic of Vietnam included a promise that the U.S. would withdraw all troops and “leave the political evolution of Vietnam to the Vietnamese.” The U.S. would “let objective realities” — North Vietnamese military superiority — “shape the political future.” In the margins of his briefing book, Kissinger scrawled a handwritten elaboration for Chou: “We want a decent interval. You have our assurance.”
It’s the same in Iraq, writes Brooks.
Bush’s “surge” is the “decent interval” redux. It’s too little, too late, and it relies on the Iraqis to do what we know full well they can’t do. There is no realistic likelihood that it will lead to an enduring solution in Iraq. But it may well provide the decent interval the GOP needs if it is to survive beyond the 2008 elections.
The surge makes Bush look, as Goldberg suggests, like he really wants to win, even as he refuses to take the necessary and honest steps to mitigate the terrible damage we’ve already done. The surge buys time — and meanwhile, the Democratic Party is placed in the same untenable position it was in during the last stages of the Vietnam War.