Thursday, September 09, 2004

One-Year Anniversary of This Blog – Reprise

An excerpt from one year ago this week: and it’s still current.

Quagmire 101

Quagmire - "a situation from which extracation is difficult" (American College Dictionary). It occurs to me that $87 billion qualifies more as a quagmire than as an exit strategy.

Many years ago, my excellent high school English teacher taught us that no analogy is perfect - except for the ones you are using to make your point. So, according to the Administration, the analogy of Vietnam is not applicable to Iraq but the analogy of Germany & Japan after WWII is applicable.

I beg to differ. Many of us who went through Vietnam vowed never again to let us get into conflicts for the wrong reasons again. Now history is an important, but two-edged, teacher. We can and must use the lessons of history to prevent similar tragedies from happening, while recognizing that the specifics of a new political/military challenge may be quite different.

Let's look at some lessons unlearned from history and then ask some questions. Robert McNamara, a Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, said many years later that he and the administration had made many mistakes.

The President's job is to help lead the country, not as a dictator but as a persuader. To lead a democracy, you need a concept of values and objectives and you need then to put your concepts at risk in the forum of public debate, and have them debated and hopefully move the people to support them and move the society to them. Kennedy thought that way.

In his book, In Retrospect, McNamara says, We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.

Before committing US forces to combat, we should ask ourselves six questions: Is a vital US interest at stake? Will we commit sufficient resources to win? Will we sustain the commitment? Are the objectives clearly defined? Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation? Have we exhausted our other options?

Incredibly, McNamara recalls -- but regards it as insignificant -- that the (military) service chiefs told him in 1964 that the US had not defined a "militarily valid objective for Vietnam." With similar arrogance, McNamara continue[d] {Note: McNamara is now deceased} to believe that his strategic and tactical abilities were better than those of the military professionals and that his micromanagement of the war was a good idea.

Bottom line of these thoughts: We are getting further into Iraq, not out, and more sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers will pay the ultimate price.

Mr. Rumsfeld, we don't want to be reading your memoirs years from now saying the same things as Mr. McNamara.

Sept 9, 2003.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link