Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The last few words about Iraq and Vietnam 

The biggest problem I have with the whole comparison between Iraq and Vietnam is that most, though by no means all, of those who peddle it, use it (as the old saying goes) like a drunk uses a lamp post; not for enlightenment but for support.

There seems to be a large constituency in the West, which believes that: 1) the war in Vietnam was morally and/or strategically wrong, and 2) that in any case it turned out to be a quagmire and the US had made an absolute mess of it. Therefore to compare any subsequent American military involvement with that in Vietnam is to both deny it the legitimacy and to make a judgment about its conduct and its chances of success.

The problem is that it will be up to history, and not the contemporaries in the heat of the battle, to judge what will become of the liberation of Iraq. It is far, far too early to say whether Iraq will indeed be remembered as another Vietnam, or another Lebanon, or maybe another Korea, an earlier Lebanon (1958), or the Malayan emergency.

I am certainly hoping - for the sake of the Iraqis as well as the US and the rest of the international community - that Iraq will not turn out to be another something, but that it will in turn become a model for the future, a new reference point for the situation where people oppressed by a cruel dictator are given a chance to lead normal lives and to rejoin the community of decent nations.

The left will probably call me a naive idealist. How ironic.


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