The Vietnamization of Iraq
I could talk about how fear (false evidence appearing real) led us into Iraq just like it led us into Vietnam. I could talk about how a former British colony ended up with a form of government that we did not like – again. I could talk about US support for a cruel dictator as the lesser of two evils, training and providing him weapons, then going to battle against him. I could talk about the familiar denigration of protests and the national media. But what I think is most telling in the comparison between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War is the policy of Vietnamization.
Nixon defined his "Vietnamization" policy as “the idea that South Vietnamese would gradually assume a greater combat role and ultimately eliminate the need for American ground forces. Because the US would not withdraw abruptly, the policy of Vietnamization would require time. The domestic political objective was to convince the public that the Army of South Vietnam could eventually handle the war on their own.” (http://faculty.smu.edu/dsimon/Change-Viet4.html) Aiming to achieve “peace with honor” in the Vietnam War, “combat roles were transferred to South Vietnamese troops, who nevertheless remained heavily dependent on American supplies and air support.” (Source: Britannica)
This sounds eerily similar to President Bush’s continued assertion that "as Iraqi forces stand up, U.S. forces will stand down" Are we engaged in the Vietnamization of Iraq? We all know how well that worked the first time: Saigon fell almost as soon as American troops were gone.
According to the President, victory in Iraq “will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation.” The White House’s “Strategy for Victory in Iraq” outlines its definition of victory in stages:
SHORT TERM: Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.
MEDIUM TERM: Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.
LONGER TERM: Iraq is peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism. (http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/iraq_strategy_nov2005.html)
In my opinion, this is a flawed policy, again. When we base our foreign policy and military decisions solely on hopeful outcomes, especially if dependent upon the eventual actions of others, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Instead of letting go of the outcomes and doing the next right thing – the next right moral, spiritual, intelligent, even military, thing, we are placing our vision of success totally on the Iraqis. This is not leadership, this is insanity; because we are doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. Vietnam. Iraq. The teacher is present. Where is the lesson? Better yet, where is the pupil?
The definition of victory, coupled with the statements of the White House that “we will accept nothing less than full victory,” seems to imply that our kids and our national resources will be in Iraq for a long, long time to come.
To all of the John Mayers out there who are “waiting on the world to change,” I say, “be the change.” Your voices matter. Your opinions matter. You have the “the means to rise above and beat it!”
Although not often alluded to, the lack of physical security and of a reasonable degree of predictability in Iraq after April 10, 2003 was the beginning of the Americanization of that conflict. In both South Vietnam and Iraq, the lack of security compelled large scale U.S. intervention running concurrently with the assistance effort. But in Iraq the fault lies entirely on the White House and the Pentagon for dismantling the only institutions that might have served as nationalistic rallying points able to fill the vacuum created by the fall of Saddam Hussein.