The bell weather of
the cautious establishment press, Bob Woodward, has finally unloaded both
barrels on the Bush administration�s Iraq policy, in his new book, State of
The media hoopla
surrounding the book has focused mainly on the administration�s deceptions
surrounding the sorry state of affairs in Iraq and Andrew Card�s attempts, with
the apparent blessing of Laura Bush, to get Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld fired. Neither of these facts is surprising. The real surprise in
Woodward�s book has received less attention: The Bush administration�s
main advisor during the war has been Henry Kissinger.
according to Woodward�s book, apparently has convinced the Bush White House
that any troop withdrawals from Iraq will start a wave of public pressure to
pull out all U.S. forces from Iraq. He is probably right in this analysis.
missed the main lesson of Vietnam and is now missing it in Iraq. As the U.S.
generals in Iraq know, killing more Sunni insurgents and Shi�ite militiamen
than the United States loses of its own troops will not win a war that is
fundamentally political. As Lieutenant General William Odom (Ret.), former Director
of the National Security Agency and opponent of the war, has noted, the Iraq
situation will continue to deteriorate and the United States will eventually be
forced to withdraw from Iraq. So withdrawing sooner, rather than later,
according to Odom, will save U.S. lives and money and salvage what
international prestige the United States has left.
If Nixon and
Kissinger had followed similar advice in Vietnam, the United States, its
military, and its international standing would not have been tarnished by four
additional years of war. And even worse than Vietnam, continued U.S. occupation
of Iraq is fueling and worsening the Islamic terrorist threat to the United
States, according to an estimate from Bush�s own intelligence agencies.
Most amazingly, Woodward�s
book indicates that General John Abizaid, the current chief of the U.S.
military command that supervises the Iraq war, told U.S. Representative John
Murtha, a decorated former Marine who advocates rapid U.S. withdrawal from
Iraq, that he was very close to agreement with the congressman�s position. When
the commander in charge of the Iraq war believes that U.S. forces should be
rapidly withdrawn from that country, that fact should be big news. But sadly it
Kissinger on how to successfully �win� a counterinsurgency is like getting
advice from Mel Gibson on public relations. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger
came into office in 1969 vowing to get the United States out of Vietnam, while
achieving �peace with honor.� Four years and 22,000 American casualties
later, Nixon and Kissinger settled for a face-saving peace settlement that they
could have obtained shortly after they took office. The final agreement merely
provided a �decent interval� between U.S. troop withdrawal and the fall of the
South Vietnamese regime to the communists.
version of these events is that by 1972, the United States had virtually won
the Vietnam War, but Congress and the American people wimped out and snatched
defeat out of the jaws of victory. Although the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam
in the Linebacker II air offensive of 1972 and threats of using nuclear weapons
probably led the North Vietnamese to negotiate more seriously, Kissinger�s
argument that the United States had �won� the war is a fantasy.
No one on either
side of the ensuing negotiations believed that the North Vietnamese were going
to honor the Paris Peace Accord after the United States left. Even if one
believes that the United States had won the war militarily, an effective counterinsurgency
campaign also requires winning politically. Because the North Vietnamese were
fighting for their own country and the United States was merely fighting in
some faraway jungle, the North Vietnamese were prepared to take horrendous
casualties to wait out the Americans.
As late as 1972,
Nixon and Kissinger had a majority of popular support for the heavy Linebacker
II offensive, and they, not the public, were the ones who were attempting to
pressure the North Vietnamese to give them a �for show� peace deal that was a
mere fig leaf. If the United States was winning the war, one should ask why
Nixon and Kissinger were so eager to salvage any honor that the United States
had left. In 1972, even Kissinger himself clearly wanted to end the war.
Even if the
Congress and the American people were to blame for the loss of the Vietnam War,
as Kissinger contends, politicians should take into account that democracies
will not allow an indefinite waste of lives and money to win a war that has
little to do with national security. And the Bush administration, after the
Vietnam experience, should have known that the public tires quickly of such
unneeded military adventures.
Ivan Eland is a Senior Fellow at The Independent
Institute, Director of the Institute�s Center on Peace & Liberty,
and author of the books The Empire
Has No Clothes, and Putting
�Defense� Back into U.S. Defense Policy.