Foreign Policy magazine is certainly not a bastion of conservatives, so when they advise that we should all at least give Bush’s troop surge a chance before condemning it, that’s significant.
The cold, hard truth about the Bush administration’s strategy of ‘surging’ additional U.S. forces into Iraq is that it could work. Insurgencies are rarely as strong or successful as the public has come to believe. Iraq’s various insurgent groups have succeeded in creating a lot of chaos. But they’re likely not strong enough to succeed in the long term. Sending more American troops into Iraq with the aim of pacifying Baghdad could provide a foundation for their ultimate defeat, but only if the United States does not repeat its previous mistakes.
The mistakes they are referring to regard our behavior in Vietnam, of course, which had nothing to do with military defeat and everything to do with political defeat here at home.
Myths about invincible guerrillas and insurgents are a direct result of America’s collective misunderstanding of its defeat in South Vietnam. This loss is generally credited to the brilliance and military virtues of the pajama-clad Vietcong. The Vietnamese may have been tough and persistent, but they were not brilliant. Rather, they were lucky-they faced an opponent with leaders unwilling to learn from their failures: the United States. When the Vietcong went toe-to-toe with U.S. forces in the 1968 Tet Offensive, they were decimated. When South Vietnam finally fell in 1975, it did so not to the Vietcong, but to regular units of the invading North Vietnamese Army. The Vietcong insurgency contributed greatly to the erosion of the American public’s will to fight, but so did the way that President Lyndon Johnson and the American military waged the war. It was North Vietnam’s will and American failure, not skillful use of an insurgency, that were the keys to Hanoi’s victory.
Some insurgencies do succeed, but in order to do so, they must have some semblance of a regular army to back up the pot-shots that guerrilla fighters take on the enemy’s forces. Such as the American revolutionary forces. The Iraq insurgency has no such force.
Donald Stoker worries that this new strategy comes to late, and that public opinion and morale has already fallen to such a low point that American resolve to withstand the insurgency might fail before al-Qaeda’s guerrilla’s finally give out. I don’t think we’re there yet, and since Bush doesn’t have to worry about another election soon, there’s time for this action to show some results before the Republicans really get hammered in congress.
However, you’ll notice that after sustaining losses in the last election, many Republicans are playing a game of cut-and-run on the President. After years of support they are starting to distance themselves for runs in 2008, and even out own Senator, Gordon Smith, is voting for the resolution to condemn Bush’s new strategy before it even hits the ground. To do so, without any real evidence that the strategy won’t work, or the importance of maintaining security in Iraq, is just political pandering at the expense of the Iraqis and the battle with worldwide extremism. I can’t respect that, and might find myself voting against Smith the next time he’s up for re-election. Sad, but true.
The left has been pushing for years that Iraq is just like Vietnam, no matter how much evidence to the contrary. But prophecy can be self-fulfilling if enough people believe it, and that’s what we’re facing now.