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December 07, 2005

Dean: Wrong on Vietnam, Wrong on Iraq

DNC Chairman Howard Dean demontrated in a radio interview Monday why so many Americans are skeptical about the Democratic Party's trustworthiness on national security:

(SAN ANTONIO) -- Saying the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that the Democratic Party will come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all US forces within two years.

"I've seen this before in my life. This is the same situation we had in Vietnam. Everybody then kept saying, 'just another year, just stay the course, we'll have a victory.' Well, we didn't have a victory, and this policy cost the lives of an additional 25,000 troops because we were too stubborn to recognize what was happening."

Though I ridiculed it at the time, Richard Nixon's "peace with honor" was achieved in Vietnam. By staying the course during 1971 and 1972 (at a cost of nearly 3,000 American lives, not 25,000 as Dean argues), Nixon and Kissinger were able to negotiate the Paris peace accord in 1973. By March of 1973, the last US combat troops withdrew from Vietnam, and the South Vietnamese government remained in power. However, because the US government (despite promises to the contrary) did not retaliate against the North Vietnamese for violating the terms of the cease fire and reduced military aid to South Vietnam in spite of escalating attacks from the North, this victory was short lived. Watergate and the election of a firmly anti-war Congress in 1974 sealed the fate of South Vietnam.

The ultimate fall of South Vietnam, while a terrible tragedy for the Vietnamese people, resulting in millions of refugees and scores of thousands of deaths, was not strategically important for the US. By the mid-1970s, the monolithic communist threat that had prompted the "containment doctrine" had disappeared. China and the USSR were now strategic rivals, rather than allies. Vietnam, and the other frontline states surrounding "the communist world," were no longer strategically vital.

In contrast to Vietnam, Iraq, with is oil reserves and strategic position at the heart of the Muslim and Arab world, is a vital US strategic interest. Were an Islamist government, sympathetic to or allied with Al Queda to gain control of the Iraqi government, the US would face a very real threat to its security.

Hopefully, Dean and Pelosi will remain in the minority of US opinion on Iraq and away from the levers of power, at least until the war in Iraq can be finally won.

As an aside, it is worth noting that the NYT does not find Deans' comments to be newsworthy, perhaps because it does not advance their partisan agenda. (Their web site has a Reuters story discussing Bush's reaction to Dean's comments, but this article never made it into the dead tree edition.) Other liberal papers however, like the LAT or WaPo, do think that it's important to report all the news, even it reflects badly upon Democrats.

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December 7, 2005 at 09:30 AM | Permalink


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