Peter Rodman and William Shawcross have an op-ed in the New York Times that attempts to point out something that is frankly missing from all the political maneuvering over the Iraq war. It is something that many have pointed out but that the politicians and the major media have been studiously ignoring. How badly will the United States be damaged by a withdrawal in Iraq? The answer: Very badly indeed.
SOME opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.
We beg to differ. Many years ago, the two of us clashed sharply over the wisdom and morality of American policy in Indochina, especially in Cambodia. One of us (Mr. Shawcross) published a book, “Sideshow,” that bitterly criticized Nixon administration policy. The other (Mr. Rodman), a longtime associate of Henry Kissinger, issued a rebuttal in The American Spectator, defending American policy. Decades later, we have not changed our views. But we agreed even then that the outcome in Indochina was indeed disastrous, both in human and geopolitical terms, for the United States and the region. Today we agree equally strongly that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be even more serious and lasting.
The 1975 Communist victory in Indochina led to horrors that engulfed the region. The victorious Khmer Rouge killed one to two million of their fellow Cambodians in a genocidal, ideological rampage. In Vietnam and Laos, cruel gulags and “re-education” camps enforced repression. Millions of people fled, mostly by boat, with thousands dying in the attempt…….
…….Our conduct in Iraq is a crucial test of our credibility, especially with regard to the looming threat from revolutionary Iran. Our Arab and Israeli friends view Iraq in that wider context. They worry about our domestic debate, which had such a devastating impact on the outcome of the Vietnam War, and they want reassurance.
When government officials argued that American credibility was at stake in Indochina, critics ridiculed the notion. But when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, he and his colleagues invoked Vietnam as a reason not to take American warnings seriously. The United States cannot be strong against Iran — or anywhere — if we accept defeat in Iraq.
I have said this many times, this is the war we have, regardless of how we would like it to be. The politicians are posturing, but they need to address this in a forthright manner. The Democrats are studiously ignoring the voices of experts, doing exactly what they claim Bush does. The cost will be enormous both to the US and to the world – we deserve an honest discussion of that, not more posturing.