Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.
"He could be right," the president said, before adding, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."
Here's what Think Progress said he said:
President Bush is right to finally admit that violence in Iraq has reached a tipping point, and that the U.S. is not winning the war as he has claimed.
That is, of course, not what the President said. He merely agreed that there was an appropriate comparison to be made between the Tet offensive and the violence we are seeing in Iraq today. I agree. The question is, what was the lesson of Tet (the all-out offensive of the Viet Cong in early 1968, at the time of the "Tet" new year holiday in Vietnam)?
At the time the media perceived and promoted the Tet offensive as a great victory for the enemy. In an age when the network anchors deployed truly awesome power, Walter Cronkite destroyed Lyndon Johnson's chances for re-election when he editorialized that we were "mired in stalement". President Johnson declared "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America," and withdrew from the 1968 presidential campaign.
Tet, however, was not a military disaster for the United States. Quite to the contrary, history has revealed that the Tet offensive was in fact a crushing defeat for the Viet Cong, and effectively required that the Communists conquer the South by invasion from the North, rather than by civil insurgency. The Viet Cong were only able to turn a military disaster into strategic victory by persuading the American media that the United States was mired in stalement. With the domestic political support for the war fading fast, the United States decided to withdraw from Indochina, even though it would take Nixon and Kissinger another four years to accomplish it.
The summary of the Wikipedia entry on the Tet offensive captures the current view of military historians, even if it is quite different from the conventional wisdom of the Boomer editors and producers who set the agenda in the mainstream media:
The Tet Offensive can be considered a crushing military defeat for the Communist forces, as neither the Viet Cong nor the North Vietnamese army achieved any of their tactical goals. Furthermore, the operational cost of the offensive was dangerously high, with the Viet Cong essentially crippled by the huge losses inflicted by South Vietnamese and other Allied forces. Nevertheless, the Offensive is widely considered a turning point of the war in Vietnam, with the NLF and PAVN winning an enormous psychological and propaganda victory. Although US public opinion polls continued to show a majority supporting involvement in the war, this support continued to deteriorate and the nation became increasingly polarized over the war. President Lyndon Johnson saw his popularity fall sharply after the Offensive, and he withdrew as a candidate for re-election in March of 1968. The Tet Offensive is frequently seen as an example of the value of propaganda, media influence and popular opinion in the pursuit of military objectives.
Not surprisingly to me but shocking to many, the President obviously knows more history than his interviewer. When President Bush "accepts" the analogy of the surge in violence in Iraq to the Tet offensive in Vietnam, he is not "accepting" that Iraq is an unwinnable struggle against a noble enemy. He is saying that victory or defeat in Iraq will not be a function of the amount of violence that the enemy is able to do during any given period, but our will to keep fighting notwithstanding that violence. In that one regard, Iraq is dangerously similar to Vietnam, which fact the mainstream media would know if the typical editor read military history instead of the journalism pretending to be history that fills the bestseller lists.
Yes but the left portrayed it as the end, Walter Crankcase and his Oh no it's a disaster newscast comes to mind. The blood on the lefty's hands is the millions that died after we 'redeployed to Okinawa'.
I was stationed in Nha Trang during Tet as an SJA in IFFV. IFFV was the Army II Corps HQ. I lived in a house in town with a group of MI interrogators, and we had partial advance notice of the NVA's intentions. IOW, we knew "something big" was going to happen that evening. The attack in Nha Trang began at midnight, and our gang was unable to get to our duty stations for about 10 days. I went to an artillery unit in Pleiku, hopping a ride there in a Huey.
After things died down in the next two weeks the reports were in. The VC cadres were wiped out and the NVA took almost 90% casualties in most cities including Nha Trang. A big victory for us, we thought.
In May, when I got home, I found out what everyone thought in the "world". The thing couldn't be won. It was truly a shock to my system, but I was so glad to be home that I began to let that shock fade from my memory.
This war brings it back.
Keep up the good work, Tigerhawk.
Cronkite's limited power is shown by the media's inability to get McCarthy or Humphrey elected in 1968 and their further outright failure to affect the 1972 election, one of the biggest landslides in electoral history for Nixon over McGovern, even though the war had not ended yet. So there may be further parallels. An all-out media effort to destroy any hope of victory in Iraq may backfire badly with the election of a conservative candidate in 2008. And the chance of a Watergate-type salvation is past. I think Johnson could have won in 1968. He lost his nerve, possibly because of health problems. Bush isn't likely to lose his nerve, and McCain, Giuliani or Romney is likely to benefit.
First of all, Robert, if you bothered to look, you'd see that the Wikipedia entry is generously sourced. Feel free to follow up on any or all of the footnotes, which is clearly far more than you've bothered to do.
Second, no contributor on Wikipedia has the final word on any entry; all entries are open to challenge and dispute. Again, if you bothered to look, you'd see that the facts cited in the Wikipedia entry on the Tet Offensive are undisputed, despite its controversial nature.
all Bush said was "he could be right". Of course he could be right, he could be wrong as well. He just may be the lunatic we're looking for. But Bush saying he could be right means nothing.
Of course based on objective facts, the comparison to the Tet Offensive is totally inept and anyone who knows anything about it is aware of it.
If Fox News polled its viewers and asked whether the US prevailed in the Tet Offensive and if most viewers said yes, wanna bet the MSM would deplore the abysmal knowledge of red state Americans? Everyone "knows" the US lost Tet.
The Tet analogy with contemporary circumstances in Iraq is not a military but a "home front" media one. Then as now, but less obviously in 1967 (network TV dates only from about 1950, and alternative broadcast sources did not exist), a coterie of Leftwing elitists tried everything to mold public perceptions to defeatist ends. No-one seems to know, or rather admit, the motivation for such intense opposition to America's containment of Sino-Soviet Communist hegemony.
But like John Kerry's extraordinarily dishonest and mendacious testimony in 1974, leftist radicalism of this nature shades insensibly to genuine totalitarian sympathies. Over forty years now, from McGovern to Carter to Wee Willy Clinton, no Democrat including Mondale and Dukakis has ever once stood fast for freedom and democracy overseas. Needless to rehearse the sordid details... suffice it that Bush's historical analogy relates today's media sedition in purest form to Tet, whereafter millions perished in horrifying circumstances while Truman's heirs self-righteously absolved themselves of all responsibility.
A Democrat leadership advocating defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq, cowering under threats from Pyongyang and Teheran, admits no honorable intentions. They are not a "loyal opposition", posing well-meant alternate scenarios in America's best interest. Quite the contrary, were one, two, three --many Trade Centers to fall to Muslim terrorists, their strongest urge would be to apologize to murderous attackers. We really do not have words for this mentality. Since everything these arrant Whigs hold dear, that is their collective Statist entitlements, would vanish instantly under the Caliphate they celebrate, one has to think that if they are not truly suicidal they are mad. How is it possible to "walk with open arms to slavery"? From the mid-1960s on, these educated, wealthy, philistine materialists have fostered a death-cult that does precisely that.
So the US pulled out of Vietnam right after Tet, because the public perception was that the war had been lost? The US "cut and run" in 1968?
I was a bit young then, but I seem to remember that the US involvment in the war lasted a few years after that, until 1973 for combat forces and until 1975 and the last helicopters out of Saigon for advisors.
Now, pray tell me, how the Vietnam War could have been won, if not for the pusillanimous liberals and the treasonous media? Also tell me how the Soviets could have won in Afghanistan while you're at it.
So the US pulled out of Vietnam right after Tet...
Er, no. No one said that. Look up the definition of "straw man" sometime to see why you come across as a doofus.
Also tell me how the Soviets could have won in Afghanistan while you're at it.
Not be Soviets, basically. That is, have a social system not on the verge of massive internal collapse, with sufficiently strong support from the masses not to need to draft people unwillingly into the Red Army, where their materiel was sold from under them by widespread corruption in the support and officer corps.
Here you could usefully compare the crumpling of the theoretically massive army of Tsar Nicholas II in front of Hindenburg and Ludendorff.
I mean, you could if you'd spent some of those college years learning some history instead of tokin' and marchin'. Peace out, man.
Observer, let me jump in here to admit that I was not so young as you were in 1968; in fact I was one of those protesting the Vietnam war. I have come to think I was mistaken. I thought the war was unwinnable and a waste of life, but there seems to be pretty good evidence that in fact the South Vietnamese might have remained independent had the U.S. Congress not cut off funding for them. At the least it's an open question. Wars against guerillas are not in fact all unwinnable, as history shows. As for Afghanistan and the Soviets: please. The Soviets were not trying to establish freedom for the Afghans. Motive counts.
Observer 5: "Now, pray tell me, how the Vietnam War could have been won..."
I was there in '68. I still go there from time to time.
If the Americans had bombed the dams in the north, the U.S. would have put a large piece of North Vietnam under three feet of water, eliminating North Vietnam's ability to fight. That's one way America could have won the war.
If you don't want to pull out all stops when you fight, don't start the war. That is the real lesson from the Vietnam War.
I support the war -- but don't you think that is why the success there hasn't come sooner, because we didn't "pull out all the stops" up to now? I have a gut feeling that Rumsfeld tried to "cheap out" on this war from the beginning against all the Generals better judgements and that we are now paying the price of not paying more up front. Yes I know that the biilions that we have spent every year there doesn't seem "cheap", but we are going to pay a larger price later on if we don't succeed.
"Wars against guerillas are not in fact all unwinnable, as history shows."
I've always thought the notion that a war against an enemy using guerilla tactics is unwinnable was a bit odd.
My wife and I have a running joke about Achilles: If dipping him in the River Styx made him unbeatable, then why didn't all mothers do the same with their babies?
But while Achilles was just a story, in the case of guerillas we can reasonably ask the same question in the real world: If one side in a conflict is unbeatable if it uses guerilla tactics, then what if both sides use them?
Friedman could be right.
Just like Tet, we could be winning in Iraq. And just like Tet, the news media could be taking every chance to say we're losing in Iraq. (Look at the grotesquely slanted stories on the Iraq Study Group.)
But here's one difference: South Vietnam, a majority Buddhist country, was over-represented in its government by the minority religion, Catholicism. Iraq's government is majority Shiite, just like the population.
If Iraq's representative government loses this war, who would have won Iraq? I don't see any group capable of winning except the forces led by the elected government.
"Wars against guerillas are not in fact all unwinnable, as history shows."
Charlemagne won against the Saxon insurgency by cutting off the head of every male who was taller than his sword in one village. That took the fight out of the Saxons.
The British beat the Communists in Malaysia.
The Muslims beat the Communists in Indonesia. The river water in Jakarta was red from human blood for a couple of months. (Year of Living Dangerously).
The head of Shining Path in Peru just got a life sentence in Peru.
The list goes on and on.
But you won't win against an insurgency if you act like you are in a polo match.
Anonymous said: "I support the war -- but don't you think that is why the success there hasn't come sooner, because we didn't 'pull out all the stops' up to now?"
Frank Warner said: "I don't see any group capable of winning except the forces led by the elected government."
What you may see is Iraq breaking into three small countries, none strong enough to serve as a counterweight against Iran.
As an Egyptian general told me at lunch after the first Gulf War: "Iraq? Forget about Iraq. Iraq is no threat to anyone. Worry about Iran."
Bush's probelm is in not recognizing the adversarial nature of the press. The oress does not care about context.
The press just wants him to say the words and they will run with the story. Bush says Iraq like Vietnam, Bush says Iraq like Tet.
He said the words now Iraq and supporters of the Iraq policy will reap the prfess whirlwind.
check out Time magazine's article on the slaughter of civilians in Hue during Tet:
Yup. the similarity is that we are fighting murderous terrorists, but the left is so enamoured of them that they don't care as long as the USA doesn't win.
"If you don't want to pull out all stops when you fight, don't start the war. That is the real lesson from the Vietnam War."
It's amazing to me the extent to which - at least in the "conservative" blogging world - how many "conservatives" seem to embrace war crimes. It's against our laws to target civilians.
It's against Just War Theory, as well - which most Americans will tell you they believe in (although, admittedly, many don't know the tenets thereof). Fortunately, those who'd advocate indiscrimimate bombing in order to "win at all costs" are not representative of We, the People.
Bush may or may not want to decimate in order to win, but you're right insofar as the People wouldn't let him.
You can't really blame the voice of the People on the media.
As for Afghanistan and the Soviets: please. The Soviets were not trying to establish freedom for the Afghans. Motive counts.
That sounds great echoing around marble halls of government, but I'd be surprised if the right to vote is the most pressing concern for Afghans and Iraqis at the moment.
The Republic Vietnam with US Air Support and supplies destroyed a Soviet equipped North Vietnam invasion in 1972. In 1975 the soviets once aqain reequipped North Vietnam who launched a second invasion. This time the democratic controlled Congress decided to vote the equivalent of a few clips of ammo for each South Vietnam solider and no American air support. That when the Republic of Vietnam went under and the war ended.
As to comments like this:
" Does anyone get the impression that the left wants us to lose in Iraq"
"the similarity is that we are fighting murderous terrorists, but the left is so enamoured of them that they don't care as long as the USA doesn't win"
"They are not a "loyal opposition", posing well-meant alternate scenarios in America's best interest."
"these educated, wealthy, philistine materialists have fostered a death-cult"
And on and on it goes.
When people say that, I wonder what they're thinking? Do they think that there are some in the US who think, "man! Woudln't it be great to have my head cut off!" or "What can I do today to undermine God's forces in the world today?"
These are the implications (or outright assertions) that these sorts of comments make.
Do you truly think it is as goofy as that? You're good and these other Americans are evil?
Do you truly think that this church-going, clean-cut, husband, father and American citizen wants the worst possible outcome for the country and the world?
Do you realize that some - the majority, I'd guess - just disagree with you on how to do what's best for the US and the world? How do we best realize peace and stop oppression? Do you think that if we don't agree with your answer, then we are "not loyal opposition," but rather some kind of enemy?
Is it truly that you think that if we're not with you, we're against you?
America could have protected the people of SEAsia if:
1. Attack the enemy where ever he is. The incursion into Cambodia was also a crushing victory for us that distorted intentionally by the treasonous press. Colin Powell taught this lesson during the First Gulf War.
2. Tell the sponsors of terror that there will be a price to pay. Supporting our enemies is an act of war.
3. We needed an alternative media to tell the TRUTH.
Dan Rather made his name stabbing us in the back. That is why they promoted him to Cronkite's job.
4. We need to allow our children to escape the public schools where they are intentionally taught Not to think. The miseducation of our children is probably the biggest threat to our liberty. Support tax credits for education and home schools.
5. We need to realize that our allies, the nationals, simply want what we have, FREEDOM. They supported us and the liberals, John Kerry, Bill and Hillary, Hanoi Jane stabbed them in the back. The communists slaughtered them. My students are Cambodian, you should hear the stories their families tell. What will happen to the women of Iraq who simply wanted to go to school and vote?
You have no conscience.
"This time the democratic controlled Congress decided to vote the equivalent of a few clips of ammo for each South Vietnam solider and no American air support."
It was called the Case/Church Amendment. Worst thing we ever did.
Dan - I don't know. Out troops were out of SVN, the ARVN was trained up and capable of holding its own against the NVA, and the left cut them off of all funding so the communists could win. What does that tell you?
Do you truly think that this church-going, clean-cut, husband, father and American citizen wants the worst possible outcome for the country and the world?_DAn
Do you realize that you provided a perfect description of FBI traitor Robert Hanssen? With respect to "church-going", Hanssen was so devout that he was a member of Opus Dei. The rot in the US(and in the former West generally) is so deep that being a 21st Century Ward Cleaver gives you no more automatic "street cred" than if you were an homosexual atheist.
"the left cut them off of all funding so the communists could win."
The Left? Do you mean the People of the United States who opposed what they decided was an unjust war? Democracy can suck when your position is in the minority (as a pacifist, believe me, I know).
"...being a 21st Century Ward Cleaver gives you no more automatic "street cred""
My point was not to suggest I'm somebody special, my point was to ask: Do those who'd put forth statements such as the ones quoted REALLY believe what they're saying? Do they not realize that we are all just fellow Americans and world citizens trying to do the right thing?
The US "pulled out all the stops" and firebombed Dresden, "de-housed" untold numbers of civilians in Tokyo, and targeted civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a matter of deliberate policy to win (which we did).
We have not had that kind of resolve since then, and may not have faced the same kind of existential threat as WWII since then.
Of course, if we (the Western world) concludes that we are at that point in our struggle with Islam, all bets are off.
We did not start WWII with that mindset, by the way, but we eventually got there. It could happen again; don't bet against it.
This war is an absoluite joke. It was waged on a lie (WMD) for a people that don't want us there. Tens and tens of thousands of them are dead. More Americans will have dies then died in 9/11, for what, a lie.
While the forthright opinion of the dean of CBS News certainly had an impact on LBJ's decision to withdraw as a candidate for re-election in 1968 I think that you are neglecting to mention the most obvious factor that scared him out of the race; the ascent of the anti-war candidate Gene McCarthy. If you are going to reflevt on history you might try to be accurate.
I normally wouldn't post at a site like this--singing to the choir and all. But I went to the thinkprogress site, where I hoped to do some good, and felt like I was in that scene in Aliens where they blunder into the brooder lair.
I was a bright-eyed college sophomore in '68 working the editorial page of the college paper. When Uncle Walt told me after Tet the war was unwinnable, I believed him.
While generally supportive of that war, even back when I was a hs freshman, I wondered why our Catholic president imposed Catholic regimes on an overwhelmingly Buddhist country and why he and his successor kept serially assassinating the very puppets they propped up. Weren't we supposed to be bringing democracy as a bulwark against communism?
So, let's hope Nixon can win the war, only he and his realpolitik buddy Kissinger had soon conflated it into WWIII. I became pretty thoroughly anti-Vietnam war to the point that when John Kerry, who I'd come to think of as a pretty standup guy, addressed my last remaining concern, saying basically not to worry if we pull out and cut off funds, it's one people, they'll smoke a peace pipe and be lovey dovey.
Only they weren't lovey dovey. Tens of thousands were summarily executed, hundreds of thousands imprisoned or sent to re-education camps and a million-plus displaced and living in squalor. Thru the Carter presidency, the contagion spread to the killing fields of Cambodia. Only was John Kerry upset? No, it seemed at the time that only me and Joan Baez gave a damn about the fate of all those people. The Dems acted utterly as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
Well, besides the fact that John Kerry is a callous lying scumbag of the highest order, there's don't trust the media. Since '75 I have not seen a single broadcast of network news. I never once watched Dan Rather anchor CBS. And I have never read Time or Newsweek since.
The other takeaway is a little more profound. Peace is not the absence of conflict, like the commenters at thinkprogress who want nothing so much as to be able to pull their little turtle heads back in the shell believe. It is the absence of coercion. When devils are using guns, the only answer is angels with more firepower.
Iraq is a great test of our ability to wage peace. So far, it and the Afghan campaign have gone much better than my most optimistic predictions. Bush is not repeating the haughty blunders of Kennedy and Johnson.
While I never bought into the Domino Theory of all the bad that would ensue if Vietnam fell (until it actually fell), I do buy the domino theory of the good that will follow if we succeed in bringing peace and freedom to a troubled region.
To Dan's comment, I'm ashamed to have a bit of inight. Anyone remember the U.S. "Dream Team" in the 1992 Olympics? Other countries had been beating up on our amateurs, and it was time to show who really had the best basketball players in the world. It was a treat to watch the best in the NBA come together in the Olympics to win gold for the U.S.
How many have watched subsequent "Dream Teams?" How many have watched the NBA in general in the last decade? I for one have quit watching because the style of play has changed for the worse. No reason to expand on this for the purposes of this post, but to bring it back to the topic at hand, I found myself rooting against the US in the Olympics in recent years.
Why? Did I hate the US? Of course not. But a defeat for the US by a European or South American team that emphasized the fundamentals of basketball might have somehow sent a message and helped to reform our own (in my view) failing NBA.
In the same way I suspect that there are many on the left who do indeed love their country, but convince themselves that a defeat is necessary to show us the error of our ways and lead to corresponding reforms.
I'm a bit ashamed of my hostility to USA Basketball. But supporting say a Croatian team who at the end of the day merely wants a victory on the court and to shake hands with our team does not have much of a ripple outside of basketball.
Rooting against your country in matters of life and death, even if it is to "benefit" your country in the long run, is simply treasonous. That doesn't mean there can be no disagreement. But when politics do not stop at the water's edge, you have Tet, and the propensity of our media to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."
Tet: "Well, we saw it in Vietnam, and a good example was when Walter Cronkite came back and said the war was lost after Tet, even though in just one of the most heroic chapters in the history
of the U.S. Marine Corps, in Hue, and then the U.S. Air force at Que Son, the U.S. Army in Saigon itself, we killed over 50,000 Vietnamese, North Vietnamese Communists, and lost 1,500, and really destroyed the Viet Cong in the South for over a year, and we were told that was a grievous defeat, because the media covered it in such a way it suggested that terrorists were on the Embassy grounds."
Just war or not, many millions died because we didn't finish the job. Why not? Left as an exercise for the student.
These folks don't necessarily want the worst for the US. They want what's best for them.
If what is best for them is selling stories and/or building a political power base, they'll do it. It doesn't matter if they have to lie to do so. Some of them probably even believe that they really are leading some sort of heroic struggle against the BusHitler tyranny, in which they get to be the stars and receive acclaim, and they don't mind doing immoral things in the process.
Ever see the South Park episode where Rob Reiner tries to kill Cartman in order to falsify evidence that second hand smoke is lethal? He justified it because it would "get people to quit smoking."
How about these assholes who have made it a mission to "out" Republicans and label them as being gays? They justify it because it would "lead to the defeat of the Republicans.
Same mentality. Everything is seconded to the cause, and the cause is not the good of the country; it's their own little special interest, which they tell everyone is good for the country.
Yes the Viet Cong suffered a huge defeat after they launched the offensive, but that is unimportant, they achieve their strategic goal simply by launching the nationwide attack.
The US's strategy was to win a war of attrition. Thus by 68 if they were suceeding they should have made some sort of impact and there should have been some secure locations. Tet showed there were no secure locations that the Viet Cong could not attack. Thus the attrition strategy had been completely ineffective up until that point. What good is killing a lot of people if they can still attack you anywhere they choose? If they can make the populace afraid?
So okay the US killed lots of the enemy. Here is the key point in the year following tet, the number of encounters between the US a Viet Cong dropped dramatically. Why? Because the Viet Cong hid while they rebuilt their strength. How can you win a war of attrition when anytime you hurt your enemey they can hide until they have built their strength back up?
Victory in war is not a sporting event, there is not scoreboard. It didn't matter that the US killed a lot more Viet Cong then Viet COng killed Americans. Victory for the American's was defeating the Viet COng and pacifying the country. Victory for the Viet Cong was staying alive. Yes eventually they wanted to control the south, but they knew they could stay forever and the American's could not. Once the americans left it would not be a big deal to take the south. So all they had to do was stay alive until that point.
This is why tet showed that the war was unwinnable. Nothing to do with body count, but to do with the fact it happened at all.
Victory for the Viet Cong was staying alive. Yes eventually they wanted to control the south, but they knew they could stay forever and the American's could not.
By Anonymous, at Thu Oct 19, 11:28:56 AM
Just like we couldn't stay in Germany? Japan? Korea?
The unwinnable meme is so freaking irksome. Unwinnable my butt! THE LESSON of Vietnam is: Micromanagement from the top level of DOD doesn't work. Any reasonable strategy would have finished the conflict in weeks. Maybe something like interdicting Haiphong Harbor and the NE and NW railroads; bombing dams and dikes, etc. I could go on, but it's a waste of time with koolaid drinkers.
Pretty good revisionist history, anonymous, and not without some validity. But not entirely accurate.
In fact, even General Giap's memoirs do not substantiate the general tenor of your comment.
Make no mistake, the VietCong were pretty much destroyed during TET 1968.
The NVA, on the other hand was able to retrench and win the war because we gradually withdrew aid and support to the South.
You're right larry, I shouldn't have said unwinnable without a qualifier, unwinnable using the strategy that was being used.
Now yes the US could have done all of the things you suggested, but the question becomes are they morally aceptable things to do? They certainly are if a country threatens the vital interests of the US. I believe, and I believe history has shown, the survival of a non communist vietnam was not a required vital interest of America.
I believe the only way possible to have won vietnam was to kill the vast majority of the Vietnamese (not just teh North Vietnamese either, a lot of the south would have joined the fight against the US if they had engaged in wholesale slaughter of the North), and I do not think it was worth that cost.
Why? Because the Viet Cong hid while they rebuilt their strength. How can you win a war of attrition when anytime you hurt your enemey they can hide until they have built their strength back up?
Which of course is precisely why the subsequent Cambodian "incusion" occured (with the tacit approval of Sihanouk). That operation was a fantastic success and bought the time necessary for the south's troops to take over from the Americans.
Were it not for the feckless US congress denying approval for subsequent military support to the south, the communists would not have been able to persist. Even with the congress's betrayal, it took a full NVA armored assault across the border to succeed because the VC had been effectively eliminated as a force at that point.
I find it amazing how the left persists in their lies even to this day.
Observer 5: "Now, pray tell me, how the Vietnam War could have been won, if not for the pusillanimous liberals and the treasonous media?"
Instead of me telling you, why don't I let Colonel Bui Tin, of the North Vietnamese Army general staff, tell you:
Stephen Young: "How could the Americans have won the war?"
Bui Tin: "Cut the Ho Chi Minh trail inside Laos. If Johnson had granted [Gen. William] Westmoreland's requests to enter Laos and block the Ho Chi Minh trail, Hanoi could not have won the war."
The conservative position was to camp troops on the Ho Chi Minh trail to block transport of materiel to the South. Liberals protested such a move as expanding the war, when in fact it would have diminished it.
Bui Tin was very appreciative of the American Left's help in winning the war.
Young: "Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi's victory?"
Bui Tin: "It was essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war and that she would struggle along with us."
Read this interview with the North Vietnamese enemy and learn:
And now, the Left wants to repeat its victory in Vietnam with the same tactics by making Iraq the New Vietnam.
Dan, sorry but how do you expect anyone to heed your lofty words if you duck tough questions?
Here you are whining about "war crimes". What unmitigated gall. Too busy to answer hard questions about your position Dan? or is it a question of priorities?
"My point was not to suggest I'm somebody special, my point was to ask: Do those who'd put forth statements such as the ones quoted REALLY believe what they're saying? Do they not realize that we are all just fellow Americans and world citizens trying to do the right thing?"
Of course we belive what we are saying, you MORON. The right thing is to fight terrorism not appese it. There is no such thing as a world citizen, since you have no voice in how others go about thier buissness.
Anyone want to place a wager right now that James A. Baker III's Iraq panel will not conclude that we're losing the war in Iraq because of the liberal media?
And I'll make another bet: James A. Baker III's Iraq Panel will not conclude that we're winning, either.
Here's a novel thought: why not hold the leaders in charge of prosecuting this war -- like Bush & Rumsfeld -- accountable for a change? Accountability is so much more conservative than dusting off that pathetic, stabbed-in-the-back myth, isn't it?
"How can you win a war of attrition when anytime you hurt your enemey they can hide until they have built their strength back up?"
It helps when you're actually allowed to ferret out the enemy while they're running away. It also helps when you don't have entire swaths of the country you can't even fire in the general direction of without risking at least brig time for violating 'ceasefire' conditions.
My uncle was a goundpounder over there for 2 tours. They had this abandoned rubber plantation inside their AO on one of his tours that was totally off limits. You could not pursue the enemy into it, or even fire at it. Why? Because the French owners of the plantation might come back to it some day and need it to be intact. Nevermind that the Viet Mihn/early Viet Cong executed the family that owned it because they didn't leave with the rest of the French. So what happens? VC make it a base of operations and sometimes have the gall to even stand in the open at the edge of it and fire at my uncle and his guys. They couldn't do squat in return (didn't stop them sometimes because of frustration, but the offenders always at least got brig time). Most Vietnam Vets I've talked to who went outside the wire have a similar story.
It's a common complaint from pilots of the time as well. Taking AAA/SAM fire from that patch of trees? Too bad, that's one of the no-fire zones.
It also helps when you don't stop everything and withdraw back to your original positions every time the enemy goes "OKAY ENOUGH, WE WANT A CEASEFIRE". Then they just draw out talks while they rearm and your guys sit in their bases waiting for the badguys to swarm them the instant the badguy brass gets bored.
Which is why Sadr City ticks off my friends and I so much. I haven't been to Iraq, but the majority of my friends have. Most of them have had AOs that butt-up against Sadr, and they ALL say that in their AO that's where the bad stuff comes from. You see rocket contrails going from Sadr to your FOB? You spot mortar teams in Sadr that are shooting at your position? You chase some insurgents who just did a driveby on some kids and women in the market into Sadr? Too bad, we want to woo him to our point of view politically so you can't cross the (literal) river of dung and get the badguys.
Anonymous: "So okay the US killed lots of the enemy. Here is the key point in the year following tet, the number of encounters between the US a Viet Cong dropped dramatically. Why?"
Could it be because most of the Viet Cong were dead?
Anonymous: "Because the Viet Cong hid while they rebuilt their strength. How can you win a war of attrition when anytime you hurt your enemey they can hide until they have built their strength back up?"
The only place the Viet Cong were hiding were in their graves. The Viet Cong never reconstituted themselves after their failed Tet Offensive. Regular NVA soldiers from the north had to build up a new guerrilla organization in the south.
Anonymous: "Victory in war is not a sporting event, there is not scoreboard. It didn't matter that the US killed a lot more Viet Cong then Viet COng killed Americans. Victory for the American's was defeating the Viet COng and pacifying the country. Victory for the Viet Cong was staying alive."
Actually, it does make a big difference if the US killed more of the Viet Cong. Let me explain: A unit that suffers 3% casualties in a battle is considered to have suffered a bruising defeat. Some Civil War regiments lost 30% of their men in a battle, which effectively shattered that regiment and made them unable to function as a combat unit. The Viet Cong lost 90% of their number KILLED in the Tet Offensive. Not just wounded and killed, but killed. When 90% of your force has been killed, you have lost and have no hope of returning. Death impairs your ability to go on the offensive.
So even by your standard of staying alive as a measure of victory, the Viet Cong lost and lost in a big way.
Anonymous: "Yes eventually they wanted to control the south, but they knew they could stay forever and the American's could not. Once the americans left it would not be a big deal to take the south. So all they had to do was stay alive until that point."
Actually, it was a big deal to take the South. The South successfully defended against the North for two years after US forces substantially left in 1973. It was not until the US cut off the supply of beans, bullets, and bandages to the South that the North mounted its final invasion by conventional forces. China and the Soviet Union continued to supply their North Vietnamese client with war materiel. Wars are won by logistics. We put the South at a disadvantage by cutting them off while the Communist powers gave an advantage to the North by stocking them up.
Even then, when the the South Vietnamese were being pushed back by the North, America could have ended the military invasion with the air strikes it had promised by treaty. However, Teddy Kennedy blocked that support in Congress and bragged about it.
That's why many Third World countries don't trust us. They think that if they ally with us, eventually they will be left twisting in the wind as the liberals reneg on all the promises made to stand by them. That's why many Iraqis look with fear upon the prospect of a Democrat being elected President to carry out the American Left's determination to abandon them to the wolves.
Just Like Vietnam,
I'm tired of this "blame the press" theme. Maybe Walter Cronkite did cause us to lose Vietnam. (I have doubts, but it's before my time, so I'll stipulate.) All I can say is the bad news coming out of Iraq isn't the press's fault.
When the Army Chief of Staff answers the question "Do you think we're winning" by saying "I don't think we're losing." that's a bad sign.
Worse, the press secretary answered the same question, "Do you think we're winning", with: "We're making progress. I don't know. How do you define winning?" Are you kidding me? A reporter has to tell the government what winning means?
As for Bush answering the Tet question, that wasn't Bush operating on some super-secret conservative doublespeak level. He knows what the question means to the average American, and he answered it.
War is about setting the right goals and then accomplishing them. What are our goals, and are we accomplishing them? When the government can't even give a clear narrative on that, there's no reason to blame the press.
Dan - I don't understand your point. You asked before why conservatives don't believe lefties are on our side. I cited the left's cowardly, "symbolic" abandonment of SVN when we were pretty much free and clear of the war. (We're talking about like $500m a year in aid they cut off). The left had the political majority at the time, and haven't had it again since Carter. Cutting off that aid was a big factor in that view of lefties becoming mainstream.
Anonymous 11:28 - Yes, attrition wasn't working. Which is why Abrams changed the strategy after he took over in 1968 to rural pacification. Which completed the destruction of the VC begun at Tet. (Ironic, isn't it? The attrition strategy that wasn't working led them to attack during Tet, to show it wasn't working, which opened the door for Abrams' strategy to work.)
So they lost. The insurgency was over circa 1973. Squandering that costly victory by abandoning SVN is what embitters so many people.
As several in the minority view have mentioned, Tet did not have much effect on the war. The Nixon administration fought it as well as it could have -- without making for even worse problems with the Chinese (Yalu, anyone?) or the USSR -- and achieved an essentially free South Vietnam by the end of 1972.
Tet did destroy two major forces -- the VC, as has been mentioned, and the Democratic Party, as has not. If Tet had been reported accurately, LBJ or HHH holds the White House for the Dems, especially with Wallace sweeping the Deep South.
The Dems are so hungry for immediate power that they have given little thought to leaving a war already won -- if the Dems can find someone to surrender to, quite a challenge. While Tet was obscure for many years, the events in Iraq are reported on immediately by numerous participants. There will be no way for the Dems to hide the victory celebrations of the Islamists nor the contrast with the lack thereof when Republican policies were followed.
Finally, the battlefield moves back to Manhattan, as the Islamists, who know full well that they have been annhilated in Iraq, believe that Osama was right all along and go on the offensive.
It won't be in Phnom Penh, but in Penn Station, and the Dems will never recover. Never.
As for Bush answering the Tet question, that wasn't Bush operating on some super-secret conservative doublespeak level. He knows what the question means to the average American, and he answered it.
There you have it. Bush speaking an easily verifiable truth known by anyone with a decent understanding of history is "super-secret conservative doublespeak". Is there really anything left to say after this?
Tantor says, "That's why many Third World countries don't trust us. They think that if they ally with us, eventually they will be left twisting in the wind as the liberals reneg on all the promises made to stand by them."
Assuming your assertion true for the moment, wouldn't it then make sense, knowing this, for conservatives to stop advocating wars that will not be won before the inevitable public backlash forces a withdrawal?
Tantor goes on, "That's why many Iraqis look with fear upon the prospect of a Democrat being elected President to carry out the American Left's determination to abandon them to the wolves."
Jonah Goldberg just suggested putting the "Should we stay or should we go?" question to a vote in Iraq. That way, Iraqis can decide if they want to abandon themselves to the wolves. It sounds like an excellent idea to me. How about you?
Goldberg's column: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-goldberg19oct19,0,5993806.column?coll=la-opinion-center
Excerpts from a Frontpagemagazine interview of a former North Vietnam army colonel:
How North Vietnam Won The War
Grunt.com | April 26, 2004
What did the North Vietnamese leadership think of the American antiwar movement? What was the purpose of the Tet Offensive? How could the U.S. have been more successful in fighting the Vietnam War? Bui Tin, a former colonel in the North Vietnamese army, answers these questions in the following excerpts from an interview conducted by Stephen Young, a Minnesota attorney and human-rights activist [in The Wall Street Journal, 3 August 1995]. Bui Tin, who served on the general staff of North Vietnam's army, received the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975. He later became editor of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of Vietnam. He now lives in Paris, where he immigrated after becoming disillusioned with the fruits of Vietnamese communism.
Question: How did Hanoi intend to defeat the Americans?
Answer: By fighting a long war which would break their will to help South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh said,
"We don't need to win military victories, we only need to hit them until they give up and get out."
Q: Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi's victory?
A: It was essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war and that she would struggle along with us.
Q: Did the Politburo pay attention to these visits?
A: Those people represented the conscience of America. The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor. America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.
Q: What was the purpose of the 1968 Tet Offensive?
A: To relieve the pressure Gen. Westmoreland was putting on us in late 1966 and 1967 and to weaken American resolve during a presidential election year.
Q: What about Gen. Westmoreland's strategy and tactics caused you concern?
A: Our senior commander in the South, Gen. Nguyen Chi Thanh, knew that we were losing base areas, control of the rural population and that his main forces were being pushed out to the borders of South Vietnam. He also worried that Westmoreland might receive permission to enter Laos and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
In January 1967, after discussions with Le Duan, Thanh proposed the Tet Offensive. Thanh was the senior member of the Politburo in South Vietnam. He supervised the entire war effort. Thanh's struggle philosophy was that "America is wealthy but not resolute," and "squeeze tight to the American chest and attack." He was invited up to Hanoi for further discussions. He went on commercial flights with a false passport from Cambodia to Hong Kong and then to Hanoi. Only in July was his plan adopted by the leadership. Then Johnson had rejected Westmoreland's request for 200,000 more troops. We realized that America had made its maximum military commitment to the war. Vietnam was not sufficiently important for the United States to call up its reserves. We had stretched American power to a breaking point. When more frustration set in, all the Americans could do would be to withdraw; they had no more troops to send over.
Tet was designed to influence American public opinion. We would attack poorly defended parts of South Vietnam cities during a holiday and a truce when few South Vietnamese troops would be on duty. Before the main attack, we would entice American units to advance close to the borders, away from the cities. By attacking all South Vietnam's major cities, we would spread out our forces and neutralize the impact of American firepower. Attacking on a broad front, we would lose some battles but win others. We used local forces nearby each target to frustrate discovery of our plans. Small teams, like the one which attacked the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, would be sufficient. It was a guerrilla strategy of hit-and-run raids. [looks like a re-writing of history with the benefit of hindsight]
Q: What about the results?
A: Our losses were staggering and a complete surprise;. Giap later told me that Tet had been a military defeat, though we had gained the planned political advantages when Johnson agreed to negotiate and did not run for re-election. The second and third waves in May and September were, in retrospect, mistakes. Our forces in the South were nearly wiped out by all the fighting in 1968. It took us until 1971 to re-establish our presence, but we had to use North Vietnamese troops as local guerrillas. If the American forces had not begun to withdraw under Nixon in 1969, they could have punished us severely. We suffered badly in 1969 and 1970 as it was.
Q: What of Nixon?
A: Well, when Nixon stepped down because of Watergate we knew we would win. Pham Van Dong [prime minister of North Vietnam] said of Gerald Ford, the new president, "he's the weakest president in U.S. history; the people didn't elect him; even if you gave him candy, he doesn't dare to intervene in Vietnam again." We tested Ford's resolve by attacking Phuoc Long in January 1975. When Ford kept American B-52's in their hangers, our leadership decided on a big offensive against South Vietnam.
Q: What else?
A: We had the impression that American commanders had their hands tied by political factors. Your generals could never deploy a maximum force for greatest military effect.
Dan Trabue - Please do not misstate just war theory. "Pulling out all the stops" in this context does not mean war crimes. It means adopting the maximum force reasonably available. Literally, "pulling out all the stops" since Hiroshima means nuclear annihilation. The war would be over in about 35 minutes because we would have committed genocide. Did you really think this was what was being advocated? No, you're just playing the same old cynical leftie game and putting some Catholic lipstick on for show.
The COIN campaign that we are currently undertaking in Iraq is fully consistent with just war theory. Just war theory predates the nation-state and it will post-date it too. Al Queda, Iran, and the rest of the jihadi movement do not conceive of war in a nation-state context and applying just war theory with those artificial limits leads to criminally stupid results.
No war is conducted without error, without deadly mistakes, without criminals taking advantage for fun and profit. That's why just war theory demands so much before the Church admits that a particular war is justified.
The Iraqi campaign was explicitly to create a free Iraqi state with a functioning government. The effects of even the limited freedom Iraq has now are showing up in Iranian insurgency activity against the Ahmadinejad government, clerical rebellion against the revisionist Khomeni strain of Shia Islam, and a much higher possibility of survivable resistance activity on the part of the Iranian opposition. At this point Iranians have somewhere close to run to if they tick off the government. They didn't used to. Providing a place where a Shia Grand Ayatollah along with his high court can make the case that the current regime is religiously illegitimate can and probably will save tens of thousands of lives because that sort of assault does not produce combat casualties.
The sort of assault we are currently enabling on the Iranians could not have happened without Iraq. It wouldn't be prudent for George W Bush to say such a thing, but I can. After all, I'm just a blogger.
There you have it. Bush speaking an easily verifiable truth known by anyone with a decent understanding of history is "super-secret conservative doublespeak". Is there really anything left to say after this?
Ok, let's pretend that if I had compared Iraq to the turning point of Vietnam two weeks ago, y'all wouldn't have jumped my shit.
Are you kidding me? A reporter has to tell the government what winning means?
I can think of a dozen different definitions of what "winning" might mean in Iraq.
The notion of "win" in a situation like that set you up to always "lose" because critics will always use a different definition than you do. This is decidedly NOT like WWII where "win" came well defined with formal surrenders of Axis powers.
IMO, a better metric than "win" is to have a set of milestones and goals (updated as circumstances demand) and measure your progress against that.
Because I was asked, I offer WHAT TO DO, in two parts.
What NOT To Do
I offer a few messages from some our sponsors:
Overgrown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.
War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes...known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Clearly, people who would know recognize the high and horrible costs of war and recognize its debilitating weaknesses. War is a piss poor solution.
Now some people (like those quoted above) say that, in a impossible situation, even a piss poor solution is something. But it is to be avoided at all costs. War should truly be a last resort – used to defend against an attack.
Conservative doctrine teaches the concept of Prudence. The idea being that we are limited in our genius, we don’t know what results will happen when we take an action. So we should be cautious about any change in plan. The larger the proposed action, the greater the caution because the greater the chances are things will backfire on us.
Just War Theory – what I believe most Americans say they think should guide our policies (and not just a Catholic position), as well as our laws, say that warring guidelines includes NOT attacking civilians. One very logical reason for this is, as soon as you attack civilians, you give aid and comfort to the enemy. Support for THEIR side grows with attacks upon civilians.
Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) said, “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war."” – questioning the very possibility of the concept of a Just War in today’s world.
Whether you choose to embrace Just Peacemaking, it should be clear to all that we must look for better solutions than war. It should be further clear that those who advocate Just Peacemaking are your friends and partners in fighting terrorism and oppression.
The sort of demonization that occurs in places like this is counterproductive, anti-American and just shameful.
What TO Do
Some more quotes from people with the right idea.
Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Mere lip services for peace are easy, but without effect. What we need is active participation in a fight against war and everything leading to war.
We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
EVEN IF one supposed war-as-solution were desirable and that it worked, we would need other solutions. Right now, there are genocides, threatened genocides, oppression and violence around the world. Even if we thought it were a good idea for the US to be the global cops (which is neither a conservative nor liberal position). We can’t afford that sort of solution, even if it worked.
It’s costing us thousands of our children’s lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq just to fail against an already defeated country. What sort of solution is that? Where is the responsibility in continuing to pour money in to that solution?
And that’s just one already defeated country! Shall we wage war in the Congo? Sudan? N. Korea? Syria? Lebanon? Colombia? Just how massive and ineffective a gov’t do you want?
Again, I’ll remind you of Thomas Jefferson’s words:
War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.
We need other solutions.
1. We need to invest the same sort of energy and money into diplomacy and peacemaking as we do into warmaking, if we truly hope to work for peace and stop horrors like are happening in Darfur today
2. We need to establish what is and isn’t acceptable actions for sovereign nations to take
3. We need to establish when neighboring nations and/or the global community need to interfere with another nation (not something that should be done lightly if we value the notion of sovereign nations)
4. We need to establish guidelines of what actions bring what responses and the means of following through with those consequences
5. All of this requires some sort of international body of agreement – whether it’s the UN or the ICC or both or something else
6. We need to recognize that any human entity – the UN or Congress – is going to be flawed, and we need to work to keep corruption out of these organizations
7. Still, we can’t rely upon an individual nation acting unilaterally to be the world’s judge and jury – humanity is too flawed for that solution. Some nation or nations will instinctively set itself above the law and say, “These rules apply for you but not for us” – a bit of tyranny goes a long way towards undermining even the tyrant’s nation’s security. Might makes right is a failed logical and moral paradigm.
8. We need to work to end oppressive and exploitive economic practices, as well as military practices
9. We need to treat terrorism done by terrorist organizations as a crime, not as an excuse to wage war against an unrelated people – again, as soon as you start bombing and killing civilians (even “accidentally”), you’ve given what WAS a rogue group of thugs a power and support that they didn’t have previously
Nations can always, by law, defend themselves against an actual attack. But the concept of pre-emptive invasions based upon possible fears to deal with what might perhaps be a threat is not a Rule that we would want others to live by. We must not live by it ourselves. We are a great nation. We must lead by example. We must work for solutions that have a logical hope of making a positive difference and NOT, in the process, embrace the very terror against which we’re fighting.
Dan, you've provided a laundry list of high minded platitudes. but these platitudes raise a very important question:
The point I'm making and will continue to make is that those platitudes are meaningless in and of themselves. Without action they are useless.
As has been said repeatedly the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I've asked you questions based on real life Dan. I've offered you an opportunity to explain how your high minded thoughts would animate those who are seeking to prevail against the current threat.
You have demurred and that speaks volumes.
You'll have to forgive my thick-headedness, Skip. I thought I WAS answering your questions. I thought you were asking how exactly I was proposing deal with the threats at hand. I've begun with a very short but specific list. I believe I've also offered this site:
Which answers that question in great detail. No one is advocating doing nothing. I'm telling you in some detail what direct actions Just Peacemakers are proposing to, I'd say, more successfully stand up to the threat at hand.
Do me a favor and re-ask the question(s) that I'm failing to answer.
Is your what SHOULD we have done 60 years ago? I'd be glad to answer that, here's one link:
Many historians can tell you that Japan was prepared to end the war already and, if they weren't before the bombings, they were after the first bomb. The notion that the destruction of two civilian centers was "needed to save lives" is a lie - a justification for un-justifiable actions.
I'm sure you'll disagree, though. That's a problem with debating "what might have been," and the reason why I answered in terms of what we're currently doing.
In short, I will always support us living in a way that we want others to live. Not out of some weak-minded milquetoast dreamy vision of the goodness of humanity, but because nothing else makes sense.
If I have failed to answer your question, please ask it again and I'll try to do better (I don't see any questions asked in this post, so I assume it's one you've asked earlier - so I'm working on memory and mine's pretty poor).
Okay, Skip. I went back and think I found the questions you think I'm avoiding. You said:
It isn't a question of absolute morality, its a question of how much of our civilization must we shed to defeat an enemy.
At one extreme is your position: life on our knees because we are unwilling to fight a war to protect ourselves.
At the other end is utter savagery, as we have witnessed on a regular basis throughout human history. And as we are witnessing now. Are they moral? Are they legal? do they care?
And if this is it and I'm reading your right, I'd say it comes down to the fact that we're coming from two different worldviews.
I'm of the mind that we ought never abandon our values - we ought never "shed our civilization" in order to defeat an enemy. My position is NOT life on my knees, as you suppose. Your take (it's either lives on our knees or utter savagery needed to "beat" them) is a false dichotomy.
Rarely are there only two choices.
Jesus, in his famous, "Turn the other cheek" lesson, suggested a Third Way.
1. We can choose to cower in fear.
2. We can choose to fight back - meet them at their level.
But Jesus offered a Third Way - don't cower, don't fight back, but STAND UP to them, face them down and turn the other cheek. Make them see the humanity in you and confront them with the inhumanity in them.
Now, this may lead to crucifixion. But there are plenty of examples of wise, direct action having a positive result.
The Contras in Nicaragua were terrorists who "feared neither God nor man" (and I apologize for the religious references - I'm talking secularly, just using some references that may have some meaning to some here). They were terrorists who'd visit the villages in Nica who supported the Sandinista Gov't and the Contras would kill them, rape them, "disappear" them.
In this case, people in the US and around the world considered the situation, realized that the Contras were receiving support from the US and would not likely risk that support and people came together and "turned the other cheek." They sent peaceful witnesses from around the world to stay at the villages where the attacks were happening and the attacks stopped.
You see, Non-Violent Direct Action operates NOT on the basis of the "goodness of man" but rather on the notion that people will nearly always act in their own interests. You can peaceably affect change by getting folk to see how it is not in their own best interest to pursue violence.
So I reject your suggestion that it isn't a question of morality - as I think most folk in the US do - and the notion that there are only two options: Kill or be killed.
So, for those of us who are willing to die for our cause but not willing to kill innocents for our cause, we can and ought to find other ways. Our Third Way.
Dan said: "One very logical reason for this is, as soon as you attack civilians, you give aid and comfort to the enemy. Support for THEIR side grows with attacks upon civilians."
Yep. That's why Islamic extemists, who are very smart and who know their societies very well, never attack civilians in Iraq, India, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Dan it is with regret that I note this: I offered specific scenarios and you've responded with generalities.
it's just more platitudes Dan.
Pick a single scenario: WW2 and the civilians at the railroad marshalling yard or a man in a dirty dishdashi lifting AK 47 as my son walks by. I think I listed three or four different scenarios. They are based on reality and I'd like to read your attempt to apply your general position to specific situations.
The question I see on bumperstickers is "What would Jesus do"
Since you rely so heavily on his teacherings, why not venture an answer?
Typical media coverage...Bush remarks there may (or may not) be a similarity between the current situation in Iraq and ONE battle during Vietnam, and the media presents it as comparing two wars in general. Personally I am tired of all these Vietnam comparisons. I pride myself on being an amateur historian, and personally I see more in common between Iraq and our involvement in the Philippines against an insurgency. The motives are not the same; in the Philippines we fought to secure our dominion in the islands which whe had recently purchased from Spain. Now, we are fighting to safeguard a democratically elected government against a new breed of fascism. However, in the Philippines, many American celebrities were against the war, among them Mark Twain. We went in to liberate the people from Spanish misrule. The newspapers of the period relished stories of alleged acts of torture or other deplorable actions by U.S. troops. Then, just as now, most times these reports were full of inaccuracies or never happened at all. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt declared that major combat was over, after three years, in the Philippines. Like President Bush's similar remarks on the USS Lincoln in 2003, the remarks were taken out of context by many. Yet, fighting in the Philippines continued for a decade after President Roosevelt's remarks. Also, the insurgents in the Philippines were not shy on letting people know that they were trying to influence the outcome of American elections, particularly the 1900 presidential race.
I prefer to compare today's Democrats to the Democrats of the Civil War period. They accused Lincoln of misleading the Northern states into an unjust war of aggression, the war was a failure, a quagmire. They charged that Lincoln and the Republicans violated civil liberties and the Constitution. They made some gains at first, but they lost terribly when Lincoln won reelection in 1864. History repeats itself, and I hope next month's midterms are just as much a shocker to today's "Peace Democrats" as Lincoln's reelection was to the Copperheads of 1864.
"In world war two we bombed germany day and night. some targets were purely military, others weren't. If we destroyed a railway yard and killed the personnel manning it did we commit a war crime?"
It seems you're asking two questions. What is legal and What would Jesus Do?
To the specifics on legalities, I'm no lawyer so I couldn't give you a definitive answer, now could I?
I know our laws state that we can't target civilian populations. THAT would be my position. Bombing a civilian railway yard would seem to be a violation of that law, wouldn't it?
What would Jesus do? Well, I don't think he'd bomb the civilians OR the military train station. What do you think?
You expanded upon your original question and asked:
"If the rail yard was a marshalling point for a German army about to launch an attack on our forces or some neighboring country, was it still wrong, uniforms notwithstanding? If destroying that marshalling yard destroyed the ability of the german army to launch counter attacks, thus sparing America lives, is it wrong? If so, why?"
Again, I'm no lawyer. I don't know the specifics of where bombing civilians starts and ends. It seems like to me that the spirit of the applicable laws would be that we don't bomb where we know civilians will be. That would be what I advocate.
Why would I advocate that? Because we have to have laws that we abide by and rules of war (if we're going to wage war) to which we adhere.
Do we want the Germans bombing our train station here in my hometown Louisville because of its proximity to Ft Knox? No. Why? Well, because there are citizens here.
Ahh, but WHAT IF the enemy doesn't care about rules?
If the enemy doesn't care about rules, we still do because we're Americans. Many of us are Christians and faithful Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and targeting civilians goes against our nature and ideals. I won't let the enemy define my behavior, would you advocate that?
Because the "terrorists" have captured and beheaded some civilians, would you advocate we capture and behead some civilians as well? Because the terrorists have targeted locations with children, ought we target locations with children as well?
That notion is reprehensible to most Americans and we would reject such behavior. I'd hope that you would reject such a proposal as well.
I fully recognize that as a pacifist, I'm in a great minority in this world and in this nation. I have no desire to force my pacifism upon the US people (despite the fact that I believe it to be the moral and logical solution). Most folk, I believe, prefer the notion of Just War Theory and our laws as they exist. I'm just saying that we ought to adhere to that.
If those who advocate "doing unto our terrorists as they have done unto us," are in the minority, you wouldn't want to force that minority opinion off on the US, would you? Regardless if you do or don't, the American people reject that and those who'd support barbarism will have to accept that we're not going down that road.
As to your specific question about your son:
"If my son is patrolling a street in AlAnywhere Iraq and a man in a dirty dishdashi lifts his AK47, should my son kill him? Is this armed man a civilian?"
Again, I'm no lawyer, but I would imagine the legal ruling would be that, yes, your son could warn and then fire upon the man lifting a rifle in the street. Just as police could do that to a person on the streets here who appeared to be a deadly threat.
What I would add to my guess about the legality of the action is this:
1. It is unwise in the extreme to place our sons and daughters in lose/lose situations. This invasion was WAY optional and nowhere near a last resort. It is a cruelty to our military to place them in that situation. I have friends with family there and they tell me that they are faced with similar situations frequently. Sometimes they shoot and find out that the person involved was likely an innocent (or a child is killed) and that is damaging and damning to our sons and daughters in the military. What kind of fool would place them in that situation unless it was absolutely necessary?
2. It's one thing if you're talking about an un-uniformed local raising a rifle. It's another thing dropping a bomb or firing on a building where you THINK the enemy may be.
Support our troops. Don't place them in this horrible situation except as a true last resort.
May your son come home safely and sound.
"Jesus, in his famous, "Turn the other cheek" lesson, suggested a Third Way.
1. We can choose to cower in fear.
2. We can choose to fight back - meet them at their level.
But Jesus offered a Third Way - don't cower, don't fight back, but STAND UP to them, face them down and turn the other cheek. Make them see the humanity in you and confront them with the inhumanity in them."
Make them see their inhumanity? Are you freaking serious? You have absolutely no idea what these people are like, do you?
They torture captives with power tools. Not for information. For honor. For fun.
They saw the heads off of living people and broadcast it on the Internet.
They set off bombs among schoolchildren to try to intimidate the populace. Seriously. This was a problem in Mosul last year, and delivered said populace to our warm embrace.
They will murder a (Armenian Orthodox) Christian because they don't like something that the (Roman Catholic) Pope said.
But you, YOU have the solution. Don't fight; show them their inhumanity. I guess it's easy to maintain such ideals when others bear the burden and pay the blood.
And when there are none of us others left, you'll die on your knees.
Dan said: "Make them see the humanity in you and confront them with the inhumanity in them."
This sounds like a Roman Catholic priest during the Crusades. That approach didn't work out too well.
As a businessman I have dealt in Muslim societies for 30 years.
Muslim extremists know about Christ. He is a prophet in their religion. His teaching were updated by Muhammad. (Christianity is Relgion 2.0. Islam is Religion 3.0.)
Muslim extremists know all about American culture. They have watched your movies and TV shows all of their lives. They watch CNN. Some of them went to college in Western countries. They don't like your culture.
They are on a mission from God. They are as relentless as the Aliens in the movie "Independence Day."
The West is losing the war against Radical Islam. In the end, the Muslims extremists will win.
I know a bit about Muslims. I've dear friends who are missionaries in Muslim Morocco. And yes, there are some extremists out there who identify themselves as Muslims. Just as there are some extremists out there who identify themselves as Christians.
I don't fear either set and I won't let either set define my morality, abandon my nation's ideals or make me break my own laws.
"They set off bombs among schoolchildren to try to intimidate the populace."
And you know what? That is WRONG for them to do that. I will not fight that sort of evil by emulating it. And beyond what I or you want, the American people are ready to end this invasion and will not embrace their methods to fight them.
NOT because we're cowards and not because we "hate America" - just the opposite. Because we love our ideals and what this nation stands for and because we don't fear them, we will implement other ways.
So again, I'll say that if you don't like it you'll probably have to learn to live with it.
Dan said: "I've dear friends who are missionaries in Muslim Morocco."
That's interesting. Proselytizing is forbidden in Morocco. Any attempt to induce a Muslim to convert is illegal. According to Article 220 of the Moroccan Penal Code, "anyone who employs incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion" may be punished by three to six months in prison as well as by a fine.
That's exactly true. And yet they allow a few "registered" preachers to be there and my friend Karen is one of them. So she and her husband know a bit about muslims.
They tell me that, despite the bad apples that get the press, the Muslims they know share a closer affinity to Christ than many Christians in churches here.
What's your point?
My point was "that's interesting."
Did your friend also tell you that Christians generally face social ostracism in Morocco?
You don't have to take my word for it. The Morocco Times has written about it.
Since there's no edit function here (of which I'm aware, anyway) I've got to tack this on the end.
That "I know a bit about Muslims" because you have a friend in Morocco line, so therefore Islam is really a peaceful religion hijacked by some extremist whackoes and Muslim terrorists are really the same thing as Christian abortion clinic bombers, gets at me.
I really wish that there was an archive of comments here, because I get really tired of repeating myself. That line of thinking is flat wrong. Islam really does tell Muslims that it righteous and noble to die in the way of God, and that they should fight against infidels until all religion is for God. (i.e. Islam) Rule of man by man, (i.e. democracy) is unholy and must be destroyed to make way for a divinely guided caliphate. These ideas are most famously and probably most clearly organized in the book, Milestones Along the Way. (which I own)
Ref: Sayyid Qutb, executed 1966 by President Nasser, Egypt.
"Qutb is considered one of the most influential Muslim thinkers or activists of the modern era, not only for his ideas but for what many consider his heroic martyr's death."
At the site, Islam101.com, an 'educational' site for people who want to learn about Islam, he is billed as a Prominent Muslim of the 20th Century, with a biography. Here is an excerpt.
"Sayyid Qutb will always be remembered for his legacy of clearly defining the basic ideas of the Oneness and sovereignty of Allah, the clear distinction between pure faith and the association of partners with Allah (Shirk) overt and hidden, and the only hope for salvation of humanity."
That 'only salvation of humanity,' by the by, is the destruction of all jahilliya (ignorant) societies, including yours, and their replacement by a pure Islamic world government with other faiths reduced to dhimmi status, as per the Abassids. Weird that they didn't actually describe this hope for the salvation of humanity, isn't it? You'd think that something that important would be repeated. But it isn't, because it explicitly calls for the overthrow of infidel civilization; something that infidels take issue with.
And to head off the, "Well that's just the interpretive writings of a guy from the 20th century and has nothing to do with REAL Islam," I submit two things. One, there are Muslims throughout the world who have never heard of Sayyid Qutb, but who believe the same things that he does, especially in India/Pakistan. His ideas are not unique, or especially new. They're just mass distrubuted.
Also, there's this.
An examination of the 'violent' passages in the Quran and their sequential order. Specifically, how god's instructions went from, "Do not fight," to "fight only when attacked," to "break your treaties with all unbelievers and fight against them."
No, you don't know a thing or two about Muslims. You know that there are some nice people who identify themselves as Muslims. There's a difference.
Dawn, feel free to believe what you want. Just don't expect the rest of us to buy into it.
"Did your friend also tell you that Christians generally face social ostracism in Morocco?
You don't have to take my word for it. The Morocco Times has written about it."
Well, I'll have to send that article to her while she's dining at the house of some of her Muslim friends.
Just wish the war in Iraq was over, but what if the United States pulls out, and terrorism becomes rampent again world wide.
Funny video of George W. Bush and Blair. You'll laugh.
Really funny video! You'll love it.