James Wolcott has a terrific little essay describing a few chilling details about how badly we've screwed up the occupation of Iraq, and he wraps it up with an interesting comment.
There's a Peter Cook - Dudley Moore routine, one of their woolgathering dialogues, where Dud asks Pete, "So would you say you've learned from your mistakes?" and Pete replies: “Oh yes, I'm certain I could repeat them exactly.”
That seems to have been the Bush administration's approach to Iraq. Take the mistakes of Vietnam and repeat them exactly.
And at that you can't say they haven't succeeded.
That's an obvious reading of what's happening in Iraq if you're a lefty, weaned on tales of how the Vietnam War was a doomed effort to crush a popular nationalist movement that spiraled into napalm-soaked madness as we tried to “win” an unwinnable war against the nation's own people. (Since it seems that one must belabour the obvious when talking about Vietnam, let me add that yes I am a lefty, and yes that is my reading of the war, but I also recognize that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese government were, in many important ways, very bad guys.)
But if you look a the rhetoric of ordinary Americans on the right when they talk about Iraq and Vietnam, I think it's clear that they too are trying to act on the lessons of Vietnam, but they have learned very different lessons. They rarely compare the two directly, but the story of Vietnam is lurking in the things they say about fighting in Iraq. To them, Vietnam was a failure of American will --- had we really tried hard enough of course we would have "won." But the meddling politicians, under pressure from the cowards in the antiwar movement, dishonorably stayed our military's hand.
They don't want to let that happen again. This time, there will be no failure of American will. This time, there will be no failure of American ruthlessness. This time, those liberal traitors won't be allowed to stab our troops in the back.