Monday, February 07, 2005

A Political Side-Rant...

Another pause in my article about modernism. Provoked by an item in the news from long ago....

From the September 4th, 1967 edition of the New York Times.
U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror
by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here. The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by the Vietcong's disruption of the balloting.


I have longed for someone in the cowed media to start making parallels with Vietnam. To my knowledge, nobody else has publicly made a parallel between the faux pretext of WMD and the eerily similar Tonkin Gulf Incident. (I offer this comparison at

Above all, I am amazed that nobody stops to ask the simplest of questions. "If you were an enemy of America, looking at history, what would you see as the best way to damage us?"

Answer: "The ONLY thing that has come close to damaging America's confidence, cohesion, confidence and economy during the last century was an impulsive, ideologically obstinate and stupidly mishandled land war in Asia." (Exactly what Ike warned us never to do.)

Let us be clear. Osama Bin Laden's overall plan was NOT simply to topple two buildings in New York, but to lure us into the killing field where he had his glory days against the Russians. He imagined humbling yet another superpower in the dusty mountains of Afghanistan.

Alas, for him, and to Osama's amazement, America proved resilient. We went to Afghanistan - (executing plans and preparations made by the Clinton Administration) - and proceeded to competently root out the Taliban, doing it at low cost, with few casualties. The first outsiders to succeed in Afghanistan since Alexander the Great. Both Bush & Clinton deserve grudging credit. And yes, the outcome is imperfect. But it's astonishing, nonetheless. America is very impressive and our enemies keep underestimating us.

No, the Afghanistan Gambit wasn't enough. The ultimate planners of 9/11 came to realise that it would take a bigger, more deeply stupid land war in Asia to repeat the damage done to our society by Vietnam. The sheiks fired Bin Laden as their surrogate and instead gave a certain influential DC power broker her instructions. Use any and every excuse to get America mired in Iraq.

(Can you come up with a single aspect of the Iraqi quagmire that does not serve Saudi interests? Iraqi oil production plummets. That nation is crippled. Our armed forces are being ground down, with readiness plummeting to pre Pearl Harbor levels. Our nation hasn't been so divided since 1968. And each evening's news footage on Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, viewed from Morocco to Mindanao, serves as an hour-long informercial for pan-Islamic Jihad.)

And now there have been elections.

Frankly, I am torn. There is the immature temptation to welcome each day's bad news as proof that we were right. NOT to oppose toppling Saddam. (The record shows that I have always been in favor of toppling Saddam... intelligently.) But to oppose toppling him stupidly, with relentless deceit and divisiveness, leaving the Western Alliance and American civil society both in shambles.

Yes, schaedenfeude is tempting. But ultimately, I must choose to root for success. Despite loathing our leaders, I must... I must... hope and pray that this will NOT be another Vietnam in the long run. I would much rather swallow bile and see President Bush succeed in his proclaimed goal of creating a democracy in Iraq. (Even though I do not think it is the goal of those calling the shots.)

It's called maturity. And patriotism.

And it could happen, because there is a fourth party to all of this -- the hundreds of thousands of American professionals who do not take their orders from sheiks and petro-princes. They believe that spreading democracy really is the reason that we went there. And they may turn the excuse into reality.

The sheiks may be surprised by the competence of our soldiers and statesmen and aid workers, most of whom ARE trying hard to do this ambitious deed, despite horrifying levels of corruption and stupidity at the top. In other words, those who sent us into this trap, ensuring that we committed every mistake, may be shocked if... when (?) ... we pull off another miracle.

We must prepare for both eventualities. If this trap truly does repeat every insanity of Vietnam, we must prepare to save our nation. And if, on the other hand, American competence astonishes the world yet again, we must not let our suspicions blind ourselves to the fact that a somewhat democratic and free Iraq would be a good thing, whoever brings it about... and whether that was really their intent all along.

Right now, my chief worry - as it has been for 3 years - is IRAN. Condi seems bound and determined to drive the awakening Iranian people - who are our natural friends in the Middle East - back into the arms of the mullahs every chance she gets. Watch the pattern of her saber-rattling pronouncements. She does this every time they start to move toward us. With unnecessary provocative language tuned to insult Iranians on the street. It is ALWAYS counterproductive. And she is much too smart not to notice that fact.

Alas, she could easily have done the opposite. Proved her Kissinger-level chops by sending her boss on a peace plane to Tehran, bypassing the mullahs and emulating the judo-maneuver of Nixon-to-China. That's the sort of nimble tactics that can truly transform an international stage.

(It is also the worst nightmare of our real enemies. The ones calling the shots and stage-managing Jihad. That's why they have forbidden it.)

Rant-mode off.... Please thrive. We'll endure.


Oh, a final note. A very interesting, if partisan, bimonthly webzine can be found at:

Sorry about the political aside. Back to the serialization of my paper on modernity, soon.

You'll find the next bits especially controversial, as I use both Michael Crichton and Margaret Atwood to demonstrate the Left-Right joint assault upon science and hope.


Anonymous said...

Um....which media, exactly, aren't comparing the Iraq War to Vietnam? I am not as in touch with the mainstream media as I could be, perhaps, but USA Today makes at least one such comparison a week.

Blogs, of course, make the comparison about a hundred times a day. (This one included.) Whether or not the media are on it, the public clearly has the idea in its head anyway.

Anonymous said...

I haven't exactly been living under a rock, but I haven't been reading the political conspiracy du jours, either... please enlighten me as to where I can learn more about the assumed back-story?
Why are the Saudis our secret arch-nemeses?
How is Rice their puppet/operative?

Why chalk up to 'evil' genius what can be explained by incompetence?
< insert appeal to Occam's razor here... >

Anonymous said...

Then again, maybe Iraq <> Vietnam, just as Vietnam <> Korea.

Beating a Dead Parrot
Why Iraq and Vietnam have nothing whatsoever in common.
By Christopher Hitchens

Anonymous said...

Ian Welsh over at bopnews wrote a rather provocative article a few weeks ago that comes to some of the same conclusions you do. In general, Blogging of the President comes highly recomended.

Also, let me say that I agree with the above commenter; what data do you have that requires duplicity on the administration's part in order to explain it? Small-minded fear and incompetence is all the explanation you need for what I've seen, though I suppose they have had a rather spectacular run of it.

David Brin said...

The detailed arguments about this administration's ideological and other motives can be found on two essay-sites.


The latter makes some of the comparisons fairly starkly.

Anonymous said...

I don't yet have a blogger account, so I couldn't sign in. The first time I was here, I used my current standard net name, Mabus, but I was posting while sleepy this time and it slipped my mind (I made the first response to this entry). I work nights and so tend to chime in at odd times.

Anonymous said...


While I don't agree with your conclusions about the motives behind the Iraqi war (yes, I did read your past articles and I find a number of problems with them--issues for another day), I must say that the article associated with this comment reminds me why I hold you in such respect. As a good scientist, you are always testing your hypotheses against data as they come. Whatever your always tentative conclusions may be (being that you are, always, the Good Skeptic) you treat the rest of the world fairly. What more could anyone ask?

Cheers to you! I just wish there were more of "you" in this world. As always, I must also seek to emulate that which I admire--

Chris Arndt said...

See, your argument is ridiculous here, in many ways, not the leastof which does Christopher Hitchens point out.

Ultimately though the enemies are different, the values we proclaim to defend are slightly different, the Iraqis that are on our side now are clearly differen than the South Vietnamese then, and whether or not one clearly likes the Vietnam War.... three facts are that a sizeable number of South Vietnamese did not desire a government over them such like that of North Vietnam, which is evident when you note the sudden tyrannies and atrocities up upon the end of the conquest,and the many exoduses and exiles of the anti-Communists. Another is that North and South Vietnam were never one nation at any point prior to the Vietnam War so "reunification" was just a myth. Three: if given carte blanche to apply military force, and I mean apply what resources we had at the time, even without the use of nuclear weapons we could have rendered North Vietnam into a wasteland. Bonus four is that the VietCong, the so-called pro-North Vietnamese in the south, were all but defunct before the American forces withdrew.

You really canot compares wars anyway. The technology is different, the battlefields are often different, and in thise case the enemies and their tactics are certainly different.

Unless of course you believe that jungle tactics really apply in a desert nation.