Wednesday, June 29, 2005

# Posted 12:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HUFFINGTON: So I finally read one of the posts over at Arianna's site, but only because it was written by a personal friend of mine. Because he is such a fine historian, Tim has put up a post about the analogies between Iraq and Vietnam that goes far beyond all of the usual cliches.

At the same time, Tim's argument manages to be spectaculary wrong in the way that only the best scholars can be. (Or you can chalk it up to his being a liberal Canadian realist.)

The foundation of Tim's argument is a fascinating observation made by LBJ in 1966. On the subject of Vietnam, the President told Gene McCarthy that
Well I know we oughtn't to be there, but I can't get out. I just can't be the architect of surrender.... I'm willing to do damn near anything. If I told you what I was willing to do, I wouldn't have any program. [Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett] Dirksen wouldn't give me a dollar to operate the war. I just can't operate in a glass bowl with all these things. But I'm willing to do nearly anything a human can do, if I can do it with any honor at all.
FYI, Tim is the head honcho of the presidential recordings project here at UVA, which has done a remarkable job of editing and publishing some of the most valuable archival material left behind by some of America's greatest presidents.

Anyhow, the question Tim asks in response to LBJ's observation is:
What would happen if both parties offered Bush the political cover to execute a dignified exit? This administration might stubbornly refuse the offer but future generations will look kindly upon those of both parties who tried to help the Bush administration get out of the Iraqi civil war sooner rather than later.
When I first met Tim at a Christmas party last December, we hit it off immediately because we have so many interests in common. Yet within five minutes Tim managed to locate the major fault line between our politics. He asked me: Are you a realist or an idealist? Do you really believe we can promote democracy in Iraq?

In keeping with the holiday spirit, I told Tim that I was an idealist but acknowledged that the situation in Iraq was extremely challenging and complicated. Secretly, I was hoping that the January elections would vinidicate my idealism.

So now January has come and gone, there was a revolution in Lebanon, there is a multi-ethnic government in Iraq and dictatorships throughout the Middle East are on the defensive. Even the Palestinians elected themselves a moderate president.

Yet still Tim thinks that we should declare victory, go home and risk letting Iraq become another terrorist base camp, like Afghanistan before 9/11. I guess my question for Tim is, what would it take to make him believe that the lives and courage of our soldiers in Iraq are being lost for a noble cause, rather than wasted in a quagmire?
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