In the Arena

Bush’s Speech…

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to the VFW today represents a new demagogic low, even for him.

The notion that the non-nation of Iraq, a colonial contraption cobbled together from disparate provinces of the Ottoman Empire by the British in 1918, can in any way be compared to the deeply homogenous Asian countries of Japan, Korea and Vietnam is so foolish–and purposely misleading–as to defy logic. The idea that a half-baked, half-cocked western invader might suffer a different fate in a tribal Islamic patch of desert from an invaded superpower that devotes all of its resources…and has the support of a world-wide coalition against an eminently bombable Asian industrial island-state gets absolutely no shrift at all from George W. Bush. (As for Korea, the Surgin’ General Douglas MacArthur transformed what would have been a very satisfactory and extremely creative military campaign, pushing the North Koreans back to their side of the wire, into a quagmire by pushing north and pulling the Chinese into the fray.)

The Vietnam portion of the speech was particularly odious. For one thing, that terrible communist government that took power after we left is now our friend! Bush was just there, signing trade agreements and hoisting toasts. How embarrassing for him to slag our allies. We may have to do some splainin’ now before the Vietnamese give us back Cam Ranh Bay as a naval port for use against the Chinese in our next needless war.
And Cambodia–the blame for the genocide there lies squarely with the country that destablized the rightful government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. That would be us.

I love that the President’s (or his speechwriter’s) book-reading yielded a reference in the speech to Graham Greene’s splendid The Quiet American, a novel whose hero is the young William Kristol…actually, no, the hero is a idealistic American intelligence officer named Alden Pyle, who causes great disasters in the name of a higher good. In other words, he’s a premature neoconservative. I would hope that the President will re-read, or perhaps just read the book, as soon as possible because it is as good a description as there is about the futility of trying to forcibly impose western ways on an ancient culture.

In fact, there is a real similarity between Vietnam and Iraq that Bush didn’t mention: In both cases, a military victory was impossible because the local public simply didn’t identify with the invaders–or with the government that the invaders stained with foreign support and approval.

And now, there is another similarity as well: body counts. The U.S. military has been careful not to indulge in this fatuous, meaningless metric. But here’s Bush today:

Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year.

Jeez, at that rate, we should be out of Iraq in no time.

I’ll have more to say about the actual war in Iraq, as opposed to the President’s fantasy war, in the print column that I’ll post tomorrow.

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