Sunday, August 26, 2007

Not Identical, But It'll Do For Now

In times of insanity, it's good to know that there are rational minds to light the beacon of reason for rudderless souls such as I.

We should give thanks, then, for Comrade Hitchens, who continues to fight the good fight. Today, he brings us the shocking news that President Bush occasionally makes poor decisions, and explains the various ways in which Iraq is dissimilar to Vietnam.

I'm surprised to learn of Bush's errors, since we keen Hitchens fans are accustomed to epic tributes to the President's wisdom. It's strange that, after seven years of barefaced corruption and slack-jawed incompetence, Hitchens would finally take exception to W's Vietnam comparison.

In fairness to Hitch, he has a good go at rebutting the proposition, but there are several compelling differences between Iraq and Vietnam that he's missed.

1) Vietnam is a land of hills and mountains, mostly covered in lush vegetation, whereas Iraq largely an arid desert.

2) Vietnam is full of Vietnamese people, whereas Iraq is mostly populated by Iraqis.

3) Vietnam is mostly coastal, whereas Iraq has very little coastline.

Of course, there are plenty of similarities between the two - both have been invaded by an American military machine that had no understanding of the political and ethnic tensions in the region, for instance.

Additionally, both have seen savage insurgencies in which the locals have been willing to sacrifice masses of their own lives to eject U.S. forces.

Now that I come to think of it, I actually can't stop stumbling over similarities between the wars fought in those countries - both land wars in Asia, both conducted by a gang of know-it-alls who won't listen to expert advice, both involving enemies that move freely into and out of neighbouring states.

Both unpopular wars, in countries where the locals are used to prolonged conflicts.

Complete confidence in technological superiority as the final arbiter of victory, leading to the use of concentrated, demonstrative violence to intimidate the insurgency.

Anti-war sentiment painted as disloyal, self-loathing, traitorous support for the enemy? Right-wing unhappy with result of previous conflict and certain the next war can't fail?

B-52 bombers. "Hearts and minds", "body count", "friendly fire". The U.S. can't withdraw without unacceptable loss of face.

Well, I find it rather confusing - re-reading Hitch's piece, his main objection to the Iraq/Vietnam comparison is that Terrorists Are Bad, while Vietnamese Communists were a heroic resistance.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that I could hear the sound of a barrel being scraped with a JCB.

Still, there's one last compelling difference between the two conflicts that Hitchens has missed - the Vietnam War was defended to the bitter end by fiercely committed ideologues who spent years penning erudite, eloquent essays to shore up support for their personal crusades.

When that starts happening, we'll know for sure that the helicopters are about to evacuate the embassy.

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