We now have a legitimate comparison between the Vietnam War and what is taking place in Iraq. That comparison was summed up nicely in a Wall Street Journal editorial last Friday about the untimely call by Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat and decorated Vietnam veteran, for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. The Journal recalled a comment made to historian Stanley Karnow in a 1990 interview by North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap: "We were not strong enough to drive out a half-million American troops, but that wasn't our aim. Our intention was to break the will of the American government to continue the war."
Vietnam and Iraq are significantly different, but Iraq could resemble Vietnam, if Murtha's advice is taken. We lost the war in Vietnam when we lost our will and failed to implement a plan for victory. There were no lasting negative effects on the United States, other than 58 thousand dead Americans, but that failed effort is one of several post-World War II withdrawals by American forces prior to achieving objectives that inspired Osama bin Laden and his bloody terrorist brothers to believe that we are weak and so can be made to precipitously quit Iraq.
If we lose the peace in Iraq, it will strengthen the resolve of the terrorists to commit new atrocities, possibly again on our own soil. It would be nice if Murtha and others who have called for a fast pullout would say what they believe will be achieved. Do they foolishly believe we can say, "never mind," wash our hands of the matter and not be attacked again?
One indication that Murtha's comments can only encourage the enemy not to quit is that they flashed around the Arab world on al-Jazeera TV within moments of his making them. What must Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaida in Iraq, and Osama bin Laden think of this? Just that their prophecy is coming true: America doesn't have the stomach for war and if the terrorists can hold us off for a while, we will give up.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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