Oh, for the days when Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur successfully ordered enemy commanders to disarm 250,000 vanquished troops on mainland Japan. But Iraq is not Japan, a historical example the Bush administration has used to show the beneficial results of American occupation on a former enemy -- namely, an enlightened constitution underlying an enduring democracy. What goes unmentioned is that before Gen. MacArthur basically wrote that enlightened constitution, Japan was completely devastated, with more than 1.2 million Japanese killed in action in the final years of fighting, with 670,000 civilians perishing in Allied bombings. Islam aside, Iraq's relatively carnage-free liberation (and unsecured borders) made for a dangerously adversarial occupation.
So what is Iraq like? Not South Vietnam -- or not in the way Henry Kissinger is reportedly counseling the president. (There is a disastrous resemblance to Vietnam in Iraq's porous borders to terrorist sanctuaries in Iran and Syria.) When Kissinger says victory is the only meaningful exit strategy, it's as if he's reliving an American defeat in Vietnam suffered ultimately at the hands of a Congress that would no longer fund our Saigon ally. But does the United States have in Iraq a pro-American ally like South Vietnam for whom to stay the course -- or, for that matter, to pull the plug on? No. We have Al Qaeda-sympathizing Sunnis and Iran-sympathizing Shi'ites, which sounds like an eminently exploitable Sino-Soviet-style split in the making.
This is hardly to suggest we have no strategic interests in the region -- a condition that would justify Democratic plans for speedy withdrawal. But Democrats, both by temperament and philosophy, seem incapable of figuring out what they are. And when it comes right down to it, not getting it at all (Democrats) is worse than not getting it right (Republicans). Which is probably one of the odder reasons to vote Republican. But it's better than being stuck with the party of John Kerry, in Iraq or anywhere else.