To be sure, our withdrawal from Vietnam was bad for the Vietnamese. There was, contrary to Kerry's prediction at the time, a bloodbath, and the Vietnamese lived under a cruel communist dictatorship. But the dominoes did not fall beyond Indochina because, unnoticed by war backers and opponents, other East Asian states -- South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia -- were launching a free-market economic boom. The Vietnam War gave them time to get started. These countries had rule of law and in time developed democracies.
Iraq is not in such a good neighborhood.
Nearby are Iran, the leading supporter of international terrorism, busy developing nuclear weapons; Syria, headquarters of many terrorist groups; and Saudi Arabia, where petrodollars are used to disseminate totalitarian Wahhabism around the world. Premature withdrawal from Iraq would give terrorists more space and time to plan and prepare attacks on us beyond Iraq, and a visible defeat for the United States would exhilarate the followers of Osama bin Laden and other Islamofascist terrorists. It would leave unprotected the brave Iraqis who risked death to vote in three elections and held up their purple fingers in triumph.
About all this John Kerry, to judge from his changing positions on Iraq, doesn't seem to much care. Rather, he and his ilk seem bent, as they did in the 1970s, on establishing who our heroes should and should not be. They should not be members of the American military, who are portrayed as depraved or incompetent. They should be the antiwar protesters, the professors and intellectuals, the sophisticated elites who know better than ordinary Americans and the servicemen and women what's in the world's best interest.
They should be people who believe that fighting those who want to destroy us only makes them madder and that withdrawal will assuage their grievances so they will leave us alone. It turned out that withdrawing from Vietnam did not cause us irretrievable damage. But will we be so lucky if we leave Iraq too soon?