But what is that strategy? President Bush sometimes seems not to realize that having a fierce determination to see things through is only the precondition for a winning strategy. For too long, his administration has seemed content to do the bare minimum in Iraq, hoping to hold things together just enough to allow troop drawdowns that justify the administration's assurances of progress. This hasn't worked, since the violence in Iraq has belied the rhetoric of progress and prevented any reduction in troops. Bush would be much better served by forthrightly acknowledging Iraq's distressing circumstances and backing an all-out push to secure Baghdad even if it takes thousands more American troops in the country.
Because there is one other similarity with Vietnam that should be avoided — the aching sense that not everything was done to win the war. By the end of Vietnam, we had essentially beaten the insurgency and could have helped the South Vietnamese hold off the conventional invasion of the North, if we hadn't given up. In Iraq, too, we have scored some successes against the Sunni insurgency, but the insurgents have managed to create a new and different threat by stoking a budding civil war.
It is not too late to tamp down that militia-directed violence, whichhasn't yet taken on an uncontrollable life of its own. But the clock is ticking, toward the hour when we will indeed suffer another Vietnam.