In 1975, after Congress cut off funding for the South Vietnamese government, the United States was forced to run, literally. It’s difficult to spin those pictures of Americans being evacuated from our embassy in Saigon as a victory; winners don’t fly away, leaving their allies to be overrun.
Lebanon was even worse. After the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks, the United States evacuated all remaining forces from the country. Osama bin Laden took a lesson from this: Hit the U.S. hard enough and it will flee.
The United States can’t afford to hand our enemies a victory by accepting defeat in Iraq. That’s why President Bush’s approach makes more sense. He says he will send more troops to help us win in Iraq.
That’s a start, but it will work only if we also change tactics there. We shouldn’t send in forces simply to strengthen one group or another. Our forces should go on the offensive in a big push to restore order in Baghdad.
This is already happening. At least 50 militants were killed Tuesday when U.S. and Iraqi forces teamed up to attack insurgents and raid resistance strongholds. That’s exactly what we need to do: go on the attack. The reason we have a military is to “kill people and break things.” We can still win in Iraq, and in the global war on terror, by killing the terrorists and smashing up their hideouts.
Sadly, even in these serious times, not everyone is ready to be serious. For example, the media are more interested in showing us pictures of Sen. Barack Obama in a bathing suit than they are in asking Obama to explain his position on the war in Iraq. So voters are left to their own devices.
Using Kennedy’s own words as a starting point, then, it’s fair to say that -- for some liberals at least -- defeat is an acceptable option. “In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy,” the Senator explained in a big speech at the National Press Club.
We’ll see how the platform of accepting defeat goes over in 2008.