After the Vietnam war had ended, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the North's top commander, admitted that North Vietnam had never possessed the military strength necessary to defeat the United States. Everything, he acknowledged, depended on eroding the determination of the American home front to win. So the North Vietnamese had hung on grimly, inflicting steady casualties, until the balance of opinion in the United States swung against continuing the war.
A similar calculation has obviously been made in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He knows very well that he can never oust the Americans from Iraq by military force. But he remembers the lesson of Vietnam, and can watch television and read the news reports as well as any American, and he knows that public disillusion with the war is growing in the United States. It is only a matter of time, as he sees it, before "the world's only superpower" decides to cut its losses and withdraw its troops from Iraq.
Truth to tell, the United States is developing quite a knack for losing its wars. The last declared war we won (counting Korea as essentially a stalemate) was World War II -- an immense global conflict in which Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor ended all arguments against our participation at the very outset. In Vietnam, we simply quit on our ally, the South, and came home. And it is beginning to be a very good question whether we may not wind up doing the same in Iraq.
Is it coincidence that domestic opposition to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq has been led by our liberals, with the increasing support of the Democratic Party? Significant American military involvement in Vietnam actually began under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, but President Nixon took up the cause and the Democrats ultimately abandoned it. And, of course, the war in Iraq has been a Bush (and therefore Republican) project from the start, though a good many Democrats in Congress originally supported it. So the pattern that has emerged involves Republicans initiating, or at any rate supporting, these small wars, while the Democrats, and more generally the whole liberal apparatus, gradually come to oppose them, and eventually force an American defeat.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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