Much has been made about President Bush's recent comments comparing the known fallout in SE Asia after our precipitous withdrawal from the Vietnam War – genocide in Cambodia, re-education camps and mass exodus from South Vietnam. And yet defeatists continue to use the Vietnam War as their case for comparison and the foundation for their call for immediate withdrawal.
Because they are defeatists, they ignore the better comparison, Korea, and choose Vietnam and its unspoken message of defeat.
First let's get the definition of defeatist put into context.
Webster's concise, straightforward and simple definition - Defeatist: an attitude of expecting, accepting, or being resigned to defeat.
It should also include a second variation – Defeatist: one who has more invested in defeat than they do in victory. The Democrats, and some doddering Republicans are beginning to define themselves as defeatists by possessing traits of each of the definitions listed above.
Virtually every Democrat has voted to withdraw troops from Iraq on a timetable not tied to victory, and every Democrat Presidential candidate is running on a withdrawal promise, so they both convey the attitude of defeat and they have more to gain by ensuring defeat than they do victory. So easily, they are defeatists.
Even some Republicans (Warner, G. Smith and the like) seem to believe that they have more to gain (re-election) from defeat, than they do by seeing our mission in Iraq come to some kind of conclusion in the field. They too are hoping for defeat, they, as with the Dems, have already wagered on it.
Which brings us back to Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
Korea. Overwhelming approval for intervention, initial success in turning the North Koreans back north, Home-by-Christmas attitude, failure to anticipate and defend against Chinese intervention, major setbacks, change in leadership, eradication of defeatist attitude, victories that put us on the precipice of total victory, political intervention, stability. Clay Blair’s book Forgotten War provides, in great detail, the dramatic struggles in Korea that we were eventually able to overcome and put us on the route to victory. (for quick reference, no snickering, but the Wikipedia entries for Forgotten War, General Walker and General Ridgeway, do a credible job in capturing the essence of the Korean War).
Vietnam. Intervention in trying to prop up a colonial power, failing to learn the lessons of the French defeat, obfuscated deployment of troops, no Congressional approval, more obfuscation of troop levels, American support for overthrow of established government, questionable cause for "entry" (Gulf of Tonkin), appalling Congressional approval for support with very questionable evidence, political micro-management of warfighting efforts, political capitulation to the anti-war sentiment, Congressional abandonment of South Vietnam, withdrawal, South Vietnamese defeat, Cambodian genocide, re-education, Boat People, and 10 years of American malaise and self-loathing. (The Best and the Brightest, Dereliction of Duty, Bright and Shining Lie, Vietnam, all good references)
Iraq. Congressional approval based on Iraq's failure to meet the hollow demands of dozens of UN resolutions, overwhelming Congressional approval, overwhelming victory, failure to grasp the paradigm shift from conventional to insurgent warfare, setbacks, change in leadership, large gains in a relatively short period of time, last chapter(s) still to be written.
And who will write it? Those making comparisons to Vietnam and committed to defeat, or those committed to preventing genocide, re-education, and another decade of self-loathing, fissure, and malaise. Those who believe that we brought 9/11 on ourselves simply for being Americans and living freely, or those who recognize that we were the victims of an unprovoked attack by an enemy who will seek to murder us, unless we engage him in the field and destroy him there.
I often wonder if defeatists are sports fans. They must not be. For they would surely leave a game the moment their team got behind. They would certainly have pulled the 1980 Olympic hockey team from the ice prior to the game against the Russians. They would have left at half time during the USC comebacks against the Notre Dame Irish in 1964 and 1974. They would have handed the World Series over the St. Louis after they went up 3-1 over the Tigers in 1968. They would have missed two amazing comebacks by Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl.
And they most certainly would have pulled Denver from the field prior to Elway taking the first snap on his own two yard line before beginning what is now simply known as "the Drive."
The only true comparisons of Iraq and Vietnam are those actions taken by defeatists (destabilizing legitimate governments, setting of timetables, the ignoring of the dire consequences of their precipitous actions) to further their own agendas.
The real lessons lie in Korea – perseverance, change in leadership and focus when required, and determination in the pursuit of victory.
Only defeatists leave with time on the clock and their team on the field. It is no accident that you don’t see their faces as they make for the exits.