Bush’s Vietnam?

Mark Steyn:

Fallujah is not the new Mogadishu, Muqtaba al-Sadr is not the new Ayatollah Khomeini and, despite what Ted Kennedy says, Iraq is not ”George Bush’s Vietnam.” Or even George Bush’s Chappaquiddick.

Bill Bennett agrees:

We need to be reminded that we are in a war. Many of us said right after 9/11 that this will be a long and hard war. And it will be. Because of many early victories, we cannot forget that wars are not easy and that they are not clean and, when truly meaningful, they are not short.

Many have been questioning our mission because of the violence in Iraq – but it is worth remembering what former Israeli foreign minister Moshe Arens once said: “The Middle East is not the Middle West.” Violence in the Middle East is more of a norm than an exception. Nonetheless, well over 80 percent of Iraq is supportive of our mission to attempt to build democracy there.

The violence in Iraq is contained, now, to within Iraq – and no longer exportable, as it was under Saddam Hussein, to neighbors like Israel and Kuwait and, for that matter, Iran. Hussein slaughtered more Muslims than anyone in modern history, invaded two countries and fired missiles into Israel. Today he’s in prison. Thank God.

Tony Blair warns against letting our fear get the best of us:

People in the West ask: why don’t they speak up, these standard-bearers of the new Iraq? Why don’t the Shia clerics denounce al-Sadr more strongly? I understand why the question is asked. But the answer is simple: they are worried. They remember 1991, when the West left them to their fate. They know their own street, unused to democratic debate, rife with every rumour, and know its volatility. They read the Western papers and hear its media. And they ask, as the terrorists do: have we the stomach to see it through?

I believe we do. <***> But our greatest threat, apart from the immediate one of terrorism, is our complacency. When some ascribe, as they do, the upsurge in Islamic extremism to Iraq, do they really forget who killed whom on 11 September 2001? When they call on us to bring the troops home, do they seriously think that this would slake the thirst of these extremists, to say nothing of what it would do to the Iraqis?

Or if we scorned our American allies and told them to go and fight on their own, that somehow we would be spared? If we withdraw from Iraq, they will tell us to withdraw from Afghanistan and, after that, to withdraw from the Middle East completely and, after that, who knows? But one thing is for sure: they have faith in our weakness just as they have faith in their own religious fanaticism. And the weaker we are, the more they will come after us.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Democracy, Iraq War, Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. hairsplitter says:

    Tony Blair says: “our greatest threat, apart from the immediate one of terrorism, is our complacency. True. Complacency can be a deadly mistake as we learn from the summer of ’01 Blair goes on: ” When some ascribe, as they do, the upsurge in Islamic extremism to Iraq, do they really forget who killed whom on 11 September 2001? — What he is talking about? I think he might mean, that there was islamic extremism before the Iraq-invasion, but does he actively have to remind everybody that so far still no link between Iraq and 9-11 has been found? Unlike links to Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran…

  2. akim says:

    It seems to me that both Blair and Bush are actually pretty scared that the public opinion back home might turn against their entreprise in Iraq, or that the ill-wishers around the world might cry victory too early. This is promotional rhetoric.

    As to realistic take on things, which normally involves a healthy dose of criticism, we only get to hear that from lesser figures in both govs. I don’t understand why “staying the course” would necessarily mean never looking at possible mistakes and miscalculations that might require drastic change – is it counter-productive to assess errors and correct course? :-0