CLELAND ON IRAQ

Max Cleland compares the Iraq War with the one he fought in Vietnam, where he lost an arm and both legs in combat. He lists several similarities and winds up with,

Instead of learning the lessons of Vietnam, where all of the above happened, the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense and the deputy secretary of defense have gotten this country into a disaster in the desert.

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The president has declared “major combat over” and sent a message to every terrorist, “Bring them on.” As a result, he has lost more people in his war than his father did in his and there is no end in sight.

Military commanders are left with extended tours of duty for servicemen and women who were told long ago they were going home. We are keeping American forces on the ground, where they have become sitting ducks in a shooting gallery for every terrorist in the Middle East.

Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn’t go when you had the chance.

The price Cleland paid for his service earns him the right to be heard. It does not, however, make him right. Some of Cleland’s criticisms are perfectly valid, but they are wasted in such an over-the-top piece. For example, the idea that one’s intelligence can ever be “bullet proof” is so unrealistic as to be baffling, coming as it does from a man who clearly knows better.

The assertion that a war in which we’ve lost a grand total of 297 soldiers is comparable to one in which we lost nearly 59,000 is idiotic. In Vietnam, American forces were inserted into the midst of a civil war on the side of an unpopular regime (or, technically, a succession of them) against a charismatic, populist leader. In Iraq, American forces quickly deposed a brutal regime and is a few months into the process of turning the country over to a democratically-chosen native government. The two wars could hardly be more dissimilar.

(Hat tip: Kristopher Vilamaa)

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
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.

Comments

  1. Matthew says:

    Was this column Cleland’s idea or did Dem higher-ups decide to exploit him? (“Nobody will criticize Max if HE says it’s like Vietnam — genius!”) It’s sad, either way.

  2. whatever says:

    It just echos the Left: they WANT America to lose. And a loss for America means political gain for them.

    > We are keeping American forces on the ground,
    > where they have become sitting ducks in a
    > shooting gallery for every terrorist in the
    > Middle East.

    So his solution is to bring them home and then…what happens? What are the consequences of your actions? The consequences of pulling out of Vietnam were 10s of 1000s imprisoned, tortured and killed (but they were Asian, not American, so it was okay). Pulling out this time won’t mean that just Iraqis are being tortured, raped and killed (status quo before the war, which is okay with the Left), but this time they will be coming after us.

  3. Antoni Jaume says:

    “… As a result, he has lost more people in his war than his father did in his and there is no end in sight. […]
    The assertion that a war in which we’ve lost a grand total of 297 soldiers is comparable to one in which we lost nearly 59,000 is idiotic. …”

    My command of English is far from perfect, but I was not aware that Gulf War 1 produced 59000 US dead, because if Gulf War 2 is this Bush war, his father war was surely not Vietnam.

    DSW

  4. James Joyner says:

    AJ,

    We lost 59,000 in Vietnam, which is the war Cleland compares Gulf 2 with. We have lost slightly more in GW2 than in Desert Storm.

  5. evenkeel says:

    Ironically, Ann Coulter just made the same comparison, for different reasons, on Hardball. One clear similarity of both wars was the unfounded optimism of the predicted post-battle outcome by the war proponents.

  6. AP says:

    To quote ethically one must do it in context. Mr. Cleeland states that “If you adopt the strategy of pre-emptive war, your intelligence must be not just “darn good,” as the president has said; it must be “bulletproof” as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed[…]” I don’t believe Mr. Cleeland subscribes to the doctrine of pre-emptive strike, but he provides an out to those who do: Plan for the time when you subdue your enemy; have a vision beyond combat operations, or the plan will be made for you.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Dude, that post was from September 2003. It’s now January 2004.

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