Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lt. Gen. William Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), on Iraq and Vietnam

Odom draws some interesting parallels, and in some ways the Bush administration really does seem similar to that of LBJ, though without the serious approach to policy and the good intentions.

Iraq through the prism of Vietnam:

Was it really in the American interest to “contain China” in Vietnam? By 1965, Soviet leaders were also pursuing the containment of China, in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Did it, then, make sense for the United States to commit large military forces to the pursuit of Soviet objectives in Southeast Asia? Obviously not; the White House’s strategic rationale had no grounding in reality.

Not only Soviet leaders but Ho Chi Minh also wanted to contain China. A long-time loyalist to Moscow and early member of Lenin’s Communist International, he was never under China’s thumb. Yet he cooperated with Beijing to balance his dependency on Moscow, disallowing either to frustrate his aim, unifying all of Vietnam under his rule.

The Johnson Administration used an apparent North Vietnamese attack on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin on the coast of North Vietnam in the spring of 1965 to persuade Congress to support the introduction of major U.S. ground forces in South Vietnam. We now know that U.S. special operations – incursions into North Vietnam by Navy Seals – played a role in prompting North Vietnamese gun boat actions that became the casus belli for President Johnson. Thus, a misleading interpretation of the known facts, i.e., the intelligence assessment of these events, became the critical factor in making it America’s war, not just Saigon’s war.


Iran had serious scores to settle with Iraq. In 1980, Saddam Hussein launched a bloody war that dragged on until 1988 without a decisive end. That President Bush would destroy Saddam's regime, saving Iran the trouble, was probably beyond its clerics’ wildest dreams.

He did the same for al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden must have been ecstatic. The U.S. invasion opened the way for al Qaeda cadres to enter Iraq by the scores. Killing Americans in Iraq is much easier than killing them in the United States after 9/11. Moreover, toppling secular Arab leaders – including Saddam – was, and remains, Osama bin Laden’s highest priority aim. America is farther down his list, seen as an intermediate objective in the long struggle to bring his version of radical Islamic rule to all Arab countries.

As it turned out, the alleged intelligence that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” and that Saddam aided al Qaeda was grossly wrong. That, of course, became a major international embarrassment, alienating many U.S. allies and aiding its enemies in their claims that America is an aggressor state that cannot be trusted.

Does all of this – confused war aims and phony intelligence – sound familiar? It should.


Post a Comment

<< Home