Kissinger Compares Iraq to Vietnam
August 15, 2005
It is apparent now to everyone: A majority of the American public sees the Iraq war as a dreadful mistake. Remember the outrage at the suggestion that Iraq might become a quagmire? Yesterday Henry Kissinger drew a parallel between Iraq and Vietnam, acknowledging the public's reluctance to "stay the course" with the President in what looks like a hopeless situation
"If a radical government emerges in Baghdad or if any part of Iraq becomes what Afghanistan used to be, a training ground for terrorists, then this will be a catastrophe for the Islamic world and for Europe, much as they may -- reluctant as they may be to admit it -- and eventually for us," Kissinger told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
As the country's constitutional assembly blows through its deadline without working out major points like the rights of minorities, women, and whether the country will be ruled by Islamic law, there is no doubt that radicalism is playing a larger role now in Iraq than any time before the war.
To Kissinger, the Vietnam comparison is contained mainly in domestic polls, with 54 percent of the public calling the war a "mistake." So a divided country and an increasingly unpopular President have led to a tacit policy of troop withdrawal and downsized expectations. Without any clearly defined objective, the U.S. withdrawal will only leave behind a failure, Kissinger points out.
But success may be impossible.
The tragedy in Iraq is bigger than that in Vietnam, where there was civil war even before the U.S. got involved. In Iraq the President has created the very conditions the war was supposed to fix. Now he argues we must stay to fight the problems our invasion created--terrorists, foreign fighters, spiraling violence and chaos, and a hard core movement of Islamic radicals organized around their hatred of the U.S.
Kissinger's brand of cold-blooded realpolitik can't justify such an unwinnable situation much longer. And even the pro-war zealots in the Administration are beginning to see their fantasy of a peaceful, democratic, pro-American Iraq dim.
If any good can come of this mess, perhaps it will be a more skeptical view of the United States' ability to create free societies by force of arms.