Just when you thought that he was beyond all relevance to current events, Henry Kissinger rears his head by way of an LA Times op ed piece, and completely confirms it. Well, mostly.
His thinking is that the resolution of the Iraqi war can best be understood by examining events that brought about the end of the Viet Nam war. And it is his theory that those opposing the Viet Nam war had a large role in bringing about an unsatisfactory closure.
Of course, history never repeats itself exactly. Vietnam and Iraq are different conflicts in different times, but there is an important similarity: A point was reached during the Vietnam War when the domestic debate became so bitter as to preclude rational discussion of hard choices. Administrations of both political parties perceived the survival of South Vietnam as a significant national interest. They were opposed by a protest movement that coalesced behind the conviction that the war reflected an amorality that had to be purged by confrontational methods. This impasse doomed the U.S. effort in Vietnam; it must not be repeated over Iraq.
Yes, until the anti war movement first arose in the 1960s and gained the public’s attention things were going so very well. It was largely do to those damned hippies that it all turned out so badly.
It must begin with dispelling the myth that the Nixon administration settled in 1972 for terms that had been available in 1969 and therefore prolonged the war needlessly. Whether the agreement, officially signed in January 1973, could have preserved an independent South Vietnam and avoided the carnage following the fall of Indochina will never be known. We do know that American disunity prevented such an outcome when Congress prohibited the use of military force to maintain the agreement and cut off aid after all U.S. military forces (except a few hundred advisors) had left South Vietnam. American dissociation triggered a massive North Vietnamese invasion, in blatant violation of existing agreements, to which the nations that had endorsed these agreements turned their backs.
See, Henry, it’s always been my understanding that the government serves the wishes of the people, and not the other way around. But while we’re rewriting history, why stop there?
With respect to President Nixon’s alleged desired terms for ending the Viet Nam war:
American disunity was a major element in dashing these hopes. Watergate fatally weakened the Nixon administration through its own mistakes, and the 1974 midterm congressional elections brought to power the most unforgiving of Nixon’s opponents, who cut off aid so the agreement couldn’t work as planned. The imperatives of domestic debate took precedence over geopolitical necessities.
So the preferred way is just STFU, and unify. Because to do otherwise would frustrate the grand design of our fearless leader and his fellow neocons. (and possibly impact upon corporate cash flow!)
Two lessons emerge from this account. A strategic design cannot be achieved on a fixed, arbitrary deadline; it must reflect conditions on the ground.
But it also must not test the endurance of the American public to a point where the outcome can no longer be sustained by our political process. In Iraq, rapid, unilateral withdrawal would be disastrous. At the same time, a political solution remains imperative.
So things in Iraq could actually be worse?
But finally Henry actually has some good advice.
…President Bush owes it to his successor to make as much progress toward this goal as possible; not to hand the problem over but to reduce it to more manageable proportions. What we need most is a rebuilding of bipartisanship in both this presidency and in the next.