Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Keeping the smell of defeat in the closet? Keeping the smell of defeat in the closet?

Eric Scheie in Classical Values: Keeping the smell of defeat in the closet? agrees with Orson Scott Card in his post on the upcoming election.
Politically and psychologically, I don't think this country can tolerate another defeat in a major war. We still bear the scars of defeat in Vietnam, and the argument still rages about the hows and whys of that defeat. Many Americans believe the United States deserved to be defeated, and many believe we were defeated by the Communist Vietnamese enemy. I don't think we were defeated by the Communists at all, but by Watergate. Watergate achieved more than the removal of Nixon; it guaranteed defeat in Vietnam. That's because Nixon had waged the war to a peaceful conclusion by forcing the enemy into a peace agreement which just might have been enforceable, but which, after the national post-Watergate malaise set in, became politically impossible. The country that had always won its wars had a very hard time grappling with having lost one for which 57,000 Americans had died. And the removal of a popular president who'd won by a landslide is about as close as this country can come to regicide, and the demoralizing effects were inevitable. I'm not saying this to defend Nixon or compare Bush to Nixon, or even Iraq to Vietnam. It's just that I think patterns can repeat themselves, and there's nothing that demoralizes a country like the loss of a war. Especially a war that should have been and could have been won. And which, depending on your definitions, actually had been won.

The consequences of losing Iraq might be worse than losing Vietnam, not only because it would mean two losses (and the demoralization of being a two-time loser is worse than the demoralization of being a one-time loser), but because from a national security standpoint, a loss in Iraq would have worse consequences than the loss in Vietnam. Vietnam was a hot battle in the larger Cold War, but the real enemy consisted of actual, identifiable countries (primarily the Soviet Union) which were rational and which could be dealt with in other ways. Russia did not want World War III, as they still had fresh memories of World War II. While Communist ideologues saw Communism as inevitable, they just didn't have the same messianic view or willingness to die as martyrs, and they saw the United States as an enemy that could be dealt with at arm's length on a more or less rational basis. Not so with people who see us as the Great Satan, and who see Iraq as sacred soil and the proper seat of a Caliphate. If the U.S. loses the will to see the Iraq effort through to victory, the consequences will be very dire. Add the inevitable demoralization factor domestically, and I don't think this country can afford it.

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