John McCain is the Republican nominee for president. He promises “victory” in Iraq while never defining the word, except that he sometimes promises a long-term enmeshing of the US in a Korea-like war and decades-long military aftermath.
It is eerily familiar. The president who started the war is not running for office. His popularity is in tatters, at an all-time low. The war has dragged on for years and the public has turned against it.
A candidate runs on a doctrine of “quick victory.” He warns that if victory is not attained, the US will suffer a humiliation and will lose many other countries to a globe-straddling conspiracy, opening it to being attacked.
On being elected, the new president seeks “quick victory” by expanding the war, intensively bombing a neighboring country and continuing to bomb the initial enemy back to the stone age. A prominent general claims that the US is within “an eyelash” of victory.
The war drags on another six years, killing thousands more Americans and hundreds of thousands more locals. A whistleblower reveals to the American public the numerous deceptions and illegalities that the president has committed in the prosecution of the war. He in response forms a covert dirty tricks cell to break into the whistleblower’s office . . .
Here is part of Nixon’s “silent majority” speech of 1969. It is profoundly dishonest. Try substituting “Iraq” for Vietnam and see if it doesn’t sound like a McCain stump speech. The form of reasoning, the structure of the speech, its language and implications are all echoed perfectly by McCain today. I’ll quote one of the latter below.
‘ Now, let me begin by describing the situation I found when I was inaugurated on January 20.
–The war had been going on for 4 years.
–31,000 Americans had been killed in action.
–The training program for the South Vietnamese was behind schedule.
–540,000 Americans were in Vietnam with no plans to reduce the number.
–No progress had been made at the negotiations in Paris and the United States had not put forth a comprehensive peace proposal.
–The war was causing deep division at home and criticism from many of our friends as well as our enemies abroad.
In view of these circumstances there were some who urged that I end the war at once by ordering the immediate withdrawal of all American forces.
From a political standpoint this would have been a popular and easy course to follow. After all, we became involved in the war while my predecessor was in office. I could blame the defeat which would be the result of my action on him and come out as the Peacemaker. Some put it to me quite bluntly: This was the only way to avoid allowing Johnson’s war to become Nixon’s war.
But I had a greater obligation than to think only of the years of my administration and of the next election. I had to think of the effect of my decision on the next generation and on the future of peace and freedom in America and in the world.
Let us all understand that the question before us is not whether some Americans are for peace and some Americans are against peace. The question at issue is not whether Johnson’s war becomes Nixon’s war.
The great question is: How can we win America’s peace? . . .
For the South Vietnamese, our precipitate withdrawal would inevitably allow the Communists to repeat the massacres which followed their takeover in the North 15 years before.
–They then murdered more than 50,000 people and hundreds of thousands more died in slave labor camps.
–We saw a prelude of what would happen in South Vietnam when the Communists entered the city of Hue last year. During their brief rule there, there was a bloody reign of terror in which 3,000 civilians were clubbed, shot to death, and buried in mass graves.
–With the sudden collapse of our support, these atrocities of Hue would become the nightmare of the entire nation-and particularly for the million and a half Catholic refugees who fled to South Vietnam when the Communists took over in the North.
For the United States, this first defeat in our Nation’s history would result in a collapse of confidence in American leadership, not only in Asia but throughout the world. . .
For the future of peace, precipitate withdrawal would thus be a disaster of immense magnitude.
–A nation cannot remain great if it betrays its allies and lets down its friends.
–Our defeat and humiliation in South Vietnam without question would promote recklessness in the councils of those great powers who have not yet abandoned their goals of world conquest.
–This would spark violence wherever our commitments help maintain the peace-in the Middle East, in Berlin, eventually even in the Western Hemisphere.
Ultimately, this would cost more lives.
It would not bring peace; it would bring more war.
For these reasons, I rejected the recommendation that I should end the war by immediately withdrawing all of our forces. I chose instead to change American policy on both the negotiating front and battlefront.’
Compare these highlights to a typical McCain speech on Iraq, and I think you will find them eerily similar (note that no serious analyst thinks that the foreign fighters, “al-Qaeda”, are actually very numerous or significant in Iraq):
‘ “Thank you. I want to talk today about the national security challenge of our time, the war which radical Islamist extremists have been waging against us for the better part of three decades, and in which Iraq, according to the commander of our forces there, General Petraeus and our enemies, is a central front. My father’s generation successfully fought the Second World War. Succeeding American generations successfully fought the Cold War. And, my friends, we will successfully defend ourselves against this new and very dangerous threat. But as we have done in the past, we must not take counsel of our fears, nor avert our eyes from the imminence and complexity of the threat, nor let our will weaken because of the sacrifices we have already made and the false assumptions and tactical mistakes we have made in Iraq and in the wider struggle against enemies who are as determined to harm us as we must be to defeat them.
“Last week I was in Iraq, and I saw there the connection between our efforts to combat al Qaeda and the broader War on Terror. . .
“I note these items not to present a rosy scenario, but rather to illustrate the role Iraq plays in the wider effort to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist elements. Now that the military effort in Iraq is showing some signs of progress, the space is opening for political progress. Yet rather than seizing the opportunity, the government of Prime Minister Maliki is not functioning as it must. We see little evidence of reconciliation and little progress toward meeting the benchmarks laid out by the President. The Iraqi government can function; the question is whether it will. If there is to be hope of a sustainable end to the violence that so plagues that country, Iraqi political leaders must seize this opportunity. It will not come around again.
“Most Americans only became acutely aware of the threat from Islamist extremists on September 11, 2001. The worst attack ever on American soil brought out the best of America as we came together to defend our freedom. Thanks to the heroism of so many, we went on the offensive, capturing and killing terrorists all over the world, rooting them out of their lairs in Afghanistan, and overthrowing their Taliban collaborators.
“Today, our goal must be to effectively counter the plans of our enemies not simply with military force but with all the other tools at our disposal – economic, diplomatic, political, legal, and ideological. We must not only track down and capture or kill confirmed jihadists, we must stop a new generation from joining the fight. This Long War is not with Islam but within Islam – a small minority of extremists against the majority of moderates. My administration would pour far more resources into helping moderate Muslims – women’s rights campaigners, labor leaders, tolerant imams, lawyers, journalists, and many others – resist a well-financed campaign of extremism that is tearing their societies apart. . .
“To talk about the struggle against Islamic extremists is, of necessity, to talk about our war with al Qaeda in Iraq. Many Democrats claim this is a conflict we cannot win. They ignore the consequences of a US defeat at the hands of al Qaeda and some ignore al Qaeda altogether. Just this week, Senators Clinton and Byrd wrote an op-ed about the war in Iraq and never once mentioned al Qaeda or the terrorist presence in Iraq. Foreign jihadists – Al Qaeda operatives – are responsible for at least 80% of the suicide bombings that are the driving force of sectarian strife. They are in this war to win and we cannot let them.
“Defeatism will not buy peace in our time. It will only lead to more bloodshed and to more American casualties in the future. If we choose to lose in Iraq, our enemies will hit us harder in Afghanistan hoping to erode our political will and encourage calls in Western capitals for withdrawal and accommodation with our enemy there as well. ‘
And, just remember. Nixon ran on “quick victory” several years into an unpopular war, and won.