15 September 2008

Fighting the Viet Cong in the Middle East

This morning, thousands of San Diegans are discussing how the Chargers could have won yesterday. Two weeks in a row, the Chargers would have won if games were only two minutes shorter.

But the Chargers are 0-2. The “could have won” sentiment is very real but largely irrelevant.

This month’s Atlantic reports that the biggest proponents of staying the course in Iraq are those who think that we could have won in Vietnam. We could have won, I suppose. The Nazis could have won World War 2.

And had we won in Vietnam, what would have been different today? Would Asia have been saved from the dominoes of communism and instead be a hotbed of capitalist activity – even places like communist China?

Why did Americans lose interest in supporting a decades-long war in southeast Asia? Because sometimes it matters less what you could do than what you ought to do. Could we eventually “win” in Iraq? Could be. You could keep that job but lose your family life. You could buy that car but not afford a vacation for the next five years. The real question is whether this victory is worth pursuing at the cost of sustained deficit spending and loss of life. Would our foreign policy be better served by investing $100 billion a year in Iraq or into research on alternative energy?

It is worth remembering that Osama bin Laden never thought he could topple the American government directly; he did, however, think that he could get us to over-react in ways that would seriously weaken our country (driving deficit spending, for instance, that could strain our financial markets) like when an immune system turns on itself in an allergic reaction.

Could we win in Iraq during the next century, as McCain proposes? Perhaps, assuming that we have nothing better to do with our time, attention, and resources between now and 2100. And assuming that the focus on "winning" over there doesn't mean that we lose here at home.


KT said...

Very very well written, and eloquent. I enjoyed. Am new to your blog within the past week, and have added you to my daily reads because I enjoy what you write. Thanks!

Ron Davison said...

Thank you KT, and welcome to R World. I look forward to reading your blog.

Lifehiker said...

There's a reason General Petraeus keeps saying "I'm not going to declare victory". It's simply because Shia and Sunni hate each other and Iraq is loaded with weapons on each side. Unfortunately, something has got to give. Do we need to be in the middle forever, at immense cost?

Osama bin Laden is getting exactly what he wanted to get. An America weakened by two protracted wars, weakened by an immense investment in security at home, and weakened by these distractions away from the major issues that should concern us greatly.

What if President Bush had been more concerned about sub-prime mortgages than about defending his biggest mistake - Iraq? Would our economy be tanking now?

If we are far weaker in 2008 than we were in 2001, bin Laden is winning. And he is. He's smiling in his cave.