In recent days, we’ve have two reports on timing, when it comes to the future of the President’s “surge” plan for Baghdad. According to Richard A. Oppel of the New York Times, “The plan, which calls for 17,000 additional troops in Baghdad, will continue until at least this fall, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, told CNN on Wednesday. ‘I don’t want to put an exact time on it, but a minimum of six to nine months.'” On the other hand, Simon Tisdale of the British Guardian reports that the new military “brain trust,” headed by Lt. General David H. Petraeus, which has just surged into Baghdad’s Green Zone, is operating on a more truncated schedule. Petraeus’s men, who believe themselves to be working with too little of everything, especially boots on the ground–since the Iraqi government has once again not delivered its promised full contingents–have “concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq–or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.”
Give me a buck for every predicted six-to-nine month window of opportunity from the military or the White House in the last four years and I’d be rich as Croesus. Amid the hopeless chaos of Iraq, you can already hear various individuals preparing their exculpatory “exit strategies” from this war. So many key players are going to stab one another in the back with their various explanations for failure in the coming years that blood will run between the pages of the many memoirs still to be published.
Of course, for the neocons, the Bush White House, the Vice President and his crew, and various military and intelligence types, the real villains will not, in the end, be themselves. Count on this: The “weak-willed” American people will take the brunt of the official blame (with the “liberal” media, Democratic and Republican politicians who opposed the war, and the antiwar movement, as well as the incompetence of anyone but the speaker of the moment, thrown in for good measure).
As Ira Chernus pointed out recently, we’ve heard this tune before — and once upon a time, in the post-Vietnam years, it ended up playing us for a long, long while. We lived eternally with “the Vietnam syndrome”–George H. W. Bush even thought he had “kicked” it with Gulf War I; now, is the Iraq version of the same heading our way? The question is: Will history repeat itself in the wake of an American defeat in the Middle East?
Here’s the money paragraph in the Tisdale piece, which should have a Surgeon General’s warning attached to it:
“Possibly the biggest longer-term concern of Gen Petraeus’s team is that political will in Washington may collapse just as the military is on the point of making a decisive counter-insurgency breakthrough. According to a senior administration official, speaking this week, this is precisely what happened in the final year of the Vietnam war.”
Mom, I tell you that fish I had hooked was at least as long as the boat and I was just bringing it in when you made me come home…