The first rule of war is to know the enemy. Decades after Vietnam, when U.S. and Vietnamese officials sat down to talk over what might have been, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara got into an argument with former Viet Cong General Giap. We fought the war thinking that once the Vietnamese fell to communism, they would join hands with the Chinese and attack U.S. interests across the globe. We saw communism as a monolithic front against democracy. Giap asked McNamara how a country so rich could not afford history books, because Vietnam had struggled against China for 1000 years for independence and would fight to the last man rather than be China’s puppet. Far from becoming a menacing danger, Vietnam has not threatened or killed a single American since the war ended. We did not know the enemy, and it cost us 58,226 soldiers and killed millions of innocent civilians.
The Bush administration constantly tries to impress on us that terrorism is a monolithic front. All we hear from them is the vague idea that terrorists are out to get us. If you talk of terrorists as acting in a single group, then it impresses the idea that terrorists are all united. For instance, “they hate us because they hate our freedom.” This is the subtle way Bush fooled the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein could join hands with al-Qaida. To this day, Bush does not care to draw distinctions between different terrorist groups, so we cannot even tell who or what we are now fighting.
Liberals are not the cause of failure in Iraq just as they were not during Vietnam. We fail because the administration has no clear grasp of the situation, even muddles it to cover what they are perpetrating, and somehow there are people in this country still na’ve enough to take politicians at their word.