Saturday, September 15, 2007

McCain's Vietnam "dis-experience"

I already made some hay over McCain's error in pushing a line that we fight wars for our troops rather than with our troops (although, in no case, in spite of our troops - they are not mercenaries).

But his broader argument is bogus that the U.S. military was cracked for "a generation" after Vietnam and we must press on in order not to repeat that.

The reverse is true, arguably.

As part of the Vietnam effort, negative sentiment toward the military itself built up, centered around all kinds of things. In the aftermath, the damage was to perceptions of the military.

This time, few are upset with the troops. Quite the contrary.

Instead, people are upset with the prosecution of the war. They have no confidence in the wartime leaders, who continue on the scene. With continued prosecution of an unpopular war, the risk of a "late" withdrawal is not to the military, per se, but to the public's willingness to wage war at all, i.e. the creation of a dangerously gun-shy public.

Would "victory" - if such a thing is possible, after having born such high costs - solve everything, either way? Yes, but that's not the point. As long as "victory" is not certain, we all have to make decisions under uncertainty about what to do. A decision to withdraw need not be a blow to the military, this time around.

One could certainly make a case for forging ahead, as well, just not base it on a post-Vietnam era analysis of the impact to the military, it seems.

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