For those of us who believe Democrats won’t be taken seriously until they beef up their national security bona fides, the spectacle of liberals channeling their most conspiratorial impulses can be too much to bear. “Although the public’s perception of Iraq is changing, Democrats cannot become the antiwar party,” wrote the Democratic Leadership Council’s Marshall Wittmann this week. “Even at the apex of the Vietnam war in 1968, the American people elected the most hawkish candidate.” -- Noam Scheiber, The New Republic, 7/4/05I'm growing a bit weary of people who should be wiser than to compare Iraq to Vietnam. Sure there are similarities between the two, however there's one enormous difference: before the Vietnam War there was no other war like it; Iraq has Vietnam as a precedent.
Vietnam is a lasting example of an American conflict gone terribly wrong. Prior to it, we had no such similar kind of "defeat." To this day, the general public has strong feelings about what Vietnam meant to this country and it's safe to say that most Americans will never want to repeat it. Ever.
That said, it makes no sense for Scheiber or Wittmann to draw conclusions today based on those things that occurred then. Perhaps "the most hawkish candidate" was elected then because voters still had no clear idea or appreciation of what was going on with the war and they were still used to America kicking butt in every previous armed conflict. With over thirty years to digest this nightmarish memory, today's voter is likely to take quite a different stance than those in the late 1960s.
From the start of the Iraq invasion to the present, or just a little over two years, we've seen a complete reversal in poll numbers with most Americans now opposing the occupation. It begs the question: could this fairly swift reversal in poll numbers have occurred so quickly if it weren't for Vietnam as a resounding and horrific reminder? The last thing the public wants is Vietnam II -- again, confirming the impact of Vietnam as a haunting memory and one that will greatly influence actions, and reactions, to this current debacle in Iraq.