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04/07/2004 Archived Entry: "George Bush's Vietnam?"

On Monday, I was struck by "shock and awe" to hear Ted Kennedy declare, "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam."

He also stated, "this President has now created the largest credibility gap since Richard Nixon." NIxon!? Where is the reference to John F. Kennedy -- Teddy's brother -- the Democrat who plunged the nation into Vietnam's quagmirein the first place? Nixon -- as loathe as I am to "defend" him -- ended the draft and de facto ended the war. JFK's involvement in the debacle and graveyard that became Vietnam began in the early 1950's when he met a young Vietnamese man named Ngo Dinh Diem who was in America lobbying for political support. JFK was deeply impressed by this pro-American, English-speaking fellow Catholic. At that point, America wanted to implement western democracy in Vietnam...much akin to the currently stated goal in Iraq. In November 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy became President. After Eisenhower's relatively passive policy, the Kennedy administration developed a policy toward Vietnam which broke the containment of revolution that threatened "democracy" into three stages: first, military aid programs; second, counterinsurgency by which American troops and money would suppress revolutionary movements; and, third, limited war involving American troops. At first, JFK resisted sending American troops into Vietnam, comparing the introduction of troops to taking a drink. He told the historian and author Arthur Schlesinger, "The effect wears off, and you take another." Schlesinger used the "quagmire" model to describe Vietnam: that is, sending troops would be like stumbling into quicksand. Kennedy finally decided to link increased military aid with stronger pressure for domestic reforms within Vietnam, including a campaign against government corruption. The rest is history.

In the best of circumstances, regime change most often goes astray due to unintended consequences, popular resistance and the almost inevitable tension between the installed regime and the regime-makers. In a foreign and complex culture, forced regime change seems to be a formula for disaster no matter what the underlying intentions.

Interestingly, Hannity has been one of the only commentators to ask why Ted Kennedy is making comparisons to Vietnam when his own brother was the author of that particular infamy. Hannity has gone so far as to raise the question of Mary Jo Kophechne. I say to fellow-FOX commentator..."That's water under the bridge!" Ouch. On that note of bad taste...

Best wishes,

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