The Corner

Nixon, Vietnam & Iraq Cont’d

Ross offers two worthwhile responses to my earlier post (here and here). He writes in part:

And while Jonah’s right that the none of the Dems have anywhere near the hawkish cred that Nixon enjoyed, the Iraq War is so much more unpopular going into ‘08 than the Vietnam War was going into 1968 – 61 percent of Americans think the Iraq War was a mistake as of this month, whereas in July of 1967 only 41 percent of Americans thought sending troops to Indochina had been a mistake – that the Democrats may not need as much foreign-policy credibility as Nixon enjoyed to run a successful “peace with honor” campaign.

While I think he makes some very interesting points, the upshot for me is that all of this proves how problematic Vietnam comparisons are. For example, polls today may not be measuring the same thing they measured back then. More people may say Iraq was a “mistake” today than folks in a comparable period back then (if the periods are all that comparable) but do we really believe these positions are held with the same intensity? The draft alone changes dramatically how the Vietnam war was experienced by most Americans — or so we’re all constantly told.

Politically, the Democrats today aren’t analogous to the Republicans back then and vice versa. The Cold War had a greater grip on peoples’ imaginations than the War on Terror does today. If memory serves, when Barack Obama suggested that we might have to have some troops in Iraq for a while, the netroots ate him alive. That doesn’t seem to suggest there’s much room to carve out a plausible Nixonian peace-with-honor strategy for the Democrats. At some point, if you have to keep saying, “yeah, except for this” or “discounting that” the analogy starts to fall apart in your hands. Maybe it’s just that I’m not a 1972ist I’m an April, 1936ist.

Update:

A reader chastises me:

Isn’t 1936.4 actually late May, 1936? 

12 months x .4 = 4.8 months = April + .8 months 

Using the 31 days in May as the length of a month, you get that it is  7:12 p.m. on May 24th, 1936.

(Of course, the average year has 365.25 days, giving the average month 30.4375 days – in which case it is 8:24 a.m. the same day.  But since 1936 was a leap year, the average month had 30.5 days, making it 9:36 a.m.  But I think you should stick with the 31-day-based calculation, as applying an average makes certain times in long months unreachable, and can yield results in shorter months that won’t be found on the calendar.) 

You should be more careful in your calculations in future.  It just won’t do to be casual about something so important.