I agree that former Sen. Bob Kerrey’s Wall Street Journal op-ed on the Iraq campaign is well worth a read, and that he embodies a Democratic foreign-policy tradition that would serve the country well if it were not fading into history. But for me, the more-significant op-ed in today’s Journal is by historian Mark Moyar, whose work on the origins of the Vietnam War — based on part on new information from the communist side of the conflict — has been a revelation (here’s a hint: if Indonesia doesn’t immediately pop into your mind when you think about the reason for the Vietnam intervention, you haven’t read your Moyar).
In today’s piece, Moyar argues against Jimmy Carter’s preposterous claim that the Bush administration will go down as the worst in history. More importantly, he explains how North Vietnam’s tactical and strategic choices were direct responses to American actions, debates, and presidential politics. Applied to the current situation, the two pieces yield the following conclusion: the best way to reduce violence in Iraq, and secure an eventual American withdrawal from a successful intervention, would be for politicians of both parties to make a clear and resolute statement about U.S. intentions. The statement would be that America will not abandon an ally as long as it is under constant, lethal attack by a foreign-back insurgency. Every time an American senator, representative, or presidential candidate suggests that we might withdraw our forces soon, the enemy is emboldened and innocent people die.
Basically, anti-war Democrats think that their statements and policy proposals are a response to an impossible situation in Iraq. They have it backward. Their statements and policy proposals are a main reason why the situation in Iraq is so dire. Like it or not, the enemy is counting on them — it is trying to manipulate American public opinion, because it can’t win on the battlefield. Their goal is an ignominious American retreat. It cannot be in our interest to comply.