Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Bush invokes Vietnam to defend his policies in Iraq, at least one blogger suffers serious injuries biting his hands attempting not to respond in a scathing undiplomatic undignified manner

with 15 comments


President George Bush invoked Vietnam and other historical events in an effort to defend his policies in Iraq. I am going to try and be diplomatic here, but frankly, the man spent the Vietnam War partying while his peers fought and died for America, so this is going to be a challenge. I will be concise and just discuss the logic of some of his key statements and avoid too many digressions. Even more, I will try to give him credit where credit is due, I’m really tired of Bush bashers and would rather remove myself from that crowd, they are doing the country more harm than good.

Well, first Mr Bush says that there is a legitimate debate about the Vietnam war, both about how and why we got into it, and about our withdrawal. True enough. In fact almost anything can be legitimately debated, so it’s not exactly a stretch to say this, but still, got to give the man his props for being willing to debate an issue. Then he followed up with:

“Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens, whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps’ and ‘killing fields,’ “

Classic “does not follow” false argument. Or as some would say, “correlation does not equal causation.” Yes, some terrible things happened in Southeast Asia after the US withdrawal. Saying that those were a direct result of the withdrawal or wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t withdrawn is more than a stretch, it’s pure speculation. It ignores the terrible things that happened before we withdrew and it ignores the role America played in setting the stage for some of those terrible things. And especially it ignores the fact that the people who opposed the withdrawal confidently predicted that far worse things would happen if we withdrew from Vietnam.

Mr Bush continues:

“The ideals and interests that led America to help the Japanese turn defeat into democracy are the same that lead us to remain engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq,”

Well, even if I agree with his idealistic take, Iraq and Afghanistan are so different from our war with and subsequent occupation of Japan that this is a classic “comparing apples to oranges” false argument. Japan was an ethnically unified modern nation state with strong democratic institutions and civil society, a nation that attacked the United States and lost a legal war fought with organized armies under at least the nominal rule of international law and norms. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq could be described as a modern nation state, and in both cases America invaded and occupied them under the thinnest of legal pretexts. (One might also note that the number of post war casualties in occupied Japan was zero, which makes it hard to use as an analogy for either current occupation.)

Bush goes on to invoke Korea:

“The defence strategy that refused to hand the South Koreans over to a totalitarian neighbour helped raise up an Asian Tiger that is a model for developing countries across the world, including the Middle East.”

Um, another “apples to oranges” comparison. First one has to ignore the US’s ignominious and undemocratic role in creating a divided Korea in the first place. Second, we did not invade and occupy South Korea, we defended them from invasion by a neighbouring state both during the war and afterwards. Lastly, a point that needs be made, we were protecting a brutal military dictatorship in South Korea, that managed to transform into a democracy without any help from the USA. Some would even argue that it’s high time that we withdrew from South Korea, could we put that on the table for debate?

If this is Bush’s idea of providing historical justification for remaining in Iraq, I am underwhelmed. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that he is either unfamiliar with history or deliberately misusing it to make his case. I can think of better examples for heaven’s sake, the Philippines or Puerto Rico for starters. I can only assume that his examples were chosen because they represented such extremes of both positive and negative, and he is hoping that the typical American will not be able to see how tortured and inaccurate they are as historical analogies. Speaking logically what Bush is mostly doing is called observational selection or “counting the huts and ignoring the misses,” with some slippery slope arguments thrown in or implied.

Looking at the above graph, I would suggest drawing a different lesson from the Vietnam War. Let’s get out now and save thousands of American lives. Yes, bad things are going to happen in the Middle East as the locals settle their scores. It’s too late to prevent that, in fact it’s already happening. Keeping Americans in the crossfire isn’t going to help, and arguably is making it worse. Not only is there nothing shameful in admitting a military campaign has failed and pulling back, it conserves our strength and increases our options.

Even Julius Casar knew that withdrawal is always an option, he invaded England twice and both times realized it was hopeless and withdrew. This doesn’t seem to have hurt his place in history. And no, English barbarians didn’t become emboldened and get on ships and sail to Rome to attack the Coliseum.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is central to illustrating the post and it is not being used for profit. Credit:

Written by unitedcats

August 23, 2007 at 9:24 am

Posted in Bush, History, Iraq, War

15 Responses

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  1. Please do not accuse those who speak negatively about George Bush of doing more harm than good to the country. You may find some expressions personally disagreeable but free speech does encompass opinions that are more critical than your own.


    August 23, 2007 at 10:49 am

  2. I will be posting soon more in detail about why I think it’s counterproductive for liberals to make personal attacks on Bush, no matter how humorous, seemingly trivial, or even accurate they may be. It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it for now. :)


    August 23, 2007 at 11:11 am

  3. Good post a question if I may…

    “The defence strategy that refused to hand the South Koreans over to a totalitarian neighbour helped raise up an Asian Tiger that is a model for developing countries across the world, including the Middle East.”

    Although we’ve taken great steps in creating the chaos can’t it be said that leaving w/o trying to stabilize things delivers Iraq and Afghanistan to a worse scenario ? And further that stable democracies in the ME isn’t such a bad thing ?


    August 23, 2007 at 12:15 pm

  4. Is it also counterproductive for conservatives to make personal attacks on liberals?

    I look forward to your further post on this.


    August 23, 2007 at 12:45 pm

  5. […] August 23rd, 2007 · No Comments Bush invokes Vietnam to defend his policies in Iraq […]

  6. Politically speaking, no, being anti-liberal is not hurting their cause the way being anti-Bush is hurting the liberal cause. The left needs to appeal to the millions of working class Americans who are uncomfortable with the war and the evangelical influence in the Republican party, bashing Bush is basically telling these people they are dumb for supporting him. Calling people dumb is a crappy way to make friends, especially since they are as smart as anyone else.


    August 23, 2007 at 8:12 pm

  7. Few people support Mr Bush anymore, Doug.


    August 23, 2007 at 9:46 pm

  8. That was an amazing analysis, Doug. I learnt a lot.

    I got to hear only the “boat people,’ ‘re-education camps’ and ‘killing fields” part of the speech. Is a full transcript available anywhere?


    August 24, 2007 at 1:12 am

  9. Whig: That’s to a large extent true…but insulting Bush (and by extension conservatives) all liberals are doing is making sure these people will vote for the next Republican candidate.

    Archanaraghuram: Yes, there is: Bush Vietnam speech


    August 24, 2007 at 6:49 am

  10. Anyone who votes for a Republican candidate for President in 2008 is stupid and deserves to be called so.


    August 24, 2007 at 8:33 am

  11. Whig is that your real opinion or are you just throwing schlock grenades ? How stupid is someone if the vote Dem just to spite Bush ??


    August 24, 2007 at 8:37 am

  12. Ron Paul is currently my favourite presidential candidate and as it is now, I would vote for him. So I deserve to be called stupid? Interesting. :)


    August 24, 2007 at 8:50 am

  13. Thanks Doug.

    Archana Raghuram

    August 24, 2007 at 9:05 am

  14. I’ve endorsed Ron Paul for the Republican nomination so if he wins that nomination you can call me stupid for saying what I did.


    August 24, 2007 at 9:40 am

  15. Voting Democratic to spite Bush? That would be absurd indeed.


    August 24, 2007 at 9:40 am

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