A few days ago, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) made a speech urging the U.S., in effect, to get out of Iraq the way we got out of Vietnam.
Leahy told the Senate that we cannot win in Iraq. "It has become increasingly apparent that the most powerful army in the world cannot stop a determined insurgency." (U.S. troops, Iraqi troops, long-suffering Iraqi civilians to Leahy: Thanks, senator, we needed that.) And Leahy announced that the president must lay out a public formula to tell the world just when U.S. troops will leave Iraq. Otherwise, Leahy said, he will urge the Senate to choke off the war by refusing to fund it. That's how the U.S. finally lost Vietnam: Congress snuffed out the money.
Be warned, senator: If Democrats become the "let's treat Iraq as we treated Vietnam" party, the public will turn away in revulsion, and the Democratic Party will die. It's not in such great shape anyhow.
Leahy's words lighted up a deep, dark secret that this nation would rather forget. Defeat in Vietnam was a catastrophe for the U.S., a body-slam to the nation's self-confidence. It was far worse for Southeast Asians, who were exiled, imprisoned, tortured and murdered by their vicious communist conquerors. But for left-wing Democrats it was a triumph. Forcing the mighty U.S. military to run away was the greatest victory they have ever known. That triumph broke a levee that sent a flood of left-wing ideas pounding across the U.S. landscape.
The 1974 congressional elections were a blow-out victory for Democrats. Watergate was a big factor, but public exhaustion with Vietnam (encouraged by the media) helped too. In 1973, the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam, but Washington had promised to support South Vietnam with money and weapons. Congress refused to pay. In March 1975, President Ford made a desperate last appeal for funds to keep America's promise. Congress refused.
In April 1975, all remaining American diplomats and advisors were pulled out in a frantic, starvation-budget withdrawal. South Vietnam collapsed. "The decrease in American aid had made it impossible for Saigon troops to carry out their combat and force-development plans," North Vietnam's army chief of staff coolly explained.
When Democrat Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976, he had large congressional majorities to work with. Carter described the Vietnam War as "moral poverty" in action. One of his first acts was to pardon all draft evaders at a time when families were still mourning soldiers dead in battle.
Carter preached anti-anti-communism: As the U.S. military deteriorated for lack of funds and confidence, and Cuban troops with Soviet advisors moved into Angola and Ethiopia, Carter's secretary of State announced that "to oppose Soviet or Cuban involvement in Africa would be futile." This was foreign policy as the left liked it.
At home, too, liberals were happy; conservatives weren't. In the culture wars, feminism and environmentalism, affirmative action and the sexual revolution swept the country. Words like honor, bravery and patriotism were out. "Do your own thing" and "self-esteem" were in.
MANY OBSERVERS have noticed that Democrats of the left speak of Iraq as another Vietnam. Few have explained why: Because Democrats of the left want Iraq to be another Vietnam. Not that they took pleasure in Vietnamese suffering, but they rejoiced in the left-wing power surge that transformed the United States in the aftermath. Naturally, they hope to repeat that experience: to humiliate Republicans, moderate Democrats and the military by pinning the label "bloody failure" on another foreign war.
It's not going to happen.
Iraq is nothing like Vietnam, and the public knows it. In the recent referendum, 63% of Iraqi voters cast ballots. Each vote screamed defiance at terrorism and defeatism. Each vote told the world that terrorism will lose and democracy will win, that Iraqis trust the United States to help protect them against vengeful insurgents bent on murdering whoever dares to hope and care and vote.
An impressive 78% voted "yes" on the new constitution. Sunni Muslims said no, but many said it at the ballot box. The referendum made clear that ordinary people everywhere do want to govern themselves. Democracy could have worked in Vietnam too.
This nation will abandon the Democratic Party before it abandons Iraq.
Polls show American uneasiness about the war. Naturally. The fighting is dirty and dangerous. But the U.S. is a God-fearing nation; we are proving that by battling to spread justice. Polls also suggest that Americans are resolved to fight in Iraq until the job is done.
Sen. Leahy thinks that he can smell another Vietnam. Not this time, senator.