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August 25, 2005


Well, it is very good to have one's intuitive response to this war validated by real numbers. To this 56 year old grandma, America in 2005 feels very much like America in 1968 (except without the good music).

Hear, hear! Whatever happened to Herman's Hermits, anyway? ;-)

1968 was the year of schizophrenia in music -- even Top 40 radio started off with Judy in Disguise and Yummy Yummy Yummy, but ended up with Sunshine of Your Love and Time Has Come Today. It was like a parable of radicalization (as seen in a Jane Fonda movie c. 1978).

It's actually marginally surprising Vietnam was considered so dominant a problem in '68 compared to Iraq today. You'd think that urban riots and assassinations would have at least provided some competition. On the other hand, despite the Republican complaints about "bracket creep" back then, for most people the economy was still a positive, as the boom continued (aborted at last just in time for Nixon's ascension). I'd guess todays's off-the-charts gas prices will keep Iraq from ever grabbing quite the single-minded focus of Vietnam -- and, of course, there's also the fact that so many fewer lives are being lost each week. (Each life is precious, but numbers make an impact)

I think support for Iraq went south more quickly because the American people never signed on for anything beyond Gulf War I or Grenada -- the promise of a quick/easy win was the only thing that pushed support for the venture over 50% (and barely, at that). I think pollees should be commended for their long-term honesty -- they said before the war their approval of the venture would drop if casualties or length of engagement exceeded a certain small amount, and they've stuck to their guns on that. One of the many miscalculations made by Bush and Co. was to assume that, once we were in, people would tolerate alot more in the name of finishing the job. Apparently not.

Apropos of the discussion over the past few days, don't miss this article about the liberal hawks, courtesy of Laura Rozen.

There are some really significant differences between now and 1968, between Vietnam and Iraq, that should inform the response to things like the American Legion and Bush.

The vanguard of the antiwar movement was radical students, many of whom were in at least some sympathy with the Viet Cong, if not the North Vietnamese as well. That is clearly not the case with violent Islamic fundamentalism. So while opposition to the Iraq War is for some rooted in the same kind of opposition to corporatism, there is no identification with the aims of the Iraqi insurgency, and this should be stressed as a counter to sentiments like the American Legion's.

Second, the left really did learn the lesson of not disparaging the troops, and we have to make clear that the Bushies, for all their patriotic pieties, are the ones who sent them in with inadequate equipment and numbers and now want them to keep dying to rescue their own honor, in the guise of "supporting the fallen."

Third, there was high initial support for the Vietnam War becauase it was seen as a front in the war against godless communism. They tried the same tactic here by trying to couple Iraq with 9/11. I think the real reason that support for Iraq has fallen so fast is the public's understanding the fraudulency of this claim and of the claim that Iraq was a threat to us. Those who now oppose the war see that Iraq was not a front in the war on terrorism until we invaded it, and thus the war has made us less safe.

Additionally, in Vietnam there was a steady escalation over 5 years from military advisers in 1962-63, to a few troops to 250,000 troops, and then 500,000 troops, so it was like cooking the proverbial frog. Here we went in with a big invasion force and "shock and awe." The public was told that the mission was accomplished two months later. THEN came the insurgency, about 2 years ago, when the war was supposed to be won. The public was completely unprepared for this, and so I think the perception that we can't win (even if we can't lose either) came much faster. And every poll shows that it is when the public thinks we can't win that support drops off.

Finally, the ostensible goals of the Vietnam War were fairly clear at the beginning (stop the march of communism) even though they morphed into the same kind of "save their honor" that we are seeing now sometime after Nixon won, I think maybe after the invasion of the mythical base in Cambodia and its horrible aftermath. Here the goals were never clear and were undermined almost immediately (WMDs, stop terrorism) and as the Iraqis devolve into a theocracy and/or civil war, "spreading democracy" looks as futile there as in the rice paddies of SE Asia.

So what does this say about what to do now? I think it counsels for giving people the information to reinforce their perceptions--telling the truth about the status of the conflict, and the incompetence with which it was waged, attacking the civilian leadership and the very top brass who let it happen but never the troops, and focusing above all on what we can do to make America safer in the future, and what we could do if we weren't pissing so much money and resources away in Iraq.

As usual, Mimikatz hits the bullseye.

Being one of the many, many antiwar radicals who never supported the political ideology of the North Vietnamese stalinists while supporting the independence goals of their nationalist compatriots - which included some of the Viet Cong - I've always been ashamed of those (even the political naifs like Fonda) who made common cause with Hanoi.

It's also true that while a lot of the left attacked U.S. soldiers for their participation, many of us did not. Both as a draft counselor and official draft dodger, I and my compatriots were fully aware of how difficult it was for many men (particularly those of color) to avoid being conscripted. When these veterans returned, the right supported them on parade day and the liberals and a portion of the left supported them in getting health care, mental health care and jobs, fighting the juggernaut that said Agent Orange and PTSD were myths and battled homelessness. That is too often forgotten - easy to do when so many still buy into the myth of the spat-upon returnees.

The left's role in today's antiwar movement is exceedingly problematic, which is why we've had so much talk about whether the lack of a highly visible antiwar movement (old-style) has been beneficial in changing people's minds about Iraq. I'm of two minds on the subject.

Right now, my bigger long-run concern is how the left responds to what is going on in Iran and what the U.S. is likely to do about it. Iran is utterly demonized in America and some of this is justified. Many of us on the left want nothing more than to see the mullah-guided Islamic democracy there replaced with real democracy. But it's too easy for us to wind up buying into SOME of the NeoImps' arguments for non-military intervention while ignoring the nuances of the Iranian reform movement, the paradox of women's oppression (the chador and shari'a coterminous with a doubling of women's literacy and quintupling of women's university enrollment), the issue of whether Iran has a right to build nuclear weapons given that there are five nuclear states in the neighborhood vs. the ideal of non-proliferation.

demtom: I agree with your assessment of what the Dubyanocchio brigade thought. The NeoImps figured they knew how to beat the Vietnam Syndrome; they couldn't have miscalculated more spectacularly. Now they are faced with an Iraq Syndrome that, as we all have seen, has weakened the economy, trashed military readiness and recruiting, given our real enemies lots of experience in fighting a hyperpower on the ground, undermined the fight on terror (or whatever we're calling it now) and, maybe, maybe, maybe, damaged the near-term prospects of the Republican Party. All of which means, of course, that the young'uns among them will probably show up 20 years from now in some new rightwing administration.

Meteor Blades comments on the nature of any Anti-War movement this time round are well taken. I too question the effectiveness of large scale events such as DC marches and the like. If you were to take the graphs above on opinion readings during the course of Vietnam, one thing you'll find is that few of the significant movements in opinion correlate with major protest events -- rather they seem to much better track actual on the ground combat events (Remember 68 was Tet), and they also seem to respond to changes in tactics by the more mainstream anti-war efforts.

I have read and re-read Charles DeBenedetti's massive "An American Ordeal: The Anti-War Movement in the Vietnam Era" -- and am somewhat convinced by his argument that it was the local organizations that linked up on a local coalition basis to lobby Senators and members of Congress on the cost and Financeing of the Viuetnam War that ultimately won the day. We remember the Jane Fonda events -- we forget the demands from Clergy and Laymen Concerned about the War in Vietnam for meetings with elected officials. All these stern but polite meetings in Church Parlors and Basements around the country made life difficult for many who just "went along" with either LBJ or Nixon.

I do think there must be some public events -- but they don't have to be mass events. Cindy's question, and her small camp has caught media attention as a visual useful in showing the fall in confidence in Bush -- but we don't really need to replicate it. An Anti-War movement should not be measured by how many will pay to go to DC and march. Instead I think much more focus on the content of Why Bush's Policy is wrong -- and with the questions coming from the local level -- seems much smarter to me.

Why Bush's Policy is wrong -- and with the questions coming from the local level -- seems much smarter to me.

Seems much smarter to me as well. Think Ohio and Hackett and, most especially the large number of KIAs from the same area.

All politics is local.

oh, and Mimikatz, that was a fascinating link you provided to the liberal hawks article... egotistical and pretentious doesn't begin to describe Hitchens and his embarrassed bretheren.

Exactly so, Sara. I spent many a night driving across country with my fellow antiwarriors to be at a big protest in DC, NY or SF. But I've been long convinced that the most effective aspects of the antiwar movement were local. This required actually talking to people who didn't agree with you and persuading them over time. Many times all that resulted was a large local demonstration, but these could be mounted, by 1970, everywhere, not just on the coasts. Extensive local organizing (phone lists, networks, et cetera) was also briefly valuable in helping do OTHER issue organizing - around feminist concerns, for instance. Personally, I was happy to see the more than 1000 Cindy-engendered vigils around the country last Wednesday instead of everybody heading off to Crawford.

The Man Who Ate His Fingers - A Story About the Stupidity of War and The Idiots Who Glorify It

A powerful and graphic anti-war story narrated by a syndicated newspaper columnist about a homeless Gulf War vet who decides to eat a finger a day to speak out about war and to force President Bush to bring home the troops.

Nice comparison. I've been motivated to do a similar comparison, which includes a graphic side-by-side timeline. I didn't attempt to assess the public opinion. This is a nice compliment. SEE:

The Iraqization Policy

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