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December 31, 2006

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From 30,000 feet, there are similarities between Viet Nam and Iraq. Iraq was the bigger mistake as between the two. But the critically important differences between them are why it would be morally reprehensible of us to simply pull up stakes so the ethnic slaughter can begin in earnest.

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”

http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/odyssey-of-armaments.html

The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.

Without in any way diminishing the importance of the loss of lives (American and Iraqi) or the dollars spent, I think the greatest cost of the war to the U.S. is, in the long run, a precipitous drop in our international credibility and influence. Because of Iraq, the U.S. has gone, in just a few short years, from being mostly admired for our values and actions (Vietnam notwithstanding) to being shunned, even, reviled for the same. Recall that, after 9/11, most of the world not only sympathized with the U.S., but approved our actions in Afghanistan. Iraq changed everything.

Whether the U.S. will ever recover is questionable, but if we do, it will take generations.

That too, Craig, that too.

Happy (and better) New Year!

In addition to the ethnic/religious cleansing that would immediately follow our proposed immediate withdrawal, Iraq would become terrorist central. Afghanistan would pale by comparison. These problems were forseeable and accentuate the enormity of the mistake Bush made by going in on false pretenses. They also help to explain why we can't simply withdraw. As a liberal, I'd like to see deeper and more honest thinking among liberals on this subject. Face it, we or an international force surrogate (far preferable), will be in Iraq for a decade or more.

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