Friday, December 21, 2007

Bush and 1968

Perhaps you've seen the retrospective by Tom Brokaw on a turning point in American history, the year 1968. It was a time which saw the beginning of the end of US involvement in the Vietnam War, and the fall of fortunes in that brutal conflict for US President Lyndon Johnson. There also were the assassinations of 2 stalwart American liberals, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, which greatly deflated the hopes of the once dominant Democrat Party.

Concerning Vietnam, one of the most divisive US conflicts in its history as a nation, it is widely perceived in retrospect that the Johnson Administration, and later President Nixon, conceded defeat to the communists while its military was winning the battles. During the Tet Offensive, after which the White House gave up any efforts of winning there militarily, it was the Viet Cong enemy which suffered a devastation of its ranks, while the American forces under General Westmoreland were intact and prepared to continue the fight. Yet, after being intimidated by the American Media, Johnson refused to continue the struggle he had once sorely believed in.

In the present day, President George Bush suffered his own "1968" period in 2006. At this point, it was obvious the 3 year-old Iraq Conflict had evolved into a civil war after the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque. Then there was the takeover of Congress by a majority of anti-war Democrats, with a mandate to end the War in Iraq and bring the troops home. It was obvious then that the tenure of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, while successful in creating an infant Middle East democracy, had failed to bring the sort of peace and security that would lead to a stable political situation.

Bush at this point could have taken the Johnson way, cashed in his chips and conceded to the terrorists,the Liberal Congress, and their supporters in the Mainstream Media. That he did not must be considered one of the boldest decisions in the annals of our Republic.

Rather than be seen as leading another American "lost cause" as was Vietnam, Bush upped the ante and decided to make one last bid for victory. Though its was obvious the Democrats would attempt to cut off funds, the President gambled that there was still a modicum of patriotism left over from the outrage of September 11, 2001, that saw an unprecedented unity of Left and Right against the terrorist perpetrators.

A new Defense Secretary, a new commanding general, and a new strategy saw the tide of battle turn against the terrorists throughout 2007. Violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest point in two-and-a-half years, and the once antagonistic tribes are coming together to drive out their Al Qaeda tormentors. A virtual consensus has given the rightly deserved laurels to the General David Petraeus, and his brave and brilliant troops of the Surge. The once resurgent Democrat Party seems to be suffering its own quagmire after continued fruitless attempts to end the conflict.

Returning to 1968, it appears that President Johnson might have conducted his own successful Surge, rather than giving up when victory was so near. General Creighton Abrams, the successor of the unfortunate Westmoreland, conducted an effective anti-insurgent campaign soon afterwards, until he was restrained by Nixon after the excessive casualties at Hamburger Hill. Perhaps with a determined commander in chief of the likes of a George Bush, Abrams might have been allowed to continue his policy of "maximum pressure" against the communists, and end the war in terms more favorable to the US and the South.