Chicken-Hawk John Bolton Confuses Libya with Vietnam
John Bolton in today's Boston Herald:
Of course, Vietnam became a “quagmire” because of U.S. unwillingness to persevere to reach our objectives. Obama ignored the critical point that Gen. Creighton Abrams’s strategy had placed us on the path to victory in Vietnam, and that it was a failure of American will, not battlefield defeat, that humbled us there.
John Bolton on actually participating in the war in Vietnam and showing a personal commitment to our persevering in our objectives:
Though Bolton supported the Vietnam War, he declined to enter combat duty, instead enlisting in the National Guard and attending law school after his 1970 graduation. "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy," Bolton wrote of his decision in the 25th reunion book. "I considered the war in Vietnam already lost."
There are 58,267 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. That doesn't count all the wounded. It doesn't count the approximately two million Vietnamese civilians and one million Vietnamese soldiers who died in the conflict. It doesn't count the financial cost of the war. Saigon fell to the communists thirty-six years ago. How many problems have they caused us since then? How often do we have to worry about how the Vietnamese are threatening us or looking to screw us on the international stage? In retrospect, what were we fighting to prevent? How delusional were we to think we needed to spend that quantity of resources to prevent...what? The dominos fell the other way less than fifteen years after we left Vietnam.
But people like Bolton, who had no interest in dying for a lost cause, continue to scold us for showing insufficient resolve. We need to be willing to use more violence and then everyone and thing will bend to our will.
I don't even disagree with Bolton when he says that the president has blundered in Libya, but comparing the stalemate in Libya to the quagmire in Vietnam ignores those 58,267 names. Our sin in Vietnam wasn't in sending military advisors to help the South. It was in not listening to those advisers once they discovered that the South was too weak, too corrupt and too lacking in legitimacy to have any hope of victory over the North.
The problem in Libya is that the opposition is too weak. Perhaps they're more legitimate and less corrupt. I know we'd like to think so. Maybe the West's military advisers will find out, and maybe we'll listen to them this time.
Bolton is correct when he says:
By demanding Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster while restricting U.S. military force to the more limited objective of protecting civilians, Barack Obama has set himself up for massive strategic failure.
I'd only question how "massive" the failure would be. Bolton's warnings about terrorism and WMD ring hollow after Iraq. It seems like a minor failure to me. It's a minor failure that protects American lives and resources for more pressing concerns. Of course, it could turn into a moral catastrophe if we wind up arming-up a prolonged or inconclusive civil war that turns Libya into a dysfunctional, ungovernable hellhole like Somalia. That's why I advised not getting involved. And that's why it would probably be better for the European NATO powers to devote the resources to getting Gaddafi out of there instead of trying to build up a rebel force capable of doing the job themselves. But, in the meantime, there is still hope that the choice won't come down to those two lousy alternatives.