Vietnam is key to McCain's thinking. Much to his credit, he has made his personal peace with the Vietnamese. But, in his military mind, he still thinks America could have and should have won our ill-advised adventure in Southeast Asia. How much further would he have escalated that incredibly bloody war had he been president? Who knows? But, given the widespread opposition to the war among Americans at the time, he would have had to destroy any pretense of constitutional rights on the home front. And for what? As most scholars now agree, no conceivable escalation would have defeated Vietnam's long-standing fight for independence from foreign rule, whether against the Chinese, the French or us.
As we will hear this week, General Petraeus understands the importance of political and ideological forces far better than does McCain. Petraeus has even publicly scolded Iraqi politicians for not working harder to reconcile their differences. Still, he will not give up the counterproductive military fight. Like McCain, the Princeton-educated general stands steadfast in his refusal to see the obvious. No matter how cleverly we apply our overwhelming force, foreign occupation breeds its own opposition in Iraq just as it did in Vietnam.
A note here - In his heart of hearts, General Petraeus may know the occupation of Iraq is hopeless, but he is a career military man with a mindset that follows orders and would never admit defeat. It matters not that his orders come from political bosses in a losing election year, he will fight to the death of every man in his command against all odds.
Except for the 'election year' and 'political bosses' part, sounds a lot like General Custer.
This is a lesson the gung-ho military mind cannot seem to grasp, which is why Americans would do well to look elsewhere for a president.
So which is worse - a fake military man like we've got now who started a war to show how macho he isn't, or a real one from a lost war of long ago who never got over it and will throw the nation overboard to try to 'win' this one?
It's like asking a condemned man whether he would prefer the gas chamber or the electric chair. The outcome will be the same.