Cheney and his neocon cabal want to go back to Iraq – but they're really fighting Vietnam all over again
What all those people shared, I believe, was the conscious or unconscious belief that a foreign war with a plausible-sounding excuse, and one that ended with a clean victory, would be good for America and might restore the sense of national unity and purpose we putatively lost in the ’60s. If it sounds insane to contemplate ordering the deaths of thousands of people as a form of national therapy, you’re beginning to understand the true costs of PVSD, as well as the infantile and solipsistic character of American patriotism. If we see that today in its most diseased form with the renewed warmongering of Cheney, Feith, Kristol et al., the responsible-grownup version is still with us as well, in the pro-imperal windbaggery of Niall Ferguson or in Robert Kagan’s recent New Republic essay arguing that America should reassert itself as the dominant global superpower, despite the obvious fact that we’re broke, politically paralyzed and lack the stomach for any further overseas debacles.
The Iraq war was specifically conceived as antidote to Vietnam – as a brief, low-intensity, high-impact military victory that would make us feel better about ourselves. Ultimately it became a distorted replica or parody of Vietnam instead, a set of familiar mistakes in a new setting. It was shockingly expensive, grotesquely mismanaged and politically divisive, and its biggest success lay in unifying and empowering a nationalist opposition and turning the civilian population of the invaded country against us. There was widespread surprise that it didn’t work; Cheney, Rumsfeld and their allies have more or less continued to insist that it did work and we just haven’t noticed.
We can debate whether Cheney and his neocon brain trust really believed their own moronic-utopian domino theory about bombing the entire Arab-Muslim world into a set of pseudo-democratic American satellite nations “floating on a sea of oil” (in Paul Wolfowitz’s phrase). I guess somebody must have believed it, but I see that as pure ideological superstructure out of the Leo Strauss playbook, or in plain English as hokum designed to draw the suckers into the tent. That prospect was about as realistic as all the virgins in Paradise that are promised to jihadist suicide bombers, or the Soviet leadership’s pronouncements that one day pure communism would conquer the earth and the state would wither away.
We know who the dark wizard is who cast that spell, but it’s the rest of us who granted him his power. Dick Cheney yearns to fight the Iraq war over again – or fight another and another in Iran or Syria or somewhere else – in the vain hope that things will turn out differently, America’s virility will be restored and his legacy redeemed. That’s not going to happen; rancher togs or not, the Cheney of 2014 is an old and broken man with a fading constituency. But that’s small comfort to the rest of us, not to mention the people of Iraq. He destroyed their nation, bankrupted ours and did his damnedest to transmit the toxic effects of Vietnam to a new generation. One day we’ll be free of that past, presumably, but that day has not com
It will not come until the last person who remembers Vietnam in their own lifetime is gone. Hell, WWI isn't over and they are gone, so maybe never. Please read the rest.