Digby has provided the best comparison I have seen between the mistakes America made in Viet Nam and the utter disaster that the Republicans have made in Iraq.
"Bush has always been trafficking in cognitive dissonance with his Iraq talk and it's caught up with him. He tried to gloss over some fundamental illogic with slick PR and it didn't work.Let's be very clear about this. The disputed Presidential election of 2000 gave us a President with no qualifications for the job beyond the name of his father and the associated ability to raise political money, an in with the Christian Right, and some ability to read a teleprompter and not look scary doing it. "W" had no prior interest in foreign affairs and only a very surface familiarity with conservative Republican political issues. He also had his trusted friends and faith in his intuition at reading people.
From the very beginning he framed his war on terror as being "with us or with the terrorists." He then consciously conflated Iraq with 9/11 and sent many soldiers over there with the idea that they were fighting those who attacked us. But the facts never supported that and they knew it. Since we live in a world in which outright conquest is no longer acceptable, once his WMD rationale evaporated, he was forced to lean on the idea that we are there to help the Iraqi people and "spread democracy." He obviously came to believe it.
He has tried to make distinctions between the good Iraqis who are "with us" and the bad ones who are "against us" --- "terrorists" "bitter enders" "insurgents" --- but many of the soldiers over there and their families back home and Bush's racist supporters see the "enemy" as simply Iraqis --- or just Arabs or Muslims. And I suspect that a whole lot of other Americans are just plain confused. It's very hard to finesse all that and it's one of the reasons why the occupation has been such a disaster. Nobody really knows what we're doing there, not us, not them. Now Iraqis are boldly demonstrating in favor of terrorists and even Bush can no longer hide his own confusion and dismay.
In that sense, this war makes Vietnam a moment of foreign policy clarity. It was certainly a mistake to put so much importance on the idea that the US could not afford to fail in a small proxy war or risk communism taking over the Far East. But at least everyone understood the premise and could either agree or disagree with it. This war in Iraq is totally incomprehensible to everyone. We invaded for dozens of disparate reasons none of which were entirely compelling and all of which have been proven to be mistaken. We are throwing away hundreds of billions and yet there are now many more terrorists in Iraq than there were before the invasion and many more all around the world because of it. Oil prices are sky high and rising. The Middle East is more unstable than it’s been in many decades. Lots and lots of people are dying.
This is all because after 9/11 we had a leadership who ruthlessly exploited the crisis for political gain and an influential advisory cabal who had waited for 30 years to unleash their half-witted ideological experiments on the world. None of it ever made any sense and now that the fog of 9/11`has lifted, that much, at least, is starting to become clear to most people. The problem is that the mess they've left is so huge it's virtually impossible to clean up. Damn, I don't think I've ever seen a case of "sow the wind, reap the whirlwind" unfold so quickly and so starkly right before my very eyes."
When a small fanatical terrorist jihadi group with the goal of sending martyrs out to die to spread Allah spectacularly attacked America on September 11, Bush had no clue how to respond. So he turned to his closest advisors, starting with the ultimate executive Department insiders, Vice President Dick Cheney and Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
These were two men who had entered service in the White House during the Nixon administration, come to personal power together in the Ford administration following Nixon's resignation, and had worked together in Republican administrations ever since. Along the way they had grown close to the intellectual descendents of Leopold Strasser and Washington Sen. "Scoop" Jackson who came to be known as Neo-Conservatives inpart because of their hardrock basic belief that America was failing in international relations because the failure of the Vietnam War and the devisiveness it created in America led to a strong reluctance to use military force to get what it wanted. Cheney and Rumsfeld agreed on this.
Also, both Cheney and Rumsfeld had previously been Sec. of Defense and both very much distrusted the Central Intelligence Agency and the Intelligence analysis process that was centered there.
Both also wanted control of the oil in the Middle East since that was the world's largest supply of the stuff and it was and remains critical to the functioning of an effective modern military force. Both also believed that Bush 41 had failed when he stopped the Persian Gulf War without invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. This had left Saddam in power where they felt he was the most important source of instability in the Middle East.
If Cheney and Rumsfeld are teamed up with Karl Rove, the ultimate Republican political strategist for whom the only limits to what can be done to win an election center on whether you are caught and successfully prosecuted, you get both control fo the military and great political power, perhaps enough to actually use the military.
Rove had already bamboozled nearly half the American voters into voting for the single most unqualified man ever to actually hold the office of President, and had effective control of the propaganda mechanisms built by the Conservatives to place their politicians into office. FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, the National Review and the Weekly Standard under William Kristol (son of Irving Kristol, one of the original NeoConservatives) could all be pulled together to propagandize for an invasion of Iraq which would topple Saddam and give U.S. troops a place for bases from which they could influence the various mostly tribal and national entities in the Middle East.
So together Rove, Rumsfeld and Cheney offered the confused and lost George W. Bush a quick and easy solution to the problem of al Qaeda and 9/11. Don't spend time chasing the non-state entity that actually conducted the attack on America. This would be a shadow war against a phantom enemy that depended on the capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the lead government department and all others including Rumsfeld's military) in support of the CIA operations. But the CIA had failed to predict the collapse of the USSR, failed to predict that Iraq would invade Kuwait, and failed to predict 9/11. [This last ignores the many warnings that Tenet had given the President prior to 9/11.] So the flawed and illogical idea of solving Terrorism by invading Iraq was sold to Bush.
Instead of fighting a shadow war with the flawed CIA, why not use the great strength of the American military to bring the Middle East out of its barbarism and into the new, modern, globalized world that is already feeding off their oil stock. This could be done by regime change in Iraq, eliminating the dictatorship of Saddam and replace it with a modern western-style democracy based on the kind of free market that so many would-be immigrants from the Middle East prove they want by trying to get to America. Such an effort would use the ability of the U.S. military to defeat the Iraqi national military in a conventional war in which America is clearly the finest in the world. The U.S. military could easily defeat the Iraqi military and remove Saddam. All that was needed was to give the American public the political will to use the American military in this way. This was a political problem.
To solve the political problem, all they had to do was string together a political fantasy long enough to convince the U.S. Congress to approve some sort legislation that could be interpreted as authorizing the preemptive invasion of Iraq. Once that is done, everything else would just fall in place. And after the fact, when it all worked, no one would blame them for shading the truth a bit to get that legislation passed. As CIA Director told President Bush, “It’s a slam dunk!”
See? That's why we invaded Iraq. Not WMD. Not bringing "Freedom" to the Iraqis. We just wanted a stable Middle East that would sell us their oil cheaply and quit sending those damned terrorists who keep sky-jacking airplanes and killing people in big western cities. WMD? Terrorist connections of Saddam? Bringing Freedom to the Iraqis? All just PR fluff to bring in the rubes in Congress to pass some legislation that would then be used to justify the preemptive attack on Iraq and then ignored.
That's not so incomprehensible, is it?
The only minor problem is that it didn't work! Sensible people knew it wouldn't work, but sensible people do not become conservative NeoCons. And since the NeoCons could not convince their critics that the NeoCon arguments would work, they simply quit listening to their critics, grabbed power, and rammed this Iraqi - Middle Eastern idiocy through - at a roughly predictable cost that the NeoCons and Republicans refused to even look at before starting.
Now, as Digby so succinctly put it "...the mess they've left is so huge it's virtually impossible to clean up."
Does anyone really think that the Republicans are sufficiently "Tough on Terrorism" that they should be left in charge of protecting America? I sure don't. They've been shadow-boxing phantoms that exist more in their own minds than in reality. They have failed for five years. They really need to be replaced by more reality-based individuals. Does anyone really think that the Republicans are sufficiently "Tough on Terrorism" that they should be left in charge of protecting America? I sure don't.
Want to see the solutions that this administration have offered to clear up the mess they have created in Iraq? They pushed to Israeli government to invade Lebanon so as to destroy Hezbollah, and they are discussing air strikes on Iraq, possibly including nuclear weapons. Their idea of a diplomatic solution is to send Condi Rice out to delay the end of the failed Israeli attack on southern Lebanon. Conservative military solutions haven't failed. Conservatives have simply not pushed them to their obvious successful conclusions. So don't stop the failed process, increase it.
The Republicans offer nothing but ideology-based fantasy and war as ways of fixing the mess they have made by starting the Iraq war because of their ideology-based fantasies. The first step in fixing this massive mess the Republicans have created is to remove the Republicans from power. After that, perhaps some other nations will help us out of the hole Bush and the Republicans have dug for America.