Yesterday, Hilary cited that strange portion of Bush's speech where it's not really clear what analogy he's trying to make in regards to Graham Greene's The Quiet American. Yet' there was another portion of the speech that, while not good fodder for snarky commentary, does open up an important discussion about the consequences of our withdrawal from Iraq and the appropriateness of the Vietnam analogy.
In the speech, Bush said that, "two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies." The men in question are Peter Rodman, a former aide to Henry Kissinger, and William Shawcross, the veteran British foreign correspondent. Their June article, "Defeat's Killing Fields," is well worth a read.
Also worth reading is Shawcross' piece from yesterday's Sunday Times, in which he reacts to the Bush speech. Keep in mind that he has not changed his views about American involvement in Cambodia, which he believed paved the way for the Khmer Rouge. What Shawcross believed then, in spite of his opposition to the American bombing of Cambodia, and still believes now, is that American withdrawal from the region was disastrous and that the same mistake cannot be repeated. Key graphs:
Today, as in the 1970s, the press has a special responsibility. In Indochina the majority of American and European journalists (including myself) believed the war could not or should not be won. At the end one New York Times headline read: “Indochina without Americans: for most, a better life”.
Such naivety was horribly wrong, and I have always thought that those of us who opposed the American war in Indochina should be extremely humble in the face of the appalling aftermath. Similarly today I think that too many pundits’ hatred (and it really is that) of Bush (and till recently Blair) dominates perceptions...
Why do the horrors inflicted by Islamic extremists in Darfur seem to appal us, more than those in Iraq? Because, I suppose, in an orgy of self-deluding hypocrisy, we prefer to blame the United States. We should grow up.
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