Those of us older folk who lived through the Vietnam war remember well how the war and the casualties, both American and Vietnamese, continued on for years after President Johnson was forced from office because of growing public opposition to the war. Then, as now, most of the experts presented by the news media agreed that to give in to the public pressure for a quick end to the war would be a grave mistake.
A typical example of that opinion was a Sept. 21, 1970 New York Times article by Walt Rostow, a Vietnam war hawk from the Johnson administration: "Contrary to every short-run political and personal interest, three successive American presidents decided over the past decade that the events set in motion by a prompt withdrawal of our forces and commitment from Vietnam and the Asian mainland would risk a larger war there and create dangerous instability elsewhere."
Bob Herbert, in an article in today's New York Times, comments, "In other words, we have to keep feeding the flames of war with the healthy bodies of our kids because if we were to stop something bad might happen. Sound familiar?"
With the benefit of hindsight we now clearly see that all the talk about how, as bad as the war was, worse things would happen if we ended it, was completely wrong. Because of all the unnecessary deaths it was tragically wrong.
Iraq is not Vietnam. We cannot be sure that things would go as well for the Iraqi people if our troops left as they did for the Vietnamese after the Vietnam War ended. But one thing we can be sure of is that every day that the war continues is a tragedy. Another thing we can be sure of is that if we assume that "experts" in government and the media have some crystal ball that allows them to see the future more clearly than we do we will probably regret it.
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