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Iraq is not another Vietnam, it is worse

By Naseer Alomari
Jordan Times, Monday, November 3, 2003

THE MOST important question concerning Iraq nowadays seems to be whether the latter is another Vietnam or not. I would mention some reasons why Iraq is shaping up to be worse than Vietnam for the United States of America. Unlike Vietnam, America has no way out of Iraq without paying a heavy strategic price. Indeed, the American withdrawal from Vietnam was a serious strategic defeat that may have prolonged the cold war, but somehow America learned many lessons from its defeat and went on to defeat communism and become a sole superpower.

In contrast, withdrawing from Iraq prematurely will undermine America's stature in the Middle East as a mobile superpower that can support allies and defeat enemies. Withdrawal from Iraq as a result of mounting and endless casualties will make coming back for future militarily intervention impossible politically.

As the European Union, China and even India, to name a few, prepare to become potential strategic United States competitors in the Middle East in the not so distant future, withdrawal from Iraq without establishing a friendly government will embolden the competition that had challenged the United States throughout the Iraq situation. They will be more than happy to step in if America is driven out of Iraq under the blows of Iraqi insurgents.

There is little disagreement among serious American politicians today that withdrawal from Iraq is really bad for America as a superpower. So, if premature withdrawal is bad strategically, is staying any better? Not really. If the volume and sophistication of the attacks against the Americans improve, as it has been the case over the last six months, then all the Americans can expect is more death, chaos and lawlessness which, in time, will lead to more attacks by neutral Iraqis who have been waiting patiently for the Americans to fulfil their promises of more democracy and less violence.

Why would more Iraqis join the fight against the Americans? Well, Iraqis are getting killed everyday at the hands of nervous American soldiers and of insurgents; America did not have many Iraqi friends over the last twelve years or so of sanctions; the Bush administration has been catastrophic in its anti-Arab actions and statements; and Ariel Sharon has been given a green light to kill as many Palestinians as he wishes. Hence, failing to fulfil its promises of a better, safer life and of a speedy withdrawal will trigger Iraqis to believe that America's presence is just a nasty occupation, like the one it supports against the Palestinians. A well-armed Iraqi Intifada may thus get under way.

Bad exit options make Iraq potentially worse than Vietnam. Those who have lately stated that Iraq is not another Vietnam are betting that resistance will subside. Maybe the White House gave them that impression.

It is only one or two soldiers a day who get killed in Iraq, they say. In Vietnam, a hundred soldiers or more died everyday. That definitely makes it better than Vietnam. Wrong! The problem with that assumption is that Americans, as recent polls have shown, do not share the neoconservatives' enthusiasm for a new Roman Empire. The figures show that, other than loyal Republican males, Americans do not share the Bush administration's tolerance for bad news coming out of Iraq.

Anger has been slowly but surely rising as American youngsters are fed to the beast of insurgency that has shown stamina and, recently, sophistication.

The American people will not stand back while soldiers are picked off one by one for no purpose. In Vietnam, the justification for tolerating high casualties was acceptable to some Americans: the communists needed to be stopped; America needed to stand by its allies; and freedom was in danger. The American people understood the risks for a while before most of them decided that even those reasons were not good enough for thousands of American soldiers to be killed.

In contrast, what does George W. Bush have to say to his people about the daily death of Americans in Iraq? How does he drum up support for this war in Iraq? Would he start by admitting that he lied about Saddam Hussein's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction? Or will he apologise for wanting to get on with a war for the aftermath of which he ignored to plan? Better yet, maybe he will tell the American people that he has no exit strategy. Since a good justification for the war on Iraq never existed, the latter is worse than Vietnam.

Iraq is also worse than Vietnam because if this daily killing of Iraqis and Americans continues, and it looks like it will, America will have two bad choices: withdraw and lose the Middle East or stay and prepare for another Vietnam.

This is why America's real friends opposed the war. They hated to see America in a dilemma. On the other hand, radical Zionists and neoconservatives had one objective: to make sure no Iraqi missiles will ever fall in Israel. That, they achieved. The only problem is that American soldiers are being hit by the same missiles instead.

The writer is a Jordanian assistant professor of English education at Ittihad University, UAE. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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