Harry Summers in his seminal work on the Vietnam War, ON STRATEGY: The Vietnam War In Context, draws on the works of the grand master of political-military writings Clausewitz. Summers points out the central lesson of Clausewitz, that war is national policy and as such is made of three components. Those components are the government, the military, and the people. Like a tripod, when all three are functioning well, it is a very stable platform. Remove, or weaken one leg and the platform falls.
In this context, Summers looks at the conduct of the war in Vietnam. One of his major conclusions is that there was a failure to mobilize popular will to support the efforts in Vietnam. It was the opinion of MacNamara and Johnson that the effort could be carried on by the professional army fed by the draft. There was no need to mobilize popular will, the people werent needed. There was a Great Society to build, no need to mobilize the reserve components or ask people to make sacrifices for the war effort. The will of the people or national will just wasnt sought out.
This lack of mobilization of the national will is the connection between Vietnam and today. It is just exactly why this is Bushs Vietnam. Sharp divisions remain on the question of whether going to war with Iraq was the right thing for the United States to do. Consider Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on February 8-9. Today 46 percent think the action was the right thing to do, down from 50 percent in June 2004, and 49 percent now say it was wrong, up from 42 percent.
We are now engaged in a war that is supported by less than a majority of the people of the nation. In context of that, we must ask ourselves, what has been done to mobilize popular will? The cause belli for this war, Iraqi holdings of Weapons of Mass Destruction did not prove out. A strong case could be made for this war in spite of that short coming. The President has not. or will not, address this issue to the nation.
There is a most telling anecdote from early in the war, the Presidents mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush asked her son the President, what can I do? He told her, Continue doing what youve always done.
There is no case being made to mobilize the popular will. That is the danger we face and that is exactly why this may indeed by Bushs Vietnam. And the real reason critiques by people such as Senator Kennedy are off the mark. -- COL William Gross AUS (Ret.)
In his February 8th, 2005 column, Bush's Vietnam - NOT! by Austin Bay the author points out the fallacies of Senator Kennedy and others rants against the war in Iraq as another Vietnam which we will lose because we cant win Vietnams. COL Bay does a very credible job of refuting these arguments. In doing this job, he glosses over some very real parallels between the LBJ Administrations Vietnam and the Bush Administrations Iraq. COL Bay can be excused because he is deflating the erroneous arguments. But those challenging U.S. policy in Iraq can not be excused for missing an opportunity to present a valid critique of the current administrations approach to the war and its parallels to the real US failing in Vietnam.