It is all too easy to forget that we "won" in Vietnam. We left having defeated the Viet Cong, having forced North Vietnam to halt its offensives -- and having gotten a Nobel Prize for the settlement. We created something approaching a functioning democracy, a reasonable level of development, and Vietnamese forces that seemed able to defend both without our support. It only took a few years, however, to show how costly an exit without a strategy can be.I like this sort of history. It's like, imagine a German who claimed that the Reich triumphed on the Eastern Front because he stopped counting at the Hitler-Stalin pact.
American defenders of the American war in Vietnam like to say that we won in Vietnam because we supposedly won every major engagement, and critics can still be heard contending, when accused of subverting the war effort and assisting in an American defeat, that given the millions of dead Vietnamese and the destruction wreaked on that country, they can hardly be said to be the victors. Right. The North Vietnamese won the war, if at a terrible price. They persisted resisting until the price became too high and America wearied, they participated in the '73 accords because that would speed the departure of the Americna military, and in '75, they went back in and won. They conquered the South, integrated it territorially the following year, and instituted a central government.
As for Iraq . . . as we begin to depart, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. The idea that we can fix its national destiny and then depart in clear conscience is as foolish as the ideas, charitably speaking, that sent us there in the first place.