If the Democrats cannot prevail in withdrawing before Bush goes out of office (and they cannot), and if they then rapidly draw down the troops on taking office in 2009, they face the real prospect of a "Gerald Ford meltdown" of the sort that occurred in 1975 when the North Vietnamese and their VC allies took over South Vietnam.Now don't get me wrong, I think the neocons and Republicans will try to hang this on the Dems but using the Vietnam example it won't stick. There is a very vocal minority who still think we could have won in Vietnam and blame the Democrats for the defeat. They are very vocal but they are very much the minority. Over at Balloon Juice Tim F. is talking about Norman Podhoretz but what he says applies here as well:
You will note that Ford only served a couple of years as president and lost his election bid to a relative unknown named Jimmy Carter. Although economic stagflation and the stain of Watergate contributed to his defeat, I think the spectacle of the debacle in Indochina harmed Ford a great deal. The United States lost a war, and lost out to its ideological rival in an entire subcontinent of Asia in the midst of the Cold War. That would cause at least some Republicans to stay home in 1976, a sure way for Democrats to win an election.
But in all likelihood, when the Democratic president pulls US troops out in summer of 2009, all hell is going to break loose. The consequences may include even higher petroleum prices than we have seen recently, which at some point could bring back stagflation or very high rates of inflation.
In other words, the Democratic president risks being Fordized when s/he withdraws from Iraq, by the aftermath. A one-term president associated with humiliation abroad and high inflation at home? Maybe I should say, Carterized. The Republican Party could come back strong in 2012 and then dominate politics for decades, if that happened.
Honestly, it’s fine with me if luminaries like Norman Podhoretz want to base their grand analogy for leftish perfidy on Vietnam. Unless a wave of Vietnam nostalgia has swept the nation since the last time I checked, only the loopiest of hard-liners think we should have gone on throwing kids into that bloody guerilla war ad infinitum. Even Robert MacNamara finally recognized when it is time to stop digging.And TPM reader TB agrees:
Podhoretz almost certainly hangs out with the same group of ultra-hardliners whom he has known since the sixties, so he might just not realize that his diatribe accomplishes exactly the opposite of what it intends. Rather than condemning the left, for most normal people Podhoretz just underlines that once again he and a small band of crazies stand on the wrong side of a conflict that a growing majority of America recognize to be a bloody waste of men, materiel and prestige.
Ask yourself more than 30 years on, who gets the blame for the Vietnam catastrophe? Richard Nixon, or Lyndon Johnson? Did Nixon or Ford get the blame for losing Vietnam after the pullout? Did Gerald Ford lose in 1976 because the Democrats blamed him for losing the war?Like Vietnam a majority of Americans have had it with this war and see it as a mistake - Mr Bush's mistake. They recognize that it will be unpleasant when we leave but also recognize we simply can't do anything about it.
This is Mr. Bush's mess - he and his Party cannot escape it, or history.