The Soccer Syndrome
Americans don’t like limited scoring and ties in their games or politics. Winning is everything. Sixty years ago this country unleashed the most evil weapon the world had ever seen, instantly incinerating at least 140,000 civilians, and America cheered because we had won. We convinced ourselves that we alone had defeated Germany and Japan. After catching our breaths, we charged off to Korea, and then promptly forgot about it, and that generation, because nobody won. Our innocence in WWII and jubilation at winning were turned into something ugly. Generals that would have dropped nukes on Korea if not for the obstructionism Truman. Thus began the charge that in foreign affairs and national defense, Democrats are wimps.
Had he lived, JFK might have reversed that without shipping our young off to fight and die in meaningless wars. Then again, he may have fallen victim to the same forces that led LBJ seek honor and glory in the jungles of SE Asia. LBJ was smart and tough; all right, he was ruthless and a mean SOB on occasion. But he lacked the wisdom of a great leader. By 1968, RFK might have been developing such wisdom, but again we’ll never know.
Democrats and Republicans held hands as we marched off to Vietnam. For four years we slogged it out in the jungles, believing in some divine mission to make the world safe from communism. When two decades earlier we had chased the forces of a small industrialized island nation all over the Pacific and Far East and defeated them, suddenly we couldn’t knock out one tiny country in one location in the same period of time. Some Americans began to wake up and ask not why aren’t we winning but what the hell is this war about? The answer to that question contained the solution; “peace now.”
It also split the Democratic Party wide open. 1968 - the year the Democratic Party failed to negotiate and never healed from. It’s far easier to understand and forgive those Democrats who backed our military adventure in Vietnam from 1964-1968 then it is to be generous to those who continued to support it, particularly after 1970. Whether they wrung their hands and claimed that we must find “peace with honor” or remained confident that we could still win it if only we had more resources, men or better military strategies, they continued the killing because they were either too blind or stupid to educate themselves. Something neither they nor their successors have bothered to correct. If only they had all signed on with the GOP and left the rest of us in peace.
Who knows what would have happened in the subsequent decades? But the one thing that would have happened is that no Democrat would have voted for the IRW. They would have seen through the GOP WMD propaganda, recognized that invasions are not only bad business but also completely contrary to US principles only to engage in defensive wars. No Democrat would be out there preaching that Bush’s mission only failed due to poor planning and poor strategies. Like Vietnam, there was no win option to invading Iraq. With proper planning and a narrow mission, a win in Afghanistan was possible. But not Iraq.
When people like Paul Hackett and Joe Biden talk about Iraq, it’s like being back in 1969. Democrats deluding themselves. Incapable of acknowledging the inescapable conclusions. Victory is not in the cards. Every day the war continues, more American soldiers/marines/etc. die and be injured. But worst of we increase the number of young people sent into harm’s way for no reason. Even in just wars, some will come home with lifelong injuries to their psyches. Their numbers are much larger in unjust wars. The troops are the last to know what has been asked of them and what has been done to them. It was years and tens of thousands of death in Vietnam before troops on the battlefield could no longer pretend that what they were doing was right. They’re getting there a bit faster this time.
All the parades, praise and words telling them that they are heroes and that their service was honorable will not heal the wounds that may only begin to fester on the battlefield. The scabs that some will form will be ripped off the wounds as the stalemate in Iraq becomes clearer. Those less sensitive or with a less well developed conscience may escape without such wounds. Some turning into the psychos like the SBVT gang. It was the freaking war and not the peaceniks that injured the psyches of Vietnam vets. The only thing the left wouldn’t do back then was lie to them. Or encourage them to live in a permanent state of denial and sublimation. We weren’t sophisticated enough back then to know that we should have protested and demanded the best psychological help that money could buy for them. But why the hell are the only ones who tried to spare the troops the horror of a purposeless and meaningless war the only ones responsible for their psychological well-being? The GOP could care less about them. At least the war hawk Democrats are better than that, but an artificial leg or patched together psyche is never as good as what they started with. And we should be prepared for more of this: Army: Soldier Just Back From Iraq Kills Wife, Self
The end is nowhere in sight. Maybe things will have to get much worse before we decide to join the rest of the world and learn to love soccer.