Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wisdom from Henry the K

We’re loathe to ascribe any description remotely close to "voice of reason" to Dr. Henry Kissinger, singularly and in concert with others the architect of some of the worst, most egregiously criminal excesses of the Vietnam War. But Henry the K got it right this weekend, speaking with the British Broadcasting Corporation and coming to a conclusion that millions of Americans beat him to by months and years: the conflict in Iraq is militarily unwinnable, and military victory, as narrowly defined by the masters of war in the Pentagon, is no longer possible.

“If you mean, by 'military victory,’ an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don’t believe that is possible,” he told the BBC in a program that aired Sunday morning.

Kissinger actually prefaced these remarks last week in an interview with Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times. Kissinger told The Times that it wasn’t possible to characterize the current state of affairs in the country as “winning.”

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that what we're seeing now would be an odd appearance for a victory," he said.

Instead of holding elections and trying to build democratic institutions from the ground up, Kissinger told McManus, “the United States should focus on more limited goals: preventing the emergence of a ‘fundamentalist jihadist regime’ in Baghdad and enlisting other countries to help stabilize Iraq.” Other countries including Iran.

Kissinger’s statements don’t exactly qualify for bombshell status. His tardy arrival at the same assessment Americans have harbored for years won’t, for example, have the populist resonance of Walter Cronkite’s statement in February 1968, shortly after the Tet offensive, that the Vietnam war was unwinnable. Our 21st-century mediascape is too fragmented, too stratified for any one news anchor or columnist to have that kind of pull anymore.

But coming as it does from a friend of the current administration – and not long after Cronkite said the same thing about the Iraq conflict that he said in 1968 – it was the kind of statement you’d expect to have some traction with the stay-the-course pamphleteers in the West Wing.

Time will tell. It's hard to be hopeful, though. President Bush, just arrived in Vietnam and asked if there were parallels between the war he evaded and the one he started, said the American people were plagued with a desire for "instant success," and he again stressed the need for patience and determination as the way to prosecute the Iraq conflict.

“We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile,” the president said in Hanoi attending the APEC summit.

This, mind you, was said after his Republican party took its worst electoral drubbing in a dozen years, largely over the way things are going in Iraq.

The former secretary of state should make a gift to the current president, a gift of a book of the observations of the philosopher George Santayana -- one in particular. President Bush's inability to get it, his steadfast unwillingness to admit the screwups of the past is condemning this nation to repeat them, more than a generation after doing it before.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...