Thursday, January 11

A Ho Chi Minh Trail for the 21st Century

In last night’s speech announcing the much anticipated U.S. troop surge in Iraq, President Bush declared: “We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria.” This is a far cry from the more conciliatory tone that one would expect were the United States serious about heeding the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which called for negotiations with Iran and Syria as a way of bringing greater stability to Iraq and the region.

Instead, what we got from Bush was talk that was eerily reminiscent not only of escalation in Vietnam, but of spreading the conflict into neighboring countries suspected of providing supply lines to enemy forces. In the case of Vietnam, the neighboring countries were Laos and Cambodia, through which the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran. Situated along Vietnam’s western border, the trail was vital to the movement of men and supplies from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to Viet Cong forces battling U.S. forces in the south.

The result was a covert war in Laos conducted by the CIA and merciless bombing of the trail beginning in 1965. To U.S. forces, Laos constituted what was referred to as the “extended battlefield.”

In the case of Iraq, the Ho Chi Minh Trail runs through Iran and Syria. In last night’s speech, Bush accused both countries of aiding attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq:

“These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops.”
Those accusations might be true, but the solution is not expanding military operations into neighboring countries. After all, bombing Laos didn’t lead us to victory in Vietnam. Instead, it fueled the resistance. Our bombs were useless against a well-organized and dedicated insurgency. This is the situation we are facing in Iraq. For those who doubt that the insurgency in Iraq is well-organized, consider how they have infiltrated the country’s security forces.

As poorly conceived as a troop surge might be, the real danger here is not simply escalation, but a widening of the conflict. In spite of the lessons of Vietnam, last night’s speech hinted at just such an “extended battlefield”:

“We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
The very ominous suggestion that the U.S. is on the verge of a much wider war involving Iran and Syria should be taken very seriously. Were that to happen, the results would be disastrous, given how overextended our military is at the present time. More importantly, the subsequent radicalization of moderate elements in the Muslim world and the intensification of anti-American sentiment is not going to make us safer, or the Middle East more fertile for democracy.

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2 Comments:

Blogger jacob henry said...

too right! ugh. at least laos and cambodia weren't on the verge of obtaining nukes during the "escalations" a few decades ago. . . a war with iran is a very scary prospect.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Mr. Brian said...

Just more rhetoric from a man who can't even pronounce the word. Sometimes I feel as though 2008 can't come soon enough.

12:59 AM  

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