Thursday, August 25, 2005

Two Speeches, Two Wars, One Justification

After listening to President Bush's Iraq War speech yesterday in Idaho, I looked back at one of LBJ's Vietnam War speeches in 1967. There was some startling parallels! They clearly illustrate the similarity in how LBJ justified Vietnam and how Bush explains his war in Iraq.

First, excerpts from LBJ's address at Johns Hopkins University, 1965:
Viet-Nam is far away from this quiet campus. We have no territory there, nor do we seek any. The war is dirty and brutal and difficult. And some 400 young men, born into an America that is bursting with opportunity and promise, have ended their lives on Viet-Nam's steaming soil.

Why must we take this painful road? Why must this Nation hazard its ease, and its interest, and its power for the sake of a people so far away?

We fight because we must fight if we are to live in a world where every country can shape its own destiny. And only in such a world will our own freedom be finally secure. This kind of world will never be built by bombs or bullets. Yet the infirmities of man are such that force must often precede reason, and the waste of war, the works of peace.

We are also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe, from Berlin to Thailand, are people whose well-being rests, in part, on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Viet-Nam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America's word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, and even wider war.

We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a moment that retreat from Viet-Nam would bring an end to conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next. We must say in southeast Asia--as we did in Europe--in the words of the Bible: "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further."
Now, President Bush's speech at the Idaho Center yesterday (2005):
I made a decision -- America will not wait to be attacked again. Our doctrine is clear: We will confront emerging threats before they full materialize.

The stakes in Iraq could not be higher. The brutal violence in Iraq today is a clear sign of the terrorists' determination to stop democracy from taking root in the Middle East. They know that the success of a free Iraq, who can be a key ally in the war on terror and a symbol of success for others, will be a crushing blow to their strategy to dominate the region, and threaten America and the free world.

The battle lines in Iraq are now clearly drawn for the world to see, and there is no middle ground. Terrorists will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated. Every nation -- every free nation -- has a stake in the success of the Iraqi people. If the terrorists were to win in Iraq, the free world would be more vulnerable to attacks on innocent civilians. And that is why, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren, the terrorists will be defeated.

We will stay on the offense. We'll complete our work in Afghanistan and Iraq. An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq, or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations. So long as I'm the President, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror.
Uncanny, isn't it? Both speak in terms of absolute good and evil, claim war will lead to a greater peace, and both believe withdrawal will pull the world into deeper anarchy and ultimate defeat. Neither addresses real progress or action, both intended to bolster support and exude ideology rather than comfort the rational mind.

Perhaps there are more parallels between the Democratic LBJ and our current Republican president than either would be willing to admit. They both demonstrate flagging approval ratings and find themselves embroiled in a war neither wishes to admit as wrong.


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