When I tuned in to US president Barack Obama’s televised speech on his plans for war against the so-called “Islamic State,” I expected exactly what we got — a bland sundae of pseudo-patriotic drivel topped off with some whipped cream of big bucks for the military-industrial complex and the cherry of regime change in Syria. What I didn’t expect was a bon mot homage to a previous era:
“[W]e are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” — US president Lyndon Johnson, October 21, 1964
“[W]e cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves …” US president Barack Obama, September 10, 2014
A curious inversion: LBJ’s remark came near the end of the “advisor” era in Vietnam and prior to the massive, direct US military intervention there. Obama’s reprise comes after nearly a quarter century of massive, direct US military interventions in Iraq and proposes to make history run backward into an “advisor” scenario. Curious, but clearly not accidental.
We all remember how Vietnam ended. After two lost ground wars in Asia in the last 12 years, after recourse to the history book accounts of the post-WWII era, you might expect Obama to have learned a lesson by now. And you’d be right.