Iraq alternatives: Vietnam – or North Korea?

July 14, 2006

Those advocating immediate withdrawal from Iraq cite as their rationale a fear that Iraq conflict may turn into another Vietnam – that is, into a war without end, but with mounting American casualties.

But there is another side to the Vietnam story: after Americans withdrew from Vietnam, nothing particularly terrible happened: Vietnam turned into an innocuous, stagnant Communist state that didn’t threaten anyone. In Vietnam, there were no major consequences to leaving the job undone.

Not so in the Korean conflict: the unfinished job festered into a major problem, all complete with nuclear weapons and development of their delivery systems. Iran was left to its own devices – to the similar effect.

Which facts should make us pause and think about alternatives we are now facing in Iraq. If Americans withdrew, what would be the result? Would Iraq follow the Vietnam model, or the North Korea one?

The guarantee of Vietnam-type consequences of American withdrawal would warrant a Vietnam-type withdrawal – and that is why the “Vietnam“ argument is so popular. But we should know by now that such outcome is far from assured, because there can be other kinds of consequences too: the North Korean one, or the Iranian. Which should give a pause to those shouting “Iraq is the next Vietnam!” Because what if, after the American withdrawal, Iraq turns not into a post-withdrawal Vietnam, but into the post-war North Korea?

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