Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Iraq and Vietnam, Bush and LBJ

Now that the Decider is invoking Vietnam as the touchstone for Iraq, he may want to consider the fate of the man who presided over that war.

Like Bush, Lyndon Johnson believed passionately in the necessity of his conflict, in the domino theory that losing Vietnam would lead to the fall of Southeast Asia, just as this President is certain that success in Iraq will determine what happens in the whole Middle East.

Johnson was wrong. We lost. Southeast Asia did not go Communist. Bush went to Vietnam last year and at a banquet offered a toast to “strengthening our ties."

The President should look at what happened after LBJ left office. He lived the remaining four years of his life in a depression so deep that he couldn't write his memoirs and died of a heart attack the day his successor, Nixon, admitted defeat and withdrew from Vietnam.

Had LBJ survived, he would be marking his 99th birthday next week and might have some advice for Bush, his fellow Texan. A misbegotten war can undo a lifetime of achievement such as a landmark Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty.

But then, Bush would have no idea of what Johnson was talking about. In six and a half years so far, his domestic achievements have been zero, unless you count tax cuts for the rich and denying health care to poor children.

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