Regarding Atrios’ post on the Bush Admin’s Tinkerbell strategy, I do believe that it’s played a significant part in hurting the war in Iraq. After all, why work hard, plan elaborate strategies, or hire competent experts, when you believe that propaganda can do it for you much more easily? That’s like studying for a test that you already prayed to God that you’d pass; total overkill.
And that does seem to be the message that they got from Vietnam. Most people learned that some wars are bad and that you can’t always trust the military solution as the trump card of foreign policy. But that’s not what most conservatives learned. They just learned that you can win or lose any war based upon your belief in the war. And that if you can shut-up your critics long enough, you can keep a war going indefinitely...until you eventually win.
But that’s entirely backwards. Vietnam wasn’t lost because Americans lost spirit. They lost spirit because we weren’t winning and didn’t have a good gameplan for winning; nor was it crucial for us to win. And the anti-war movement wasn’t a propaganda campaign that succeeded at killing the war; it gained traction because the war was going so badly. It was the symptom of a bad war that many Americans didn’t like. And the longer that war went on, the less popular it would be.
And what killed the war was that it was just a crappy idea. We shouldn’t have been at war there, didn’t have a realistic chance of winning, and ended-up hurting our image in both Vietnam and throughout the rest of the world. Kind of like the war that we have now. But again, the message that the propagandists on the right got out of Vietnam was that propaganda can win or lose the war; and so they decided to go with that same idea again. But propaganda can’t win a bad war, and the military option should really be saved as a last resort and not as an active arm of our foreign policy.
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the real legacy of the Bush Admin will be that it was a giant mulligan of the discredited right-wing policies of the 1970’s. And perhaps if Bush had run on a Do-Over platform, people might be a little more receptive to that idea. But as things stand, it looks like this might eventually turn out to be the final nail in their coffin. It took thirty years for them to finally be able to resurrect their discredited policies; and with any luck, it won’t be coming back again.