Iraq isn’t Vietnam, and even if it were that would not counsel in favor of undertaking the sort of negotiations Henry Kissinger used to extricate us from that conflict. So argues Max Boot.
According to Boot, Kissinger’s Vietnam negotiations (honestly evaluated) confirm that “skilled diplomacy can consolidate the results of military success but can seldom make up for its lack.” That is why the “surge” is so central, not only on its own terms but because of the leverage it likely will give us if we succeed. Yet even then Boot contends that negotiations would be “exponentially more difficult in Iraq than in previous conflicts, because we do not face a single enemy like the Vietnamese communists with a clear chain of command.”
Boot concludes that “if any previous model of peacemaking applies to Iraq (and that’s a big if), the one we should look at is Korea.” He explains:
President Eisenhower concluded a lasting armistice in 1953 because he made clear that U.S. troops would stay in South Korea until kingdom come — and even threatened to escalate the conflict with atomic weapons if necessary. . . .That resolve gave us the kind of leverage we lacked in the early 1970s, when the Nixon administration had already made clear its determination to bring our troops home, regardless of the consequences. If we repeat the same mistake in Iraq (which Kissinger, in fairness, now counsels against), no amount of diplomatic wizardry will avert a costly defeat.
Our experience in Anbar province suggests that if there’s a diplomatic solution to Iraq it may lie in the antithesis of the “grand bargain” diplomacy that former Secretaries of State Kissinger and Baker natuarally favor. The solution instead may lie in a series of small bargains with various players in different parts of Iraq. The Iraqi government’s role may be more one of grudgingly ratifying these arrangements than of formulating and imposing them.
Even if some of these “bottom up” bargains unravel, they won’t unravel as quickly as Kissinger’s “top down” bargain in Vietnam did.
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