And then one of them, maybe it was Ed Kilgore, made the point that Ed Kilgore of 2005 says, it looks bad. The DLC was founded after watching democrats fall flat on their face after being hijacked by the overly liberal wings of the party who appeared weak to middle America's eyes. They saw the Iraq war as a chance to show that democrats are tough and they can be trusted with National Security, something they haven't trusted with since about the Cuban Missle Crisis. It was this good faith, honest belief and effort that drove them to support this terrible war.
Maybe it is a generational thing and since I wasn't alive during the late 60s and early 70s I don't have their superior perspective. But unlike their liberal counterparts, I am not stuck in the mode of equating every war to Vietnam either. Having only older collegues, my parents, and scholarly work to rely on about that era, I don't know if the two are that similar or if history is repeating itself. It is easy for baby boomers to equate the two: they were against the one and for the other. It makes them feel like they are gaining back their idealism by opposing the war at this late stage.
Perhaps Kilgore is right in that the only difference between "benchmarked withdrawal from Iraq based on estimated dates, and a timetable withdrawal contingent on benchmarks" is tone and image. But can't we explain that one policy is better than the other and that neither is "cutting and running?" Are Americans so easily brainwashed by repetitive talking points that Democrats aways cut and run?
The fact is, we are getting out of Iraq soon, the GOP can't afford to keep going at this pace without sacrificing their majorities in Congress and eventually the White House for George W. Bush's attempt to reverse his father's faults. The fact that Bush's plan is Sen Joe Biden's and reality might look a lot like the fall of Siagon in 1972 seems to me that the outcome politically will be different.
Democrats fought against themselves for the most part on Vietnam, with Southern conservative democrats supporting the war for the most part, and liberals from the coasts opposing it. Nixon took over the war that he never started it with a "secret plan" to get us out with dignity and while the results weren't very dignified, his party didn't pay the price. Will George W. Bush's? Who supported it ever step of the way, spinning bad facts month after month? Democrats did split over the war but they all seem to agree that it is going badly and we need to get out.
The lesson is this: So much as many of us might wish to focus on the policy details of proposals about what to do now in Iraq, you can't take the politics out of politics, and the "tonal" or "contextual" implications of various proposals, despite their substantive similarity, matter a great deal.
Or is the lesson that we need a post-Vietnam generation of leadership on both sides, one that won't see everything from this prism? Perhaps he is right, until the voting population is more post-Vietnam than Vietnamers, we will keep having to relive that war through every national security decsion we make.