When President Nixon was elected in 1968, he promised “peace with honor” in Vietnam. The public was under the impression that he had a secret plan to win the war. He didn’t. He began his presidency by announcing his “Vietnamization” plan, or, if you will, the “Nixon Doctrine” which would hand the bulk of the work to South Vietnamese soldiers. Nixon kept the public happy with his talks of “eventual” withdrawal. The process took five years and accounted for almost half the total U.S. deaths eventually tattooed onto the Vietnam Memorial in D.C.
Throughout his campaign, he relied on championing his “silent majority” stance against the hippie counterculture – who were more interested in protesting Hubert Humphrey’s candidacy, since he was part of the Johnson administration which escalated Vietnam. Nixon beat Humphry by 1% of the popular vote and became the 37th president. Today, he is considered by and large the worst president of the 20th Century, because of his prolonging of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal which forced him to resign.
It’s 40 years later. Enter Democratic front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton.
Throughout her Senate career, she has championed taking every side of every issue. On Iraq, she expects the public to believe that if she “knew then what she knows now” she never would have voted for authorizing violence in Iraq.
Since announcing, Clinton has danced around the idea of withdrawal, making no promises to anything. She's focused more on portraying a confident, happy-go-lucky image with a newly-found belly-laugh, than giving straight answers. During last week’s Democratic debate, she, along with the rest of the Democratic frontrunners, could not promise a full withdrawal by 2013.
2013. And the Democrats swept congress in 2006 to begin ending the war in 2007.
However, should Hillary Clinton get the nomination, she will sail through. Republicans own the war, and the protests received by Republicans in 2008 will be reminiscent of those on Democrats in 1968. There are no more hippies, in the classic sense of the word, but the middle class, the college graduates, the baby-boomers who never thought they would see another Vietnam will have their voices heard. Should Rudy Giuliani get the nomination, expect the “9/11 Truth Movement” (who believe Giuliani helped orchestrate the attacks) to play a major role in the protests. Sure, their argument is false, even laughable, but many would have said the same of questioning John Kerry’s Vietnam service in 2004. Who could have imagined groups would show up at the Republican Convention wearing Purple Heart band-aids?
Hillary won’t promise a pull out of Iraq because she will not be able to pull out of Iraq. There is too much at stake – especially for the first woman president. If, God forbid, the Pol Pot-esque genocide the right has promised occurs upon pullout, Hillary will be crucified by the right and their allies in the media. Spinsters will go back to the first Clinton presidency and call hypocrisy, since Bill consistently bombed Iraq over his two terms.
She’s too cunning to pull out. She will promise the eventual drawdown of troops, possibly even flirting with the Biden-Gelb plan, which has already passed in the senate (and is the only legitimate plan for ending the war), but the key word will continue to be “eventual.” Just as president Bush learned from his father (who never learned from Nixon) that as an unpopular president, you need a war to be going on at the time of your re-election, Hillary will promise that “peace is at hand” in 2012, a week before her re-election, or, she’ll get a colleague, say “her Kissinger”, to say it, that way she won’t be responsible when the public learns it’s not.
Currently, Hillary is keeping the base of the Democratic party skeptical-but-happy with her continuing votes to cut off funding for the Iraq War because the stipulations don’t fit with her desires on the ground. But those votes don’t matter anyway. Conservative Democrats in swing states would never vote to cut off funds and there is not enough confidence to override Bush’s accusations that Democrats aren’t “supporting the troops”, though that phrase, much like the color-coded terror alerts, has lost all meaning.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who over the last four years has consistently said we need “six more months” in Iraq has finally let that argument go. Six more months won’t help in Iraq, and neither will six years. When critics have pointed to Iraq being America’s next Vietnam, war supporters have taken the Rambo view that our 15 years Southeast Asia wasn’t enough time. Bush has been using the same rationale for escalating Iraq as L.B.J. used throughout his final two years in office. Hillary, like Nixon, is dancing around the war issue. She will not be the second president to lose a war.
Hillary’s candidacy will turn Iraq into a bipartisan issue, letting the still-moist mouths of neo-conservatives water over what they have been hoping for all along: mid-east military bases, a greater oil supply, and more world dominance. Bush and his colleagues continue talking about his place in history, and how it will be a positive one. Perhaps leaving his blunder up to Hillary – in hopes the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton legacy in the history books will be remembered for solving the Iraq problem – is why he gets his eight hours of sleep in every night.