David Gergen responds to Bush's speech on his rewriting of conflicts that we've fought in and clearly understands our history a
little, much, incredibly, "fill in the blank"--- better than the President. We do keep records of past events. I figured I'd give him a heads up. And let's again ask President Bush why he didn't serve in Vietnam along with our co-President Cheney? Maybe they could have helped. Then again they smeared Kerry for actually fighting.
GERGEN: Well, he may well have stirred a hornet's nest among historians, because there are so many differences between this struggle and what we faced in past, and I think by just invoking Vietnam, something he has tried not to do. He's tried all along to say this is not Vietnam. By invoking Vietnam he raised the automatic question, well, if you've learned so much from history, Mr. President, how did you ever get us involved in another quagmire? Why didn't you learn up front about the perils of Vietnam and what we faced there?And Vietnam and Korea, of course, were not victories for America. Korea ended in a draw and Vietnam ended in a loss. So it's surprising to me he would go back to that to make -- and I think he's going to get a lot of criticism, or a lot of critiques, that will disagree with him and point out differences
Thanks to CNN for the transcript:
COLLINS: We have heard Iraq compared to Vietnam before. But just a few minutes ago it was President Bush making the comparison this time. He invoked Vietnam to argue against pulling out of Iraq.
David Gergen served as counselor to four presidents. He's joining us this morning from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
David, it's nice to see you again.
DAVID GERGEN, FMR. ADVISER TO 4 PRESIDENTS: Thank you.
COLLINS: If you were able to listen into the president, it was kind of an interesting speech, a history lesson, different conflicts that this country has been involved in. What's your take on his comparison of the Iraq War to Vietnam?
GERGEN: Well, he may well have stirred a hornet's nest among historians, because there are so many differences between this struggle and what we faced in past, and I think by just invoking Vietnam, something he has tried not to do. He's tried all along to say this is not Vietnam. By invoking Vietnam he raised the automatic question, well, if you've learned so much from history, Mr. President, how did you ever get us involved in another quagmire? Why didn't you learn up front about the perils of Vietnam and what we faced there?
And Vietnam and Korea, of course, were not victories for America. Korea ended in a draw and Vietnam ended in a loss. So it's surprising to me he would go back to that to make -- and I think he's going to get a lot of criticism, or a lot of critiques, that will disagree with him and point out differences.
But I think the larger point of the speech was that this president is continuing to hang very tough. This is not a man who's talking about compromises. This is not a man who's talking about a plan B. This is not a man who is talking about, you know, let's reconfigure our forces in Iraq the way our Iraq Study Group did. This is a man saying, I'm hanging tough, and, by the way, what you may have heard yesterday from Maliki is not my true position; I'm still with him. Despite not only what Democrats are saying, but despite what his own ambassador has said in the last 48 hours, Mr. Crocker, who has really distanced the United States from Maliki.
COLLINS: All right, well, certainly all of this coming out in light of the report that will be expected from General Petraeus and from Ambassador Crocker coming up in September, so no question there as to why we are seeing some of these speeches. I'm sure that there will be another one or two before that September report. Buy quickly, David, I want to get back to the Vietnam issue, because I think it's something that will be talked about further today, if not tomorrow, as well.
COLLINS: He did say exactly this -- we listened carefully -- he said the real problem was America's presence, and that if we would just withdraw then the killing would end. Three decades later, though, there is one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam, and that is the price of America's withdrawal paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms, like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields.
Is he not making a comparison not about why we got into the war, but about whether or not the United States should withdraw?
GERGEN: Yes, he is. And there are a couple of issues there. He's right, that initially when we pulled back in Vietnam there were massive killings. I think he's wrong to say that Cambodia only occurred because we pulled back. There are many who believed had we not have gone into Cambodia ourselves, this country might have been more stable.
But there are a couple of things about it. Everybody, including General Petraeus under his plan to let the surge diminish here in the spring, and the Iraq Study Group is to pull back off the streets, I think everybody understands that when we start doing that there are going to be a lot of killings in Iraq, too.
We're not going to stay there forever to prevent killings. When we start pulling back there is likely to be a bloodbath in Iraq, too.
But here's the other point, that if you look at Vietnam today, you have to say that Vietnam at the end, after 30 years, has actually become quite a driving country. It's a very strong economy.
So there are those who say, yes, when we pull back there were bloodbaths in the immediate aftermath, but after that the Vietnamese started putting their country together. Is that not what we want Iraq to do over the long term?
COLLINS: Yes, In fact, the president said the Iraq war will show an advance of freedom, just like that in Japan and Korea, if we're looking at the other Asian countries. Do you agree with that?
GERGEN: Well, I think that's right. But the other issue and why it's dangerous territory for him to go into Vietnam and the Vietnam analogy is reason we lost Vietnam in part was because we had no strategy. And the problem we've got now in Iraq, what is the strategy for victory? If the strategy for victory is let our troops give the Maliki government enough time to get everything solved, and the Maliki government is going nowhere, as everybody now admits, you know, what strategy are we facing? What strategy do we have to win in Iraq? It's not clear we have a winning strategy in Iraq. And that's what cost us Vietnam, and that's why we eventually withdrew under humiliating circumstances.
I do think that what the Democrats are coming around to and what many Republicans will support is some sort of gradual pullback from the cities in Iraq, but keep a significant American presence in Iraq. Not to pull a full withdrawal.
And the question becomes for the president, he talks black and white -- victory or withdrawal, Those are the two options. And Democrats and Republicans are saying, Mr. President, there is a third option here, and that is a partial pullback. Stay there, try to prevent a civil war, try to prevent al Qaeda from gaining too much ground. Is he willing to recognize that as a third option? Is he willing to bargain? today there was no indication that he as willing to do that.
COLLINS: The age-old point, I think, is even clear today. Every conflict is so vastly different, and every enemy different, too.
David Gergen, nice to talk to you.
GERGEN: Thank you so much. Take care.