Bill Moyers isn’t happy in retirement. He admits he has no “retirement skills”, such as playing golf or bridge. So instead he “works” by speaking to President Obama about the dangers of Afghanistan turning into a quagmire. After all, Moyers witnessed firsthand how LBJ turned Vietnam into a quagmire. Here’s what he said at the beginning of his television special:
“Our country wonders this weekend what is on President Obama’s mind,” Moyers began, at the opening of a remarkable hour of television (click here for the transcript). “He is apparently about to bring months of deliberation to a close and answer General Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. When he finally announces how many, why, and at what cost, he will most likely have defined his presidency, for the consequences will be far-reaching and unpredictable. As I read and listen and wait with all of you for answers, I have been thinking about the mind of another president, Lyndon B. Johnson.”
I find this typical of the baby-boomer mindset. They were defined by the Vietnam War, and it was then the Baby Boomer journalist discovered that if they control information, they can influence public opinion and ultimately, policy. They follow the example of Cronkite and his erroneous declaration that the Tet Offensive was a major defeat to the United States. (In actuality, the Tet Offensive was a military failure, as the Viet Cong could not secure any objective they captured. But the propaganda value they secured in the American News Media gave them a public relations victory.)
Moyers is now comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam, and he warns Barack Obama that Afghanistan can easily turn into another Vietnam. Of course, any war can “turn into another Vietnam” if it’s not run correctly. The US military in 1967 had been operating under the assumption that their enemies would fight in a conventional fashion, like the Chinese armies in Korea or the Axis armies in WWII. Of course, conventional strategies were a mistake, and our military has spent much time developing new strategies to prevent a quagmire as seen in Vietnam.
Gen. Petraeus’ COIN strategy in Iraq seems to have worked very well. US casualties are very low, and the Iraqi military seems to have a handle on insurgents. Nobody in the media talks about Iraq any more because it’s widely considered a success.
And this brings us back to Bill Moyers, who thinks Afghanistan will be a “quagmire”. In an interview in April of 2007, Moyers said the same thing– but about Iraq:
And this was happening all over again. George W. Bush, in denial—I think in denial—has been making many of the same mistakes that led us into Vietnam. And Iraq has become a quagmire like Vietnam, because, as I said earlier, you can’t keep asking young men and women to die for a lie, because that’s not the way you win the support of the nation. And when Harry Reid said the war is not winnable, I thought of Vietnam. No matter how much we said or the government said—I had left in early ‘67—that there was hope around the corner, the casualty count, both here and in Vietnam, was undermining the case. And that’s what’s happening in Iraq now.
Evidently Moyers can’t analyze beyond the experiences that shaped him. He claimed Iraq to be a quagmire. However, now that it’s not, he’s changed his meme from Iraq to Afghanistan. So long as he’s in the public spotlight, Moyers is going to claim any military action is going to be like the quagmire of Vietnam. He needs to realize that the world has evolved, unlike his mindset.
The end of this program is especially interesting, where he warns Obama to not make the same mistakes LBJ did. His final lines are especially ironic.
And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.
We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.
Well, Bill, we will never know what happened in 2007 if Bush had not committed to the Surge. We know what happened because he did. I just wish you remembered what happened 2 years ago, Mr. Moyers.