Once You're in, You're in for the Duration
A lot of people never expected to hear Bush mention Iraq and Vietnam in the same sentence, but the comparison is apt. Whatever the reasons for invading in the first place, and the fudged approach to the aftermath, withdrawal now would spell disaster for the region and for the wider world. This is what the many voices who protest the war don't understand - a US withdrawal would simply make things worse than they already are.
The reason why Mr Bush's comparison was interesting as well as frank is that he put his finger on the most important question that now confronts American foreign-policymakers: beyond the question of whether it was right to invade Iraq, what are the likely consequences of getting out now? The disasters that followed America's withdrawal from Vietnam after the Paris peace accords of 1973 were accurately cited by Mr Bush. North Vietnam failed to keep its promises and, backed by China, swiftly over-ran the south. Millions were sent to “re-education” camps and around 1m people were so terrified that they fled the country in leaky boats. Communists took over Cambodia and Laos as well as Vietnam. In Cambodia, the Khmers Rouges established “Year Zero”, a barbaric programme of Maoist repression that left around 1.7m people dead (although it was the Vietnamese who eventually removed the murderous Cambodian regime in 1979). As Mr Bush might have said, but didn't, America's foes around the word were emboldened by its humiliation: four years after the fall of Saigon, the Russians invaded Afghanistan.
Mr Bush is right to give warning that terrible consequences may flow from an American withdrawal. Sectarian violence, which Mr Bush's “surge” of 30,000 additional troops into Baghdad and its environs has had some success in dampening, would surely worsen. In the absence of a political accord between Shias and Sunnis, a full-blown civil war would be a real possibility.