Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's like déjà vu all over again.

Joseph L. Galloway, who has reason to remember...
To put it bluntly, Afghanistan today has the smell of South Vietnam in early 1965, just as the U.S. began ramping up for a war that would last a decade and cost the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and as many as 2 million Vietnamese before it ended in our defeat.
Another cost was to the legacy of Lyndon Johnson. l continue to rank him as the greatest American president of my lifetime, which has now spanned a dozen presidencies, but despite his monumental achievements in civil rights, protection of public lands, consumer protection, health care, education and the eradication of poverty on which I base that ranking, his decision to escalate American involvement in Vietnam is the overshadowing consideration that makes mine a minority view, even - or perhaps especially - among Democrats and other liberals.

LBJ's loss of stature has had a corresponding cost for the causes and programs he championed as well. Retreat in areas where Johnson had advanced was made easier by the sense that because of a failed war, Johnson's was a failed presidency in other respects as well. That culminated in Bill Clinton's decision to order surrender in the War On Poverty more definitively than even Ronald Reagan was able to, a surrender that has been followed by, unsurprisingly, increased poverty in America.

My hopes for President Obama are as high as my regard for President Johnson. It's distressing that the perils they face should be so parallel. I hope that their decisions prove different.

The right way in Afghanistan is out.

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