There are key differences between the North Vietnamese and Vietcong assault on South Vietnam and the insurgency being mounted in Iraq. Differences which suggest we face a radically different outcome. In Vietnam the Communist forces were ideologically united, enjoyed broad popular support and were battling against a corrupt status quo with the promise of a radically different, and more hopeful, future.
In Iraq, by contrast, the insurgents are united only in their hatred of the West and dislike of democracy. The most implacable are remnants from Saddam Hussein’s most loyal cadres. They have been joined, in this fight, by other Sunnis who fear that the privileges their minority group once enjoyed will be lost in a future democratic Iraq. And their struggle has been augmented, for tactical reasons, by outside jihadis, from Syria, Jordan and across the Arab world, drawn by the heat of the crucible.
They lack any sort of political unity and offer no coherent programme of hope for Iraq’s people. While they might hanker for the restoration of Sunni minority rule, such a reactionary step could, by definition, never secure majority popular support.
In contrast to insurgents who are either nostalgic for Saddam’s reign or, in the case of the Islamists, dreaming fondly of the restoration of a medieval caliphate, a radically different and more hopeful future looks likely to be embraced by Iraq’s majority. In Iraq, unlike Vietnam, it is the Americans who are offering an escape from the corrupt status quo that prevails in the region. If democracy takes root, then Iraq has a chance to transcend the miseries of arbitrary and autocratic rule which, so sadly, imprison many other Arab peoples.
If the Iraqi elections due to be held in less than two weeks’ time are successful that will give the coalition something the Americans never enjoyed in Vietnam — a clear political victory. The insurgents will have been defeated in their principal aim, the denial of democracy.
….Following on, as it does, from the highly successful elections held in Afghanistan, the vote in Iraq will be one of the most significant events in the Middle East since, or even before, the Sixties. From the time of Nasser the Arab peoples have been sold a succession of strongmen as the answer to their plight. And they have seen their region suffer as a result. Now, at last, they have the chance to become proper masters of their own destiny. The next two weeks will be tough. But Iraqis can now glimpse, just over the horizon, an event that could transform their outlook. And help them to escape from the black hole of mass graves and devastated lives that Saddam dug for them.