NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Although many commentators have suggested parallels between the Vietnam War and President George W. Bush‘s anticipated decision to increase the military presence in Iraq, in truth Bush‘s situation is without a clear precedent from that earlier conflict, according to Thomas Alan Schwartz, professor of history at Vanderbilt.
“When President Lyndon Johnson decided to escalate the Vietnam War in July 1965, he enjoyed an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress as well as the support of more than two-thirds of the American people,” said Schwartz, author of Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam. “When Johnson confronted the Tet offensive in 1968, he was still a possible candidate for re-election, something which Bush does not face.”
Some observers have suggested that Bush‘s decision parallels Richard Nixon‘s unpopular decision to send American forces into Cambodia in April 1970. However, in that era of a conscript army, Nixon faced a powerful public antiwar movement, which could turn thousands of Americans out on the streets and shut down hundreds of college campuses.
“President Bush faces a unique dilemma of his own making – how to ‘accomplish the mission‘ in the war that will define his legacy, but which is now opposed by many in Congress and the majority of the public,” Schwartz said. “Yet that opposition itself can offer few viable alternatives and is deeply reluctant to cut off support for the troops.”
Media contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS