David Sanger's Own Personal Vietnam

Reporter David Sanger gets an entire "Diplomatic Memo" out of one of his standard tropes, comparing the Iraq War to Vietnam, in Friday's "On to Vietnam, Bush Hears Echoes of 1968 in Iraq 2006."

He leads off with Vietnam: "During the presidential campaign in 2000, George W. Bush, who served out the Vietnam War in the Texas Air National Guard, was asked whether he ever considered volunteering to fight when he graduated from Yale in 1968."

Some Sanger snideness: "Thirty-eight years later, at age 60, Mr. Bush finally arrived in Vietnam Friday morning....In private, some White House officials concede it is spectacularly poor timing. Just as Lyndon B. Johnson did in 1968, Mr. Bush has ousted his longtime defense secretary and nominated a realist with 'fresh eyes' to replace him. Just like President Johnson in 1968, he is conducting a broad rethinking of strategy, and is hearing options he does not like.

"His aides argue that the analogies between these wars are mostly false. The comparisons will nonetheless be the unavoidable subtext of Mr. Bush's every move as he travels in Hanoi and then stops in the city that in his youth was known as Saigon, and that became the scene of an American military debacle. And he will have to convince his allies, ordinary Americans, and perhaps himself, that Iraq will end differently."

They'll certainly be "unavoidable" if Sanger has anything to say about it.

"If Mr. Bush is privately thinking about the war he missed, the White House is not letting on. Asked aboard Air Force One about 'the lessons of the war,' Tony Snow, the president's press secretary, said, 'What's interesting is that the Vietnamese are not particularly interested in that.' He added: 'This is not going to be a look back at Vietnam. It really is going to be a looking forward to areas of cooperation and shared concern.'"

Sanger does admit some differences between Iraq and Vietnam, but don't worry, Bush still lied us into Iraq: "The argument that Vietnam is very different gets some backing from Stanley Karnow, the Vietnam historian. 'There are differences and similarities, of course' he said. 'We got lied into both wars.'

"But, he added: 'The easy summation is that Vietnam began as a guerrilla war and escalated into an orthodox war - by the end we were fighting in big units. Iraq starts as a conventional war, and has degenerated into a guerrilla war. It has gone in an opposite direction. And it's much more difficult to deal with.'"