IAccording to Reuters, “Vice President Dick Cheney said on Wednesday the United States wants to finish its mission in Iraq and ‘return with honor.’ ”

I was 7 years old in 1974 when Nixon resigned, and I am not a student of politics in particular, but even I can hear the echoes in that. You’d think a man old enough and in politics long enough to have actually worked in the Nixon administration would be better able to avoid channelling Nixon quite so obviously.

I don’t expect my politicians to be geniuses, but it would be nice if they showed a little knowledge of the history they themselves are a part of. Also, I’d appreciate a learning curve a bit steeper than that of a dead slug.

Of course, it’s possible that my basic postulates are wrong, because Cheney appears not to be a stupid man. I generally try to operate on the basic of Hanlon’s Razor, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” If, on the other hand, I assume that the obvious echoes of Vietnam in our current military strategy (and in Cheney’s quote above) were intended, then I’m a little puzzled. I can think of a couple of things the Vietnam War did successfully. The inconclusive way we fought let us posture militarily without getting into a war with China that would have had no winners as fullbore warfare there might have done. (If you do not think the Vietnam war was a mistake, that last sentence becomes “let us honor our alliances without getting into …” etc.) I don’t think that applies here, though.

The other thing the Vietnam War did very effectively was to polarize the US populace more thoroughly than anything since the New Deal, possibly since the Civil War. I suppose it’s possible that’s what they want to do with this war; there’s money and power to be accumulated in times of dissension. Also to be lost, so it’s a risky game at best. I would prefer to believe that’s not the goal here; there are ways to make money that are more effective and less bloody. It’s a bit sad when you find yourself hoping the ones at the highest levels of government are only (“only”) stupid.