QUAGMIRE ALERT: Eric Alterman is making the Vietnam analogy quite explicitly.
The problem with Vietnam, however, was not that it was a bullying assault on a small, inoffensive country, as some “peace” protesters (who minded not at all that North Vietnam, with the support of the Soviets and the Chinese, was mounting an assault on a small inoffensive country) maintained. It was that we didn’t win. We didn’t win because we weren’t serious about winning, serious enough to depart from business as usual, serious enough to tell the country we were in a war, serious enough to do what it took to win.
We weren’t willing to do what it took to win because we feared (probably wrongly, but who knows?) that the Russians or the Chinese would intervene if it looked like we were going to win big, and they were possessed of huge armies and nuclear weapons.
So, the question raised by the Vietnam analogy here is: Are we serious about winning? And who, exactly, is going to intervene on a massive scale to stop us if we look like we’re going to win big?