The Laird Lesson:

Former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird has a few words—nearly 8,500 of them in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs—to say about invoking the specter of the Vietnam War. For one thing, the Nixon Administration official says the recounting of events that transpired has not been completely straightforward. For Laird, it is the misinformation about Vietnam that has made America squeamish about taking on causes—even ones that are just. Why does he speak now after a silence of 30 years? Laird’s inclination, he says, was not to be an “old guard” meddler. But, now, he has taken offense at the “renewed vilification of our role in Vietnam.” The one-time Congressman says that we had not lost the Vietnam War when we withdrew in 1973; we lost when Congress pulled the plug on funding for South Vietnam. Laird maintains that the same thing could happen again if the “cut and run” crowd hold sway over Iraq. Iraq, like South Vietnam, will be able to defend itself, if given enough outside resources, he says. And, Laird reminds us, “Democracies are simply better for the planet.”