A while back I saw the following Pat Oliphant cartoon in a Newsweek magazine while I was waiting for a flat tire to be fixed. The political cartoon in question was printed December 11th, 2006.

Oliphant Cartoon

And now my gripes with this cartoon. Oliphant shows the two soldiers as being pretty ignorant about past military history. The military spends much time reviewing past wars and campaigns. A brand-new recruit might be ignorant of military history, but that reflects more on our public education system than it does military training. Ask the next Marine you meet to name the circumstances around the first deployment of the Marines overseas, and you’ll get an earful about the Barbary Wars. The common liberal belief that our military is filled with morons is far from the truth.

I am also annoyed by Oliphant’s take on the Vietnam War. Oliphant has one of the soldiers say we lost Vietnam disastrously, and the other says we should have just “declared victory and gone home.” This is a dig at President Bush standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln and telling the sailors, “Mission accomplished!” The U.S. didn’t lose the Vietnam War from a military standpoint, nor did it lose because of Presidential ego, as Oliphant states. Instead, Vietnam was lost “disastrously” when Congress chose to yank the funding out from under the troops. Guess what Congress intends to do now to the soldiers in Iraq. Talk about being doomed to repeat history.

And since we’re on the subject of not learning from history, the Vietnam-era military was hamstrung by Congress and by timid commanders who wouldn’t allow the military to do what it does best: kill people and break things. My father served in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot during Vietnam. He has told me about some of the rules of engagement in that war that hampered the pilots from performing to their fullest. They were not allowed to blow up any enemy planes on the ground; the planes needed to be in the air first before our pilots could shoot them down. In a misguided attempt to lessen civilian casualties, an intended target area would be notified by leaflet drops about an upcoming American mission. This gave the North Vietnamese plenty of warning, so they could bring in anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missile launchers to mangle and destroy American pilots.

But historical realities don’t really matter to cartoonists like Oliphant. Any idea, however misguided, is a good excuse to denigrate President Bush.