Remember the good old days when you could take the family to Lebanon for a nice, leisurely vacation, free from the fear of violence? Me neither.

Now, the Americans who are there had better make like Courtney Love after spotting a cop in the rear-view mirror, because it’s getting ugly.

How ugly? Vietnam ugly.

There’s an op-ed in the LA Times that follows a tried-and-true line: When in doubt, compare it to Vietnam.

President Bush must order the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon to evacuate American personnel immediately. They are all potential hostages or casualties caught in a crossfire.Picture the scene in Saigon in April 1975 — a helicopter sits atop a building, and a long line of people waits to board. For the 25,000 Americans now in Lebanon, that terrifying image could be reality within days.

So basically if Bush doesn’t order people to evacuate Lebanon, any harm that may come to them will be, as the mantra du jour goes, “Bush’s fault.” Sorry, but, at this point, if you need to be told to leave Beirut, it can only be for the same reason that you willingly went there in the first place.

Sure, many of those who need to skedaddle are U.S. Embassy employees. This has always been a scratch-your-head topic for me. The U.S. having an embassy in Lebanon is kind of like putting a fire hydrant factory in a dog pound, but hey, I don’t get to make these decisions.

It seems that every aspect of this war — not just the Israel/Hezbollah conflict, but the whole “war on terror” — is scrutinized via constant Vietnam comparisons even by former Marines, such as the author of the aforementioned LA Times op-ed. Why? “Vietnam” constitutes failure. “Vietnam” is the “Gilligan” of all the war castaways on the desert island of U.S. history.

From the sound of things, we’re this close to getting Jane Fonda out of storage.

Iraq and Vietnam became synonymous almost as soon as the invasion began, and now that’s spilled over into American evacuation operations in Lebanon.

If the evacuation of U.S. citizens in Lebanon is successful, will it be compared to the evacuation of Dunkirk? The British press has made that comparison as it concerns the evac of their citizens from Lebanon, but it’ll still be “Vietnam” to the American press and even those who, perhaps even subconsciously, feel the need make the “failure” comparison.

Besides, how many people being evacuated from Saigon in 1975 got to leave on a cruise ship?

It must do a terrorist good to hear so many resignations of failure on the part of those they hate.

At some point in the future, the U.S. will win this war, and all those who incessantly compare everything to ”Vietnam” will have been proven wrong, and will have lost their battle to turn America into default losers. We won’t have seen so many people and politicians who failed since, well, Vietnam. Sorry.

Maybe somebody born before Gen X can help me answer this question. Before Vietnam, to what did we compare a military engagement we perceived to be failing? How lost would the American left be in conflicts such as those we face today if it weren’t for Vietnam, the synonym of the century for those predisposed to losing and giving up hope.

Besides, if people would stop comparing everything to Vietnam, then some of them would have more time to spend comparing Bush to Hitler.

One final note: for those Americans who have to leave Lebanon but will miss it, there’s always Detroit.


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