Ford Forgets the Lessons of Vietnam

Today is the 31st anniversary of former President Gerald Ford’s announcement that he would end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict. Speaking to a group assembled at Tulane University, Ford said:

Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned. “¦ Some tend to feel that if we do not succeed in everything everywhere, then we have succeeded in nothing anywhere. I reject categorically such polarized thinking. We can and we should help others to help themselves. But the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, rests in their own hands, not in ours. [Ford speech, 4/23/75]

On Friday, Ford issued a statement praising Rumsfeld and Bush for staying the course in Iraq:

When America’s security remains under threat and terrorists plot to attack us at home, our country is fortunate that we have a Secretary and a Commander-in-chief in President Bush with the character and steadiness to hold firm to the right course. [Ford statement, 4/21/06]


Vietnam was a conflict that could not be resolved by military force. Rep. John Murtha makes the case that the same is true for Iraq: “Our military has accomplished its mission in Iraq…and it is time to bring our troops home.” The administration now claims to have 242,000 trained Iraqi forces, and yet there has been no significant drawdown of U.S. troops.

Instead of defending Rusmfeld, Ford could best serve Bush by reminding him of the lessons of Vietnam.