To neutralize the chickenhawks in Congress who are pushing for ill-advised military actions in Libya without any knowledge of the military realities of those actions, President Obama should take a lesson from President Eisenhower in 1954. Eisenhower was undeniably the foremost military man in the world, and he was being pushed by the chickenhawks to send U.S. troops to Vietnam to relieve the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu, where the French occupiers were being booted out after 94 years of colonial rule.
Knowing that the jungles of Vietnam would “swallow up our divisions,” Eisenhower said that he would send U.S. troops to Vietnam to relieve Dien Bien Phu, but only if we had the concurrence of our allies, and a joint resolution of both houses of Congress.
The chickenhawks in Congress were great noisemakers, but at showdown time they were completely unwilling to vote to send troops to Vietnam. And our allies were wise enough to realize that a U.S. quagmire would be no better than the French quagmire. History took its course and the French troops were defeated at Dien Bien Phu and the U.S. postponed a bad decision for another nine years. The decision not to intervene in Vietnam in 1954 was the right one, and the decision to go to Vietnam in 1963 does not look any smarter now than it did then.