Cohen describes a journey he took with John McCain, Hero, to Vietnam, where he visited the Cu Chi tunnels:
Those tunnels explained to me why the United States lost the Vietnam War. We were fighting people who cared deeply enough about their cause to live underground, to live in ways that no American could even imagine. The Vietnamese communists would do for their cause what no American would do for ours. They won because they believed. We lost because we didn't. We didn't have to.
This strikes me as an extraordinarily banal observation, made by an idiot, signifying he knows almost nothing. Cohen clearly does not read, like, books. A bit of Yeats might have been good for him, maybe. Or if that's too highbrow, maybe he could have watched Godfather II:
Michael: I saw a strange thing today. Some rebels were being arrested. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Now, soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren't.
Hyman Roth: What does that tell you?
Michael: It means they could win.
As far as epiphanies go, Cohen could have gotten a Netflix subscription and saved himself airfare. More. Given his further blathering about what his time in the Hobbit-holes taught him about Iraq, some extra time with the bong in front of the tube might have saved all of us a spot of bother:
I keep those tunnels in mind when thinking about Iraq. Just as I could not imagine living in one of them, I could not imagine being a suicide bomber or a member of a death squad -- or killing someone because he was a Shiite or a Sunni. As there was in Vietnam, there is a piece of Iraq -- its culture, it religions, its history -- that we do not understand. This war has lasted longer than we expected not just because we were inept or understaffed or fired the Baathists or discharged the army -- but because we don't understand the country. For instance, an Iraqi government that reacts lethargically to American proposals moved with surprising alacrity to hang Saddam Hussein. Even late in the game, we didn't see it coming.
Similarly, we did not notice that in all the hoopla just before Hussein's statue in Baghdad's Firdaus Square came down in 2003, the crowd went silent after an American flag was draped over it. The crowd came to life only when the Iraqi flag replaced it. Had we noticed that, we might have learned something about Iraqi nationalism and the fleeting gratitude awarded to liberators. One minute you're a liberator, the next an occupier.
I have some questions. When politicians and commentators detail all that the Bush administration did wrong, I wonder whether any of it really matters. Would things have turned out differently if we had done everything right? Was Iraq so "broken" we never could have fixed it? Was Hussein's despotism an avoidable tragedy, or was it, instead, a tragic necessity? I wonder about all these things. I tend to think now we never could have made it work.
Now, of course, everyone looks like an idiot. Bremer was an idiot and Garner was an idiot and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cheney and all the generals, with the exception of Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who called for lots and lots of troops and was sidelined. But these men are not really idiots. They were merely wrong, sometimes on account of arrogance, but they were doing what they thought was the right thing. They simply didn't know what they didn't know. They didn't know a damned thing about Iraq.
Well, *I* knew they didn't know anything about Iraq. Hell, I don't think they knew all that much about the United States, either. I thought they were crazy.
The real question is not why things went wrong, but why on earth anyone thought things would ever go right. Joke: Cohen walks out into the street wearing a paper bag over his head. He gets run over by a bus. When he wakes up in the hospital a month later, he says, "who could ever have seen it coming!" And everyone laughs as the sitcom ends and the credits roll.
Were these people all high, or something? Perhaps not high enough?
(Below: Colonel Cohen comes to an important realization -- "I ate a bug")