All things TOEFL iBT

Quick Reading exercise

Read the text Fearing a bloody exit, from the Economist, August 24 th, 2007 with adaptations.

GEORGE BUSH elicited predictable howls of outrage this week when he drew parallels between the catastrophes in Indochina (re-education camps, boat people and the killing fields) that followed America’s withdrawal from Vietnam after 1973 and what might happen in Iraq if American troops were abruptly pulled out—something that he has promised will not happen on his watch, but which all of the Democratic presidential contenders and the congressional leadership are committed to bring about.

John Kerry, who served with the navy in Vietnam while Mr Bush served with the Air National Guard in Texas, and who was defeated by Mr Bush in 2004, called the comparison irresponsible and ignorant. In fact, it was rather brave and rather interesting.

It was brave because supporters of theIraqwar (those who are left) generally try to resist any comparison toVietnam. The comparison is often made by Democrats, who seeIraqas exactly the sort of quagmire forAmericathat destroyed the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. By adopting the comparison himself, Mr Bush was implicitly shouldering the analogy, as well he might. A quagmire is something dangerous which is extremely difficult to get out of.

Of course, theVietnamquagmire was far more deadly thanIraq’s has so far proved. It consumed 58,000 American lives, versus some 3,700 lost inIraqto date.America’s involvement inVietnamlasted 12 years, from the first substantial commitment of troops in 1963 by President Kennedy to the ignominious flight from Saigon in 1975: theIraqwar has lasted only four years so far. Military spending reached almost 10% GDP at the end of the 1960s, compared with some 4% now. And the cost in Iraqi lives, while hideous, is dwarfed by the killings inflicted inVietnamby presidents Johnson and Nixon. But all that said,Iraqplainly has quagmire-like qualities.

The reason why Mr Bush’s comparison was interesting as well as frank is that he put his finger on the most important question that now confronts American foreign-policymakers: beyond the question of whether it was right to invadeIraq, what are the likely consequences of getting out now? The disasters that followedAmerica’s withdrawal from Vietnam after theParispeace accords of 1973 were accurately cited by Mr Bush.North Vietnam failed to keep its promises and, backed byChina, swiftly over-ran the south. Millions were sent to “re-education” camps and around 1m people were so terrified that they fled the country in leaky boats. Communists took over Cambodia and Laos as well asVietnam. InCambodia, the Khmers Rouges established “Year Zero”, a barbaric programme of Maoist repression that left around 1.7m people dead (although it was the Vietnamese who eventually removed the murderous Cambodian regime in 1979). As Mr Bush might have said, but didn’t,America’s foes around the word were emboldened by its humiliation: four years after the fall of Saigon, the Russians invadedAfghanistan.

Mr Bush is right to give warning that terrible consequences may flow from an American withdrawal. Sectarian violence, which Mr Bush’s “surge” of 30,000 additional troops intoBaghdadand its environs has had some success in dampening, would surely worsen. In the absence of a political accord between Shias and Sunnis, a full-blown civil war would be a real possibility.

What, though, is the alternative? Mr Bush seems to be suggesting that America should not have left Vietnam: that a decade of losses there should have been followed by an indefinite continuation of involvement—in the absence, as in Iraq, of strong and reliable government in the host country, in the absence of reconciliation between the warring parties, and in the obvious presence of outside parties (China in Vietnam, Iran in Iraq) bent on meddling. If that is really what Mr Bush is proposing forIraq, he will need to be ready for the mother of all political battles. Just ask the shade of Richard Nixon.

Say whether the sentences below are correct or incorrect, according to the text:

a)The author shuns president Bush’s comparison between Iraq and Vietnam.

b)The comparison made between Iraq and Vietnam has been coined by the Republicans.

c)Bush believesAmericahas more to lose than to gain by pulling out Iraq.

Judge these sentences correct or incorrect, based on syntactic and semantic factors in context.

a) The word “watch” (paragraph 1) can be replaced by “mandate” without infringing any collocation rules.

b)The verb form bring in the sentence “…congressional leadership are committed to bring about” is appropriate since the verb is preceded by the preposition ‘to’.

c)”Whereas” can be used instead of “while” (paragraph 4) without changing the meaning.

Mark these sentences correct or incorrect based on lexical and semantic factors in context.

a) The word “quagmire” (paragraph 3) is the same in meaning as morass, quandary.

b) “Dwarfed”(paragraph 4) can be substituted by “shortened”.

c) The word “howl” (paragraph 1) is synonymous of all these words except for the word ‘mutter’: cater-wauling, bawling, ululation.

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