Wednesday, December 29, 2004

If Iraq were like Vietnam, we’d know what to do

Kevin Drum while making a ref to a Slate mag story by Jack Shafer about the comparsion of casualties in Iraq to those in Vietnam concludes with the thought on whether Iraq is like Vietnam. It’s not and it is.

How is Vietnam different from Iraq? Obviously, Vietnam was jungle and rice patties while Iraq is desert, thus battle tactics are different. (As noted in the Slate article, urban fighting is the same, the struggle for Hue and Fallujah were very similar.) The American army in Vietnam was conscripted while the one in Iraq is all volunteer. During the Vietnamese War, the military reserves and National Guard was a way to honorably dodge the draft. In this war the Army Reserves and National Guard is doing what it had historically done: augment the standing army and the first to fight. (“First” meaning others will follow.)

Eerie Similarities

The Vietnam War was a struggle against falling dominos in the greater war against Communism. The Domino Theory said we could not let any country go communist or others would fall. Thus, we had to take the stand in Vietnam just as we did in Korea, Greece, and Berlin. We could not be soft on Communism just as we can not be soft on terrorism. We don’t have a name for those soft on terrorism, yet, but if you were soft on Communism, you were referred to as being “pink” or a “fellow-traveler”.

Just as the Red Scare was used to justify restrictive and unconstitutional actions, so to the fear of another terrorist attack is used to justify the loss of freedom and privacy. And this is not just governmental reaction, we currently have a society in which political correctness has taken on new meaning. Liberalism is viewed with greater disdain they ever before and that ugly vindictiveness of the right with its easily triggered paranoia is growing.

But Vietnam is history and we always know what we should have done looking back. Iraq will offer problems that have no relation to those in Vietnam. You will not know you have made a mistake until it is too late to take it back. One day the Neocons my find themselves with the Iraq War as Lyndon Johnson did with Vietnam War: “I feel like a hitchhiker on the Texas plains during a hailstorm, no place to run, no place to hide.”

By the way, Red Word / Blue Word have been updated with new entries.
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