Monday, September 26, 2005

Iraq and Vietnam, Parallel Universe

Just how alike are Iraq and Vietnam? The analogy seems to popping up all over the MSM and blogosphere. For some of us, it has always been there since Vietnam has become something of a touchstone against which all foreign policy is tested. And so, I began thinking how are they alike, how are they different, and how could Iraq become more like or different from Vietnam.

How Iraq and Vietnam are alike:

1. Both began with bipartisan support.
2. Both were a failure in perceiving the eventual cost of getting involved.
3. Both lasted longer than we thought they should.
4. In both, the killing of noncombatants occurred.
5. In both, America's announced enemy found sanctuary in neighboring countries.
6. In both, civilized warm-hearted individuals became cold-blooded killers.
7. Both had atrocities, but that is the nature of all wars.
8. Lyndon Johnson and George Bush were both more interested in domestic policy at the start of their presidency.
9. In both, life goes on pretty much normal for those not involved or related to someone involved in the conflict.
10. In both, the U.S. military won all major battles

How Iraq and Vietnam are different:

1. We went into Vietnam as an aged and tested policy to stop a communist domino from following for fear it would start the dreaded Domino Effect. We went into Iraq to initiate our own Domino Effect.
2. We fought Vietnam with the regular military augmented by draftees. We are fighting Iraq with the regular military augmented by reservists and guardsmen.
3. Young men joined the reserves and guard to avoid going to Vietnam. Young men and women avoid going to Iraq by choosing not to volunteer.
4. Between the second and third year of our involvement in Vietnam, little protest or opposition occurred. Protests against the Iraq war are making the evening news and front pages of daily newspapers.
5. Returning Vietnam veterans had the old GI Bill to help ease the transition back to civilian life. Returning Iraq veterans have some assistance but nothing like the good old GI Bill.
6. People serving in Iraq can communicate almost instantaneously with people back in the U.S. There were major bases in Vietnam where someone could call home after waiting in line for access to a telephone – there were never enough during Christmas.
7. Vietnam had more of the homogenous population that Wolfowitz spoke of in regards to Iraq prior to the invasion. In Iraq, many Sunnis and Shiites hate each other more than they hate American.
8. The number of Americans being held prisoners in Iraq has not grown to the significant numbers it did in Vietnam.
9. Iraq is not divided into two nations as Vietnam was between north and south.
10. The Iraq War must last through more than one presidential administration to be more like Vietnam.
11. Forces friendly to the North Vietnamese never attack the U.S. on a domestic front. Al Qaeda has made significant attacks in the U.S. and is present in Iraq.
12. After we left Vietnam, a fundamental shift or realignment of forces in southeast Asia did not occur. Even before we leave Iraq, by giving the Shiite majority a significant voice in running the government, we may have changed the balance of power in the Middle East among Islamic factions that will have a greater consequence than the removal of Saddam or the attempted introduction of democracy.

How Iraq could become more like or different from Vietnam:

1. We will eventually have to exit Iraq from the roof of our last stronghold. We will retain a presents in Iraq after the government attains true sovereignty.
2. The government that takes over after we leave will become the least friendly to us in the area. Iraq will remain friendly with us.
3. If we kill Osama bin Laden or hear that he died, Iraq holds a day of mourning for him. South Vietnam did when Ho Chi Minh died. They will be different if bin Laden’s death is celebrated in the whole of the Middle East even more than in the U.S.
4. Lyndon Johnson tried to wage war on poverty and Vietnam leading to double-digit inflation. George Bush cut taxes while fighting a significant war, if that does not lead to double-digit inflation by the end of this decade, Vietnam and Iraq will be different.
5. The Democratic Party became undone during the 1968 presidential election. We will have to wait until 2008 to see similarities and differences. The 2006 midterm election may portend the presidential biggie.
6. The Tet Offensive. A major uprising of the Viet Cong which lead ultimately to their almost complete annihilation. A major victory for the U.S. military which was viewed as a major political loss at home. Will there be a major attack by the Iraqi insurgents which will in turn become a major victory for the U.S. military in which all important insurgency leaders and centers will be destroyed but will be a major political loss for America’s image which the administration cannot recover? Stay tuned.
7. How well insurgents and opponents to the Americans and current government in Iraq can use neighboring countries to Iraq as a hiding and staging area will determine how alike Vietnam and Iraq are.
8. While the communist finally took over all of Vietnam, the free world won the greater Cold War. Iraq's outcome and consequence with the War on Terror is yet to be determined
9. To be like Vietnam, Iraq can have no precedent on which to use to help make future decisions. Ultimately to truly be like Vietnam, Iraq can be no more like Vietnam than Vietnam was like Korea.

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9/26/2005 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Point number 9 in "how they are alike" is actually wrong. The Tet Offensive was a conventional, military battle between regular armies, the NVA versus the US Army plus SVRA. We got our butts kicked. Almost everyone gets this wrong, it's not the story we remember. Google "Tet Offensive" to check me out.

9/28/2005 11:21 AM  
Blogger scout29c said...

No, Googleing the Tet Offensive is too much a trip down memory lane. Tet was initially a military victory for the forces of the communist. I agree Americans got their “butts kicked”, but in any operation, you must include the counter attack. The “butt kicked” U.S. forces consolidated in strongholds and fought back. Eventually they followed the Viet Cong back into their hideouts and wiped them out. One of the ironies of Vietnam is in Tet: You win the battle but lose the war. The success of this counter attack and the idea that the Tet Offensive was actually a military victory for the U.S. can be seen when the fall of South Vietnam eventually occurred. There was no uprising in the South. Forces invaded from North Vietnam. South Vietnam asked for the assistance we had promised, but Watergate had occurred, and President Ford did not have the political power to provide much, if any.

10/02/2005 9:51 AM  
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