Saturday, April 30, 2005

Iraq is not Vietnam. Vietnam is not Iraq.

On the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of Saigon, we have a chance to look back and question what Vietnam meant. As the post-war generation moves into their 30s, more-and-more of our public officials, intellectuals and artists will have no direct knowledge of this war that so scarred America. What lessons should Vietnam leave those that were not there?

In today’s New York Post, Thomas H. Lipscomb says Vietnam was not a defeat. The fact that America showed it was willing to confront communism in Asia stopped the so-called “domino-effect” from occurring. We may not have saved Vietnam, but our presence there saved most of Asia.

To me, Lipscomb’s theory seems just one more piece in a disturbing trend I’ve noticed—call it the Vietnam-was-a-good war trend. But how could a war that nearly destroyed the home front and that ended in an unconditional withdrawal be considered “good?”

This desire to recast Vietnam is almost certainly more a symptom of the Iraq War than it is of any honest reconsideration. The logic: if Vietnam was good or, as some have claimed, our withdrawal was bad, then clearly we are right to stay in Iraq.

But this logic is flawed. Both the forces on the left and right have tried to make our current war relate to Vietnam. But Iraq is not Bush’s Vietnam as Senator Edward Kennedy has claimed. Nor, as Lipscomb says, does the experience of Vietnam justify Iraq.

Iraq is not Vietnam. The conflicts, goals and conditions are very dissimilar. The home front is generally united. The casualties far fewer. Vietnam, like all wars, should inform our modern conflicts, but it should not supersede all other analysis.

Vietnam was a bad war. And we should remember that. We shouldn’t try to rewrite history for the benefit of modern argument. But nor should we assume Iraq is also bad, just because the last major war ended so poorly. Too much of the Iraq War—indeed too much of the last election, of our national debate in general—too much of modern dialogue relies on Vietnam as the starting point and the touchstone for debate.

If we are to end the divisiveness in this country, if we are to halt the shouting and demonization, the post-Vietnam generation must not fall into the trap of refighting that aging battle. It’s been thirty years. How much longer before we can put the ghosts behind us?


At 6:35 PM, Blogger Foucault's buddy said...

Vietnam was a bad war because 3million Vietnamese died.

(oh, and 58,000 Yanks)

Plus ca change

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Iraq is not Vietnam. Vietnam is not Iraq." Don't be so sure

Parallel No.1 - In Vietnam and Iraq successive American administrations ignored the advice of its most knowledgeable intelligence experts.

Parallel No.2 - The Pentagon in the 1960s thought overwhelming firepower, its modern equipment, mobility, and airpower would win the day. Same with Iraq

Parallel No.3 - During Vietnam the public was fed lies which ultimately backfired. People eventually ceased to believe anything Washington told them. Same with Iraq and WMD and other various lies. Do you believe anything Washington is telling you now about Iraq?

Parallel No.4 - Wars are political and there are limits to military power. In Vietnam politicians ignored its experts whenever they frequently reminded them of this. Same with Iraq

Parallel No.5 - - With Vietnam the importance of the credibility of American military power and the willingness to use it and win no matter how long it took became their primary concern. This is where we are at today in Iraq.

The real lessons of Vietnam have yet to be learned by Bush and the Iraq war crowd because they didn't serve. Vietnam proved that the American public has limited patience. Bush and friends will now learn this lesson at our expense

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Sean said...

my problem is with the leap in logic that you make by assuming, and inputing into Lipscomb's words meanings he does not state. He never mentions Iraq.
This idea that Vietnam was not a complete failure is not a "new" trend. It is completely unrelated to justifying Vietnam. It is more a reaction to the anti-war left's presenting Vietnam as the model of every modern war. An attempt at injecting some historical views into a bad situation.
you reach way too far in your analogy. to the point of being dishonest!

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Sean said...

the anonymous poster is a perfect example of the anti war left. They frame every war by using Vietnam and trying to draw conclusions based on weak analysis. He makes so many false statements, its almost comical, if he wasnt serious. Notice he does not state any real facts about Vietnam, and only speculation regarding the Iraq war. LOL. It is the left, not the right who is stuck on Vietnam.
Republicans do not use Vietnam to justify Iraq. Republicans have gotten beyond Vietnam years ago, especially after Gulf War 1. which the left called Vietnam also, when we were going in.

At 10:23 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

The last line of Lipscomb's piece is:

"The Middle East and the United States should be so lucky as to have Iraq turn out to be "another Vietnam."

If that's not using Vietnam to justify Iraq, I don't know what is.

At 2:56 AM, Blogger Sean said...

you want to create a story so you find what you want to find.
That in no way shape or form tries to justify Iraq based on Vietnam. It is a response to how the left constantly uses Vietnam regarding Iraq, and doesnt tell the entire story about Iraq.
Again, you are so stuck on trying to CREATE balance, and pretending to be in the "middle" that your emphasis has the effect of being a lie. Show me how Rep are using Vietnam to justify Iraq. If this ONE article is all you have, then iut is still a false comparison to the huge amount of Dems that use Vietnam against Iraq. You portray them as equal forces that oppose each other, from extreme sides. Completely false, based only on you reading into ONE article. And ignoring the thousands of comments from Dems.

At 2:58 AM, Blogger Sean said...

show me the equivalent of Sen. kennedy on the Rep using Vietnam as justification, or groups as prominent as
You are pretending the scale is even, when it is not. You are saying that both the accusations and the defense or response to the accusations are equal, when they are not. That is intellectual dishonesty.

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is the left, not the right who is stuck on Vietnam." Yeah sure. but why does david hackworth say this in an interview. It is a reference to the political nature of war. Oh wait. I get it. hackworth is a leftist commie in right wing drag. ok that explains it.

"Do you see any similarities to the U.S. engagement in Vietnam?

"The mistake in Vietnam was we failed to understand the nature of the war and we failed to understand our enemy. In Vietnam we were fighting World War II. Up to now in Iraq we have been fighting Desert Storm with tank brigade attacks. The tanks move into a village, swoop down, the tank gunner sees a silhouette atop a house, aims, fires, kills and it turns out to be a 12-year-old boy. Now, the father of that boy said, "We will kill 10 Americans for this." This is exactly what happened in Vietnam; a village was friendly, then some pilot turns around and blows away the village, the village goes from pro-Saigon to pro-Hanoi. "

For those who don't understand the nature of the iraq war hackworth says this:

"How do you see the combat situation evolving in Iraq?

"There is no way the G [guerrilla] is going to win; he knows that, but his object is to make us bleed. To nickel and dime us. This is Phase 1. But what he is always looking for is the big hit -- a Beirut [-style car-bomb attack] with 242 casualties, something that gets the headlines! The Americans have their head up their ass all the time. All the advantages are with the G; he will be watching. He is like an audience in a darkened theater and the U.S. troops are the actors on stage all lit up, so the G can see everything on stage, when they are asleep or when his weapons are dirty. The actor can't see shit in the audience."

The rest is here for context:


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