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Lessons Why Both Vietnam And Iraq Failed

There are important similar parallels in the study of why both Vietnam and Iraq have been failures that cannot be ignored. Both cases should serve as examples for decades for historians and military experts as important examples of just the type of situation that the U.S. cannot successfully get involved in and hope for a positive outcome.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, poor border security allowed a steady flow of fresh fighters as well arms to local radicals to continue conflict and violence against both Americans and against others living in both lands. In Iraq, a strong American ally, Saudi Arabia, continues to arm Sunni insurgents by funneling money into Sunni charities, while condemning the U.S. mission there, yet Saudi Arabia will get a new $20 billion dollar high tech military arms deal. And Iran continues to show heavy involvement with the Shiite community of insurgents as the oil supplies in Iran dry up, and it seeks to gain sectarian religious, political and oil leverage in Iraq.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, a strong sense of nationalism resented American involvement in both civil wars. Despite American intentions to prevent killing and to seek peace between warring elements and restore order, locals choose to fight on until they impose some government of their own design and resent foreign involvement, even if it is intended to police a violent situation and prevent deaths and violence.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, there was a complete failure of the two corrupt governments to command the loyalty of most citizens. Neither the corrupt government of Nguyen Van Thieu in Vietnam or the corrupt Shiite dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki inspired much local support to defend, and created a weak sense of support for both governments while a strong sense of nationalism fueled a drive for self-determination remained and continued anti-American violence and further civil war seeking a different government of some sort.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, there was no sincere intentions for warring elements to seek peace with other. Warring elements both figured that they could outlast American involvement and eventually win control of both nations.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, American efforts to create a local military to defend the corrupt governments were failures. Both "Vietnamization" and the creation of Iraqi security forces were largely failures where both forces often ran from battles and left American forces stuck with most of the combat duties and deaths.

In neither Vietnam or Iraq, did most Americans have any grasp of the history of both nations or the sense of self-determination driving the people of both nations to fight for their own form of government, even if it was a poor one.

To paraphrase an important old quote: Those who cannot remember history are only doomed to again repeat it. Both Vietnam and Iraq were doomed U.S. efforts from the very beginning with no real hope for a decent outcome for U.S. foreign policy interests.

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Comments (12)

Vegas Vic:

And in Iraq, thousands will be slaughtered. (Remember the Kurds after Desert Storm) In Vietnam, people died after our "re-deployment". The greater crime would be letting history repeat itself and leave.


The war authorization fueled by the 9/11 attacks, and the Gulf of Tonkin resolutions, which both enabled the executive use of war powers without the declaration of war and the ends (victory) thereof spelled out.

The support of governments (Diem/Saddaam) and the subsequent auto-overthrow and execution of its heads which acomplishes nothing toward fulfilling the ostensible missions. Followed by a succession of ever-weaker, "friendlier" leaders.

The phantom enemy: in Iraq, no definition needed: "they" "hate" MTV and fill-in-the-blank; in Vietnam, the dubbing of the coalition opposition NLF (National Liberation Front made up of Communists, Buddhists/anti-Catholics, and Nationalists) with the All-Communist brush: media use of "Viet Cong" (Cong is Vietnamese for Communist; "they" "hate" John Wayne).

Of course, the fact that secular Saddaam counterbalanced Iran, and the fact that Vietnam LOATHED Mao's China (during China's expansionist phase, no less, viz Tibet, India, USSR, etc.) was totally lost(?) on Washington. In fact, when we left, China invaded Vietnam and got it's ass handed to them on a bamboo serving tray.

Both wars run out of the Oval Office through political generals (Taylor in Vietnam, all in Iraq) too mindful of public relations at the expense of clearly assessing the military situation and adjusting to it. See: run out of the White House.

Lack of secured areas in the rear is termed "assymetrical warfare" and is allowed to exist contrary to any private soldier's (marine's, anyway!) training.

The use of framed/paid media to posit/reinforce the administration talking points because the adminstration has lost all credibility itself.

Deficit spending followed by severe recession and election of opposition party president.

Steve Crickmore:

So many parallels of poor miltary and political strategy, but to be basic..Now that the US military is involved in another quagmire, the longer our troops continue in our occupying role in Iraq, the more contempt they have for Iraqis, whether friend or foe. The American forces have become very embittered, once again..( you would think with all our foreign bases, spread around the world we would do occupations better? )..But just as the Vietnamese citizens became and treated as 'gooks' the Iraqis are now 'towel heads and sandbaggers"...I don't want to be graphic, but this sign demonstrates how contrived our solidarity for our Iraqi friends is, and how we feel about our shared future with them,: "Iraqis, "p..ss off" And just as in Vietnam, the nationals know exactly what is going on.
bryanD. this is good broadside of what a strategic mess the Bushies have made out of Iraq.


Dont you feel that your jumping the gun a bit on the whole "iraq is a failure 'cause we said so" meme?


CBS/AP) With one day left in the month, American casualties in July are the lowest since the troop surge began in February, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, and civilian casualties are down by a third.


WASHINGTON: Two prominent US political scholars just back from Iraq said on Monday the US troop surge strategy was making strides in some areas, but warned the Iraqi government was making "zero" progress.

Of course, your opinion is in line with this bit of news -



If we allowed the South to fall, the rest of southeast Asia would fall like "dominoes".

Well lets see... when did the U.S. leave Vietnam, 1975? On March 29, 1973, a the Vietnam peace agreement was signed. On April 30, 1975 the last of the U.S. troops were pulled out and on July 2, 1976 it officially came under communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

That's one "domino."

Vietnam's neighbor Laos fell to the communists under Pathet Lao in 1975.

That's two "dominos."

The communist Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975, changing the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea, led by Pol Pot.

That's three "dominos" in that part of the world alone.

And if you think their "success" didn't inspire others from Asia (the NPA in the Philippines for example)to Central America and to Africa your sadly lacking in any historical reference.


Earth to LiberalNightmare:

O'Hanlon and Pollack are both neo-cons and were Cheerleaders for the Iraq invasion in 2003. O'Hanlon's name is affixed to the latest PNAC situation report. PNAC: Feith, Wolfowitz, Cheney...Simon bar Sinister....

And as befitting a military [email protected], O'Hanlon's and Pollack's "expert" opinions have flapped in the wind, this way and that, lest their future "expert" status be compromised, they being members of a "think tank" and all. And since Iraq is such a seat-of-the-pants affair, voila!, it's changed again!

But the new meme of Conversos applied to them is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who pays attention to such things. Brookings Institution is amenable to working to specifications. The neocons need a lifesaver, Brookings has lifesavers for rent.

Check out Glenn Greenwald's blog from early last week which dissects the source of your hope.

Think: wasn't it all Kind Of Sudden, this "Wow! We're winning AFTER ALL!" thing?


bD, the Dems are finally snapping to the fact that hoi polloi would prefer to win, if given an option.

Paul, my pet, Persia has plenteous petroleum, it's petrol it must parcel.


kim: as a Republican myself ,albiet antiwar,anti-Bush, and anti-neocon (RonPaul08!), let me assure you, there is a profound blue funk among the current Bushian RNC and their hangers on (see Big Wiz: they want to stay in bed if you read between the "topics" they present of late. All the Potteriana and no mentions/pics of Hermione/Emma Watson - shame!)

As for hoi polloi, I personally, face to face, have not met a vocal war supporter since early, early 2005. Even my dear ol' ma (former Army wife, Navy daughter, Marine Corps and Army mother, will ask once a year: "What are we DOING there?"

THAT IS the question!

(If you have the answer in 3000 words or less feel free to enlighten.)

Or by hoi polloi do you mean the chin-challenged endomorphs (I stole the term!) who fancy war-blogging as political action without getting up? They're nothing but digital malingerers with "bum-knees", "hemophilia", and mystery ailments. In other words a formation of sick bay commandos and cowards with some smack-dick operatives as PC kommisars. Definitely not T.O.




kim: The Belmont Club (the S/Sgt Barry Sadlers of the Iraq War) are more tepid: it's still "not losing" by a neck on the inside turn...

The rest of the RW bloggers I've checked don't wanna talk about it. Some O'Hanlon seconding continues because it needs it. The meme, that is. (Hammering for a week already. Nail can't find home. I think they've struck a knot. Time for a new nail placement. If only they hadn't lied about Ware and "his" impertinent eye rolling!)

Lee Ward:

bD's assessment of the blogosmear is sad but true - the only victory the RW bloggers can claim of late is that their lie labeling O'Hanlon and Pollack as "Iraq War Critics" actually stuck to the wall in a few circles.

Meanwhile there are three back-to-back-to-back posts on Wizbang Old School trying to spin the Kos convention news - and Jay's bullshit was called to task by a commenter named Strick in the second or third comment of the thread.

The right wing putzes are on 'da ropes...


I'll take Tom Tamm and Private Thomas Scott Beauchamp.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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