Thursday, September 2

Iraq's not like Vietnam at all...

Let's see.
  • Country with no strategic value to US. Nah, Iraq's got oil. (Vietnam had fish sauce, but US had no Pho shops in '62).
  • Country mostly jungle and mountainous, providing cover for enemy movement. Nope, not much jungle in Iraq. Enemy seems to be able to move pretty easily anyway, though.


  • US government claims general population welcomes military presence; check.
  • Determined, indigenous enemy utilizing guerilla tactics; check.
  • US forces rely upon heavy armor and aerial bombardment, creating resentment in local population; check.
  • Enemy possesses source of supply and sanctuary in neighboring countries; check.
  • US government delusionally claim signs of progress everywhere, doubters are called unpatriotic; check.
  • Enemy is a coalition of nationalists and holders of a global triumphantalist ideology; check.
  • US forces isolated from population by culture and language, dependent on local allies of dubious loyalty; check.
  • Scenes of widespread violence and death on nightly news; check.
  • Conventional wisdom is "no alternative to victory", elites are secretly pessimistic; check.
  • American intervention universally deplored, even by close allies; check.
  • Concern over deepening commitment causes US strategic shift to "localization"; check.
  • Widespread suspicion of profiteering by companies with ties to administration; wait — did the Vietnam war have that?

Nah. The comparison's ridiculous.


Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich said...

Don't forget the use of the term "quagmire."

Or the false pretense of making us safer from an enemy that isn't present where we are waging war.

Anonymous said...

The biggest difference I see was that by the time the US started sending significant numbers of soldiers to Vietnam, the north Vietnamese had 10 years of experience fighting off foreign powers, and a cause, an army, and government to rally around.

From a casual perusal of the news I have not learned of a similarly organized and experienced resistance in Iraq fighting our old provisional government or their new one.

Though I opposed the war (and continue to oppose it) while the administration was still in the mongering phase, I believed all along that the U.S. would likely have an easier time than in Vietnam; I think the U.S. will leave Iraq with less disastrous results than the fall of Saigon.

AMS said...

Yes, the Iraqi insurgents have less practice than the Vietcong and they have no "...government to rally around". But that overemphasises their disadvantages, I think.

For rallying around, some have the glory of Iraq's history, some have an Imam, some have a religion and they have their pick of several armies. And I've been very impressed with the insurgents as a "learning organization". They are much more decentralized and tactically open-minded than the Vietcong ever were. I guess an advantage of a decentralized cause is that it opens itself up nicely to evolutionary pressures.

Anonymous said...

Sure, decentralization has advantages. I agree that the Iraqi resistance (or whatever the correct name for all the militias fighting against the U.S./Iraqi government is) have shown a lot of flexibility. However, I see some really serious disadvantages in recruitment and organization.

You mention that insurgents "have their pick of several armies". Think of the future a would-be soldier contemplates: even if his/her particular army is successful in its near-term goals, there's a decent chance of ending up fighting in civil strife later against his/her compatriots.

In Vietnam, a soldier/guerilla fighting the U.S. knew roughly what government he/she was fighting for. If he/she survived, he/she probably didn't worry about having to fight a civil war later. And he/she could consider himself/herself part of the force that had already driven out the French. In Iraq, even if the U.S. forces are completely driven out, the various militias may well (likely will?) fall to fighting each other.

This may lead to some pretty flexible and creative tactics, whether from desperation, planning, or "evolutionary pressures". Plenty of determined fighters are proving that they can, in the President's insulting and inane formulation "bring it on" and hurt the U.S.

But I still think that such a fight is probably less attractive in Iraq than it was in Vietnam, and therefore is less likely to turn out equally badly for the U.S.

Anonymous said...

Iraq does have experience from 1991.
They also have a long war with Iran (still not over really) that they have fought. Saddam probably kept the lid on a quiet civil and class war as well.

And the Iraqies watch TV. Did the vietcong?