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Iraq - Another Vietnam -- ?

Our Boomer-In-Charge here at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes frequently about current events... from a boomer perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, sometimes a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

This is a continuation of a discourse on the Vietnam War, which began here.

In the summer of 2003, fear mongers began talking of the supposed "quagmire" in Iraq. Many pundits expressed concern that by liberating Iraq, we have gotten ourselves into another Vietnam. Well, I have just one word for that notion: nonsense! There are so many differences between Vietnam and Iraq that only someone who is not thinking clearly or who did not live through the 60s and 70s could sincerely make such a claim. Here are a few of the major differences:

In Vietnam, the major fighting lasted nearly a decade. In Iraq, the major battle was over in three weeks.

In Vietnam, there was never a clear winner until the U.S. pulled out. In Iraq, the winner was never in doubt.

In Vietnam, the enemy received significant support from other countries. No country openly supported Saddam Hussein.

In Vietnam, the terrain made finding and fighting the enemy extremely difficult. Only our desire to minimize civilian casualties makes finding the enemy difficult in Iraq. That is a much smaller hurdle to overcome.

In Vietnam, the enemy was comprised of millions of soldiers determined to wait us out and grind us down. They fervently supported their cause. In Iraq, there are very few who support Saddam Hussein, even fewer who believe in his cause. The enemy is much less determined in this battle.

In Vietnam, U.S. soldiers were dying at the rate of 20 each day. In the summer of 2003, the rate was 1 per day. It has bounced up and down since then, but it is still nowhere close to what it was in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, American soldiers were drafted into the military - they had no reasonable choice. Today our military is comprised entirely of volunteers.

In Vietnam, the military commanders in the field misled their superiors in Washington, providing a more positive picture than actually existed. That is simply not possible today - not to the degree that it occurred in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, those we were trying to liberate were ambivalent. They did not care about communism or democracy. They just wanted to be left alone. At least Ho Chi Minh left his people alone - for the most part. Only those whom Saddam Hussein bribed wanted to keep things as they were. The Iraqi people craved freedom from Hussein.

Prior to Vietnam, our history was one of complete victory. We had never lost a war. We thought we could bomb our way to victory. By 2003, we knew better. Today we have 76 million military advisors warning our leaders that we cannot and will not get bogged down in another Vietnam.

In the fall of 2003, John McCain, a Vietnam veteran and U.S. senator, wrote, "Iraq is not Vietnam. There is no popular, anti-colonial insurgency in Iraq. Our opponents, who number only in the thousands in a country of 23 million, are despised by the vast majority of Iraqis. The Iraqi insurgents do not enjoy the kind of sanctuary North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos provided. They do not have a superpower patron. These murderers cannot carry the banner of Iraqi nationalism, as Ho Chi Minh did in Vietnam for decades."

The mess in Iraq appears to be drawing terrorists to Iraq. Nothing like that happened in during the Vietnam War. But that is not a characteristic of the war in Iraq. That is a characteristic of terrorism.

The Democrats and other Bush-haters are doing all they can to make Iraq another Vietnam. On August 21, 2005 Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska joined the invokers: "We are locked into a bogged-down problem, not . . . dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam."

Well, no.

Americans had no reason to feel that their own security was at risk in Vietnam, whereas the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 made it clear that the enemy we face today poses a lethal threat here at home as well.

In October 2005, Opinionjounal.com reported that, like the Democrats, the terrorists are trying to turn the mess in Iraq into another Vietnam:

"In a letter to his top deputy in Iraq, al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader said the United States 'ran and left their agents' in Vietnam and the jihadists must have a plan ready to fill the void if the Americans suddenly leave Iraq," the Associated Press reports from Washington:

"Things may develop faster than we imagine," Ayman al-Zawahri wrote in a letter to his top deputy in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam--and how they ran and left their agents--is noteworthy. . . . We must be ready starting now." . . .

"More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media," he wrote.

Is Iraq another Vietnam? Zarqawi thinks so, as do "antiwar" politicians here in America and many in the media. And in this respect, at least, Iraq does resemble Vietnam: America's enemies and domestic opponents of the war, acting in sync if not in concert, are attempting to defeat the war effort "in the battlefield of the media."

But there the similarity ends. For one thing, the media are nowhere near as monolithic, or as powerful, as they were during the Vietnam era. Arguably the war in Vietnam was lost when Walter Cronkite declared as much after the Tet Offensive. Cronkite's lapse into advocacy was, as Newsweek's Howard Fineman argued in January, the beginning of the end of "the notion of a neutral, non-partisan mainstream press." Cronkite and his successors squandered the public trust they had earned, with the result that no journalist today--no, not even your humble columnist!--comes anywhere close to wearing the mantle of "most trusted man in America."

For another, there is no serious antiwar movement today. Antiwar protests in 2005 consist of the same crackpot rent-a-mobs who long before 9/11 were disrupting meetings of groups like the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. Cindy Sheehan is a case in point: Sold by the media as a grieving Everymom, she turned out to be an America-hating lunatic. Thus, as we noted Monday, there is no move among American politicians, outside the Angry Left fringe, to withdraw from Iraq or defund the effort there.

Food for thought, huh?

According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall web page (www.thewall-usa.com), 47,386 American servicemen died as a result of hostile action in Vietnam. At the current rate, the death toll from Iraq's guerrilla war will reach Vietnam's level sometime in the year 2200.

Our problem in Iraq was that we won the major battle too quickly - the enemy ran away before we could conquer all of it. What we see in the spring of 2005 are remnants of the enemy -- those that we missed in the quick takeover, and terrorists imported into Iraq. This is no Vietnam!

2007 Update:

The further down the road we go, the more the media and the liberals want to make Iraq look like another Vietnam. Will they succeed? Yes, if they get their way. In 2005, OpinionJournal.com reported that "there is no serious antiwar movement today." That is not true in 2007.

The Vietnam war was lost not because of military failures, but because the media turned against the war, and the people followed. Sound familiar? In 1973, they cried for "withdrawl." In 2007, they cry for "redeployment." The difference in 2007 is that they are cowards -- they are hiding behind soft rhetoric, afraid to state their real intentions, and indifferent to what would happen if the U.S. did withdraw our troops.

In recent years, high officials of the Communist government of Vietnam have themselves admitted that they lost the war on the battlefields but won it in the U.S. media and on the streets of America, where political pressures from the anti-war movement threw away the victory for which thousands of American lives had been sacrificed. -- Dr. Thomas Sowell, January 25, 2005.

The press insists on reporting only the victories of the insurgents. They refuse to report what most soldiers say when they return stateside: that the violence is limited mostly to the area in and around Baghdad; that there are great successes in most of the rest of the country; that the citizens of Iraq do NOT want coalition forces to withdraw now. That certainly was not true in the Vietnam war.

One cannot ignore some military similarities. It is true that no country openly supported Saddam Hussein. But in 2007, it is clear that Iran is providing munitions -- not to Saddam Hussein of course, but to the insurgents. Same difference.

In 2007, the enemy is no longer Saddam Hussein; it is a band of terrorists. And yes, they are determined; they are not not forced to fight by a brutal dictator.

And, like Ho Chi Minh, the terrorists are extremely patient; their plan is not for two or twenty years. Their plan is for victory in fifty or a hundred years.

Certainly every U.S. death in Iraq is a tragedy. But the magnitude of the deaths in Vietnam was overwhelming compared to Iraq. We do far more to protect our troops now than we did 35 years ago. And in spite of the shortcomings in our system of institutionalized, socialized medicine, we save a much greater percentage of our wounded soldiers, and we rehabilitate them far better than we did then.

 

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03/09/07