November 11, 2003

Is Iraq Another Vietnam?

Ivan Leland analyses the similarities between the Iraqui situation and the Vietnam war:

As the insurgency in Iraq gets bolder, more sophisticated and more deadly, the hawks are falling all over themselves to pooh-pooh comparisons of Iraq to the debacle in Vietnam. But the White House should be alarmed that such comparisons are even being made. Despite some differences between the conflicts, in both wars avoiding defeat means winning "hearts and minds" -- of the American people.

The Vietnamese guerrilla war was larger, took advantage of jungle terrain and was blatantly sheltered and supported by outside powers. In Iraq, the insurgency is on a smaller scale (at least for now), but also gives the guerrillas some advantages. To win a war, you must first know whom you are fighting, and the U.S. Army’s intelligence in Iraq is deficient. In Vietnam, the U.S. military at least knew its enemy. In Iraq the situation is murky. In fact, it appears that U.S. forces may have multiple enemies using a variety of tactics and taking advantage of urban, rather than jungle, terrain.

(...)

So while the circumstances of the insurgency may differ from Vietnam, the political problem of being half-in and half-out is the same. The press is already demanding to know when U.S. troops can be reduced, while at the same time Joseph Biden, the senior Democratic Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, is pressuring for American forces to be added. Perhaps Biden knows that committing more forces would mire the administration deeper in the quagmire, belie administration rhetoric that the situation in Iraq is improving -- the way the Tet Offensive in Vietnam belied the Johnson administration’s claim that the United States was winning the Vietnam War -- and be the beginning of the end for both public support for the war and the president’s political career. Iraq begins to look more like Vietnam every day.