Friday, September 15, 2006

AJC Op-Ed: Failures in Vietnam resound

Excellent piece on the Iraq war by Lucas Carpenter, via "The first Gulf War bore little resemblance to Vietnam. It was a well-planned and well-executed conventional war that resulted in a quick resounding victory, albeit one that many say did not go far enough in destabilizing the Saddam Hussein regime.

It was heralded as our vindication from the 'defeatism' of the Vietnam War and proof that we had learned its painful lessons. Clearly the second Bush administration expected to achieve a similar military triumph, with our forces welcomed as liberators by Iraqis eager to reap the benefits of freedom and democracy. And their oil would pay for everything.

As we are all now acutely aware, none of this has transpired, and as we approach the endgame in Iraq, the similarities with Vietnam have become so glaring that one wonders if our government and military have learned anything at all from that similarly ill-conceived debacle.

The centerpiece of the administration's strategy is the arming and training of the Iraqi army and police so they can handle national security and our forces can be withdrawn. President Richard Nixon chose the same exit strategy in Vietnam, calling it Vietnamization.

We had already been training the South Vietnamese army for more than a decade, equipping it with enough airpower and armor to make it on paper one of the world's most powerful armed forces. Unfortunately, two years after the last Americans left, the South Vietnamese military collapsed, leading to those iconic images of the chaotic evacuation of our embassy.

What makes us think that the Iraqi army will fare any better against its own determined foes?"


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