Saturday, December 03, 2005

Why Iraq is not Vietnam

Frederick Kagan, at the American Enterprise Institute:

When American ground forces paused briefly during the march to Baghdad in 2003, critics of the war were quick to warn of a “quagmire,” an oblique reference to the Vietnam War. Virtually as soon as it became clear that the conflict in Iraq had become an insurgency, analogies to Vietnam began to proliferate. This development is not surprising. Critics have equated every significant American military undertaking since 1975 to Vietnam, and the fear of being trapped in a Vietnam-like war has led to the frequent demand that U.S. leaders develop not plans to win wars, but “exit strategies,” plans to get out of messes.

There is no question that the Vietnam War scarred the American psyche deeply, nor that it continues to influence American foreign policy and military strategy profoundly. Centcom’s strategy for the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq is an attempt to avoid making Vietnam-like mistakes. Proponents of other strategies, like “combined action platoons” or “oil spot” approaches, most frequently derive those programs from what they believe are the “right” lessons of Vietnam. It is becoming increasingly an article of faith that the insurgency in Vietnam is similar enough to the insurgency in Iraq that we can draw useful lessons from the one to apply to the other. This is not the case. The only thing the insurgencies in Iraq and Vietnam have in common is that in both cases American forces have fought revolutionaries. To make comparisons or draw lessons beyond that basic point misunderstands not only the particular historical cases, but also the value of studying history to draw lessons for the present.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Blogarama - The Blog Directory