September 26, 2003
QUAGMIRE?....If you're a fan — or a detractor — of the
quagmire theory (i.e., Iraq is another Vietnam), who better to argue for
the prosecution than Stanley Karnow, Mr. Vietnam himself? He makes the case for quagmire today in the LA Times.
I don't especially endorse or reject this argument, but I think it's
worth pointing out that the quagmire analogy doesn't really apply to the
military struggles themselves, even if guerrillas figure prominently in
both. Rather, as Karnow correctly points out, it applies to the
similar political situations. Karnow makes two points:
The domino theory as an overarching geopolitical justification: "As
they oozed into the region, Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and
Johnson each justified his commitment by expounding the "domino
theory"....Similarly, Bush — permeated with evangelical fervor — has
portrayed himself as a crusader and Saddam Hussein as the evil genius
behind international terrorism....But just as his precursors in the
White House failed to prove their case that Vietnam was indispensable to
U.S. security, Bush has produced no solid evidence to back his
Lack of candor about progress and goals:
"Perhaps the most striking similarity is this: Those of us who covered
Vietnam were regularly inundated by civilian and military bureaucrats
with piles of glowing details, charts and statistics devised to show
progress....Today, as I listen to Bush and his spokesmen deliver
euphoric accounts of the headway being made in Iraq, they remind me of
the bulletins from Vietnam that reassured us that "victory is just
around the corner" and that "we see the light at the end of the tunnel."
As the war escalated in Vietnam, members of Congress privately began to
oppose what increasingly seemed to be a futile enterprise. But they
never failed to vote funds for the venture on the grounds that "we can't
let down our boys." For the same reason, they will grant Bush the $87
billion he has requested."
Friends and foes may now fire away.
Posted by Kevin Drum at September 26, 2003 09:03 AM
Iraq was justified by an inverse of the Vietnam domino theory. We
went into Vietnam to stop the communist dominoes. Similarly, Gulf War I
was meant to stop the spread of Saddam (first Kuwait, then Saudi Arabia,
then the world). But we went into Iraq this year to start the freedom
dominoes. I don't think the security threats arguments against Iraq this
time around fall very neatly into a domino framework -- the concern was
more that Saddam's weapons and terrorist connections would directly
threaten the US, and less that they would encourage the spread of
Ba'athism to neighboring countries.
tsk. Congress gives bronze stars to just any whacko liberal elitist nowadays...
Whoops, my bad. Joseph Galloway wuz what got the Bronze Star, fer
some stupid thing no one ever heard about, and no one cares what he has
to say now, either. Especially if it's not about Ben and J-Lo. That's
all we care about. And Kobe.
By the way, in a comment on a previous thread, someone cited this claim:
"McEnroe: I don't know. I thought the BBC was completely biased.
Three days into the war, they were calling everything a quagmire, and
reporting that everything was bogged down."
If they were calling it a quagmire, it wasn't three days into the war
-- searching their site reveals four hits for "quagmire", one reporting
in July that Rumsfeld rejects the term, and another in August reporting
that the Arabic press uses the term. I don't see the term "bogged" (as
in "down") in any BBC stories related to the war.
Maybe they're talking about BBC television news or something, but I
don't see the support for McEnroe's hysterical claim on the BBC site
When your investment of men and treasure doesn't pay the expected
return, that's failure. When your situation demands the continued
investment and and a continued lack of results, that's quagmire. Until
there is an exit strategy and we are seeing tangible results Iraq looks
and smells like quagmire.
One other point made in the article is that, like Vietnam, we can't
easily tell the good guys from the bad guys. People willing to blow
themselves up to kill Americans look just like those who want to work
I don't think the $87B is going to go all that easy, and it may prove
to be the congressional gagging point, especially the $20B in
reconstruction funding. Actual, authentic honest conservatives are
wondering why we're paying for a study of the postal service or building
Even the $67B, which should sail through this time, is a red flag for the next funding request....
LowLife hit the nail on the head. Somebody send this comment to the
strategists behind the Democratic presidentail candidates. A club to
beat Bush with.
Yep, it's a quagmire:
Iraq R&R: First U.S. Troops Arrive as Pentagon Revives Vietnam-Sized Home Leave Program
LINTHICUM, Md. (AP) - The first U.S. troops to get a two-week
vacation from their work in Iraq landed on the East Coast early Friday
and were looking forward to seeing their families, eating home-cooked
food and getting some sleep.
"The first thing is, get a good nap," said Pvt. Bryan Harper, 23, a member of 173rd Airborne Brigade from Portland, Ore.
"Two weeks is not a lot of time to spend on leave," he said. "I've
learned on leave you don't make plans because they never work out. Just
spend time with family and friends."
Harper and the other 191 soldiers who arrived at
Baltimore-Washington International Airport about 6 a.m. are the first
wave in the military's largest home leave program since the Vietnam war. ...
I don't really see how its productive to compare this engagement to
the Viet Nam war. That was a defensive war in which we were not able to
defeat the enemy in battle in over 8 years of fighting. This was an
offensive war in which we defeated the enemy in less than 3 months.
We are now in a period of reconstruction - a stage never reached in
Viet Nam. So while we may be having some problems, all analogies to VN
This is insane. All available evidence shows that the security
situation improving. Attacks on our soliders are less frequent, and we
are restoring order. We should be able to get out of Iraq with less
than 1,000 American dead. We might even do it with less than 500,
though I doubt it. It is discomforting to refer to "only" 1,000
American deaths as an indicia of "success," but in military terms it is a
huge, resounding success. Please note that Barry McCafferty, and many
other generals were predicting 4,000 American dead *in the battle for
Baghdad alone.* We lost more soldiers in one *hour* during D-Day!
There is very little restance to us outside of the Sunni triangle,
and none in the Kurdish areas. We have put more Iraqi police on the
Most importantly, we have stopped an evil monster. That seems like a pretty good indiciation of success to me.
The Vietnam left desperately wants a quagmire. An American victory would shatter their cynical and pessimistic worldview.
When you pick a rationale for War, make it stick.
If you are not sure about your main reason, either a) Don't go to war, or b) get a better reason.
What's amazing about the Iraq WMD situation was that, there were
plenty of legitimate theoretical issues which could have been the basis
for a "just war:"
• The political collapse of a major Oil producing nation (i.e.,
Saudi Arabia), with a subsequent fundamentalist extremist group taking
control of the country and its oil reserves;
• The political collapse of a nuclear power (i.e., Pakistan), with a
subsequent fundamentalist extremist group taking control of the country
of its nuclear weaponry; A secondary threat would be provocation by
terrorist groups of nuclear war between India and Pakistan;
• A bio/chemical terrorist attack on Israeli population center,
producing casualties orders of magnitude (10,000-100,000 civilian
deaths) than the present suicide attacks. In the event of such a
catastrophic event, an Israeli nuclear response is a considered
Any one of these threat scenarios might have justified a premptive
move. And, 'cause they are off in the future and not verifiable, there
would not have been a drumbeat of "Where are the WMD?"
Oops, McCafferty was predicting 4,000 casualties in Baghdad, not
dead. Still, his prediction was way off. I don't recall anyone
predicting that we would have suffered only 350-odd casualties in the
invasion, much less during the reconstruction.
all analogies to VN are absurd
The faulty analogy here is that defeat in formal battle is the point
of highest attainment. That wouldn't have been true in Nam, it is
demonstrably true here.
You must lend me those rose-colored glasses of yours, Joe. I need to improve my outlook.
I'm not saying that Iraq is a quagmire (yet), but it's nowhere near
as rosy a picture as you're painting. In particular, this sentence, " All available evidence shows that the security situation improving," is flatly wrong.
There is very little restance to us outside of the Sunni triangle, and none in the Kurdish areas.
From the Wires:
Fri September 26, 2003 05:11 AM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A rocket-propelled grenade attack killed a U.S.
soldier and wounded two others in the northern Iraqi oil hub of Kirkuk,
the U.S. military said on Friday.
Is Kirkuk not in the Kurdish areas? None?
Yep Joe everything's improving, why there hasn't been an attack,
since well 9 pm Thursday. and a soldier hasn't died since 11 pm.
Everythings a- ok.
This is insane. All available evidence shows that the security
situation improving. Attacks on our soliders are less frequent, and we
are restoring order.
There is very little restance to us outside of the Sunni triangle, and
none in the Kurdish areas. We have put more Iraqi police on the streets.
Joe Schmoe -
I'm happy to see a good contrarian argument, and I'll readily agree
that the Vietnam analogy is WAY overdone, but some of your evidence
looks a bit shaky to me:
"All available evidence shows that the security situation improving.
Attacks on our soliders are less frequent, and we are restoring order."
Uh, what available evidence, exactly? Fatal attacks may be somewhat
less common, but I continue to see references to 12 - 20 attacks per
day. As for restoring order, see any of the recent stories about the
Baghdad morgue: 30+ violent deaths a night in Baghdad.
"There is very little restance to us outside of the Sunni triangle, and none in the Kurdish areas."
Actually, one of the more alarming recent trends has been the
increase in violent attacks in the north. Mosul has been the scene of
most of these, but the most recent US military fatality occurred in an
RPG attack in Kirkuk yesterday.
I don't think this is anything close to a Vietnam yet, but it could
be an Algeria if we screw up and antagonize enough of the population.
And even in a best-case scenario, I have a hard time envisioning a
secure Iraqi government ruling a unified Iraq without a large foreign
military presence to provide security.
Joe, there were all kinds of projections about how the "active
combat" phase of the war would go, from those who thought it would be a
cakewalk to those who thought that there was a high risk of bloody,
hand-to-hand combat in baghdad, which fortunately didn't happen (the
pentagon, of course, was among those who feared the latter). I
personally thought the war would be easy and the post-war terrible. What
does that have to do with anything?
Now, as for the security situation "improving." On what basis are you
possibly saying this? It is perfectly clear that not all attacks are
reported, it is perfectly clear that the enemy's capabilities have grown
more sophisticated, it is perfectly clear that jumpy, jittery US
soldiers are reacting to all kinds of things by shooting, it is
perfectly clear that targeted assassinations are increasing, it is
perfectly clear that there are "security" events happening even in the
south and the north, it is perfectly clear that strategic sabotage
Iraq may or may not be a "quagmire," it may or may not play out
beautifully as you keep confidently predicting, but being in denial
about the conditions on the ground isn't going to help anyone.
I just came to the realization that the flypaper theory is
just a variation of the domino theory only that the domino
effect would be bad while the flypaper effect would be good.
The domino theory was that if Vietnam fell to the commies,
all those other Asian countries would fall to the commies
and follow the whim of the commies. Bad.
The flypaper theory is that if Iraq falls to the US, all
those Middle East/Arab countries would fall to the US and
follow the whim of the US. Good.
I was just reading "Lies Across America" about the many monuments to
the Spanish-American war that usually just pull in the war in the
Phillipines. The author noted how similar our actions in the
Phillipines were to Vietnam, and yet America has completely forgotten
the war (I sure don't remember it from H.S. history). Points of
- Started in 1899, was declared over in 1902 but major conflicts continued through 1916
- We'd been prior allies of the leader, then later decided he was evil and had to go.
- Lies from the government about things going much better than they actually were.
- American press kept in the dark.
There's more, the book's at home and I'm at work now. But while the
book was just drawing parallels between Phillipines & Vietnam, it
all sounded eerily like Iraq right now.
But if it wasn't for the spanish American War we wouldn't have Gitmo
and then where would we stick prisoners to avoid national and
Interesting to note that the soldiers being rotated home for
two-week vacations receive gov't paid transportation only as far as the
Baltimore port-of-entry, and must pay their own way from there, and back
to there, after the two weeks are up.
But we're "supporting our troops"!!!
Re: 4,000 casualties.Did McCafferty say casualties or DEAD? Because
isn't the definition of war casualty not just DEAD but WOUNDED? The
Centcom estimates are 1,322 wounded in action, another 322 in accidents
as of Sept. 25. That's on top of the 363 fatalities. And that's what?
seven a day since March? There might not be fatalities every day, but
there seems to be at least one soldier, if not more, wounded daily.
Might not be 4,000, but it's still a lot. And according to the
Washington Post, it's straining the military medical system, since we're
talking about a lot of guys losing a lot of limbs. It seems their
employment possibilities after rehabilitation, depending on their
training, goes way down too.
Chuck Nolan - They must've caught too much flack over their earlier
plan to fly 'em to Germany if there was any room left after the injured
went first. (Sorry I can't cite a link...can't remember where I read
Support the troops, indeed.
One reason deaths are down is that more soldiers have received the
ceramic inserts for their bulletproof vests. One of the generals said
during the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing the other day that
all soldiers should have those inserts by December.
Nice planning, there, Pentagon.
The son of a friend is back from Iraq for his "vacation" and he's a
wreck. He can't sleep, he has recurring nightmares, he's hostile, angry,
and ready to blow at the slightest offense. He spends his time running -
literally - so that he can shut his eyes for a while without the dreams
happening. He has seen buddies killed, watched as an Iraqi kid he
befriended was blown up, and more that he won't talk about. The "advice"
he's gotten from the higher-ups is to "toughen up and be a man".
It sounds like any soldier over there who is suffering these
stress-related effects is tabbed a pussy for seeking help, so they
don't. His mother, who was all for him going into the service, is now
trying to figure out how to get him out - and she's a Republican.
Is this beginning to sound like Vietnam yet?
I'm not sure the soldiers and airmen on the ground in Iraq would
agree with Buda that we have "defeated the enemy" and "are now in a
period of reconstruction." From what I've read, both the number and
rate of casualties after our "victory" are the same or greater than
before it, and certainly the reports about day-to-day activity in Iraq
make it sound like it is still a place of active armed hostilities.
And I'm afraid Joe Schmoe's figures about casualties are wrong also. We've suffered 350+ deaths, the very large majority of which were due to hostile action (vs., say, accidents). The number of casualties
-- which frequently include such permanent and life-shattering injuries
as loss of one or more arms or legs, and which have been essentially
unreported by the US media -- is approaching 2,000.
That said, of course this is not comparable in scale to Vietnam,
where we lost more than 57,000 dead, and where we were involved in
combat for over 15 years. I think the question is, is this similar in kind?
And I have to say, the dishonesty and dissembling of senior
government officials (and their consequences for political unity and
trust), the terrible expenditure of blood and treasure (and the huge
opportunity costs and downstream economic effects), and the imperial hubris (and its long-term geopolitical consequences) of Iraq look awfully similar to those of Vietnam.
Even the debate resembles that of Vietnam: polarized, simplistic, and angry.
A helluva thing for "a uniter, not a divider."
I acknowledged my mistake on the casualties/death distinction in an
earlier post. I think the historic (post-WWII, when modern medicine
first started to make a real difference) ratio is something like 2-1 or
Remember, McCafferty was predicting 4,000 casulaties for the battle of Baghdad *alone*.
Pessimist, lots of people go through traumatic experiences. Most
deal with it, some don't. My friends have been in combat. It was
stressful, but today they are fine. Some relatives have had cancer.
They managed. Others are paralyzed. You deal with it.
The soldier who is back from Iraq needs help and support -- no one
should tell him he is a "pussy," he needs people who work with him and
care for him to help him deal with his trauma and his feelings --- but
we as a society shouldn't get all hysterical and teary-eyed because he's
having nightmares. We need to show a little backbone.
To my fellow Democrats: please, please, please stop pushing the idea that Iraq should be compared to Viet Nam.
The situation on the ground in Iraq is NOTHING like the situation in
Viet Nam, nor is there any prospect of it emerging in the near future.
What is missing in Iraq that was present in Viet Nam? How about: a
well-organized, highly disciplined corps of regular troops and cadres of
undercover operatives; supplies of arms and aid streaming in from major
military powers (China and Russia); sovereignty over half the country,
into which US units did not penetrate; perhaps most importantly, a
nationalist leader who had gained legitimacy by helping save his people
from starvation and leading a victorious campaign against a colonial
occupier (nos amis, les francais); and, oh yes, a phenomenally corrupt
alternative in the South Viet Namese government. In terms of cause,
morale, materiel, positional advantage, there is no comparison.
And the casualty numbers bear it out. While even the present level
of casualties is tragic, more than 58,000 Americans died in VietNam. At
present, about 400 Americans have died in Iraq.
(2) Politics is about expectations and framing. If Democrats run
around saying that Iraq is Viet Nam, we look foolish. It is OBVIOUSLY
not Viet Nam. If the situation changes, then by all means, call it by
its right name. But for now, don't you think Karl Rove would be
thrilled to have Democrats saying that Iraq is Viet Nam? To swing
voters, it makes us look unworthy of trust in foreign affairs.
(3) Last point. If you are serious about the Viet Nam analogy, I
think the natural conclusion is we get out ASAP. Is that what
liberalism stands for? We destroy political authority in Iraq, and
leave the people to their fate? We did not do that in Kosovo, and we
were absolutely right not to. That was a moment about which *liberals*
should be proud. Granted, this administration is too vain and arrogant
to understand the gravity of what it undertook, or the importance of
allies. But we can't therefore wash our hands of what we've done. We
need to turn this administration out and do what we can to make the best
of a bad situation. We broke it, we bought it.
This thread gives me a chance to update my list of the striking similarities between Iraq and Viet Nam:
1) The president lies about the justification and goals of the war;
2) There is no strategic plan for victory [no exit plan];
3) The war is fought on the cheap;
4) The nationalistic religious nature of the people is ignored;
5) The UN and Europeans are dismissed;
6) Better to fight there than here on the Streets of Laredo;
7) The US Army falls apart when the lifers cycle through for their second and third tours; and
8) Troops get R & R out of theater.
I'm not convinced the analogy is a valid one. Instead what I see are
two instances that are each symptoms of a similar general cause.
The administration went into this thing half-cocked, and now find
themselves in a terribly constrained situation. They seemed to think
that just because they had a bunch of guns that they were invulnerable,
and that no other means to an objective was to be considered except
theirs. In fact, they suggest -- even now -- that unless their plans
are the ones agreed to, that those who disagree with the plans disagree
with the objectives.
There is no way out of this sort of narrowness. Defensiveness,
paranoia, lashing out at others, and a spiraling cycle of failure all
come from these closed-minded approaches.
Get the terrorists, get the commies, what's the difference? When
decisions are made in a climate of ideological hysteria, and reasoned
opposition is baited to the margins, there rarely is any other result in
the long run other than vainly following a blind path paved with
emotionally vested choices regardless of their consequences.
Most importantly, we have stopped an evil monster. That seems like a pretty good indiciation of success to me.
It depends on the cost. A tyrant is better than anarchyy in many
ways. Bush I chose to leave Saddam in power after Gulf War I, knowing
everything about his character that we know now. He and Baker wanted to
keep Iraq a single country as a counterweight to Iran, and they tried
to encourage an Army coup to get rid of him. But it was a choice of
order and predictability under a monster to unpredictable chaos. It
isn't clear that they made the wrong decision.
The cost includes our combat casualties and a large number of Iraqi
deaths and injuries. Some of these we caused directly, but the number
due to rampant crime appears to be much larger. The family and friends
of those casualties are going to blame us, rightly or wrongly.
What does this do for the electoral chances of a political party
supporting our continued presence? And how does this affect the chances
that we can allow a democratic election?
All good points.
One thing I'd like to add is that although North Vietnam did have a
well-organized, outside-financed, well-led opposition my thoughts from
following the Iraq aftermath (attacks and sabotage) are that Iraqis may
have started with nothing, but as it goes along, they too may have all
of the above: they appear to be piecing together an organization, may be
getting funds/aid from outside sources/terrorists and eventually a
leader may emerge to consolidate the action.
It may be too soon to call it analogous to Vietnam, but as the days stretch into weeks into months...into years?...
The 1:1 isomorphic tally to various aspects of our Viet Nam adventure
or lack thereof is not the point. Calling this another Viet Nam is
simply high-concept short-hand for the whole collection of clusterf***
that we see wrt our Iraq adventure. Just as Ascroft's Justice
department isn't really the reincarnation of the Gestapo, and the
radical wing of the GOP aren't really neo-Nazis, it's just easier to use
the short-hand iconographic phrases to describe the collection of
behavior. In future times, when this sort of thing rears it's head
again perhaps they'll talk about 'another Iraq', or 'just like Bush' and
defenders will point out how the comparison fails on some minor points.
" An American victory would shatter [the "Vietnam left's"] cynical and pessimistic worldview."
Joe, Joe! You're so like totally wrong!
As everyone knows, Liberals are NAIVE OPTIMISTS. We sing Cumbaya all day and wrongly believe people are inherently good.
Think I'm wrong? Let me quote no less an authority than Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post July 26, 2002:
"As a conservative, I can confidently attest that whatever else my
colleagues might disagree about... we all agree that liberals are
"We mean this, of course, in the nicest way. Liberals tend to be
nice, and they believe -- here is where they go stupid -- that most
everybody else is nice too...
"Liberals believe that human nature is fundamentally good...
"Liberals suffer incurably from naivete, the stupidity of the good heart."
From No-Respect Politics - Charles Krauthammer
Now, Joe, you can be stupid and naive about people or stupid and
cynical about people. But you can't be naive AND cynical. That's called a
contradiction. Therefore, either you're wrong. Or Charles is wrong.
Or you both are.
Make Love, Not War
anyone see the lates harper's index? one stat in there stood out: (i'm paraphrasing, not sure of the exact #s)
# of GI's killed in Vietnam 1963-64: 350
# of gi's killed in iraq and afghanistan 2002-2003: 354
Attacks on our soldiers are less frequent
I track casualties here IRAQ Coalition Casualties Attacks are not less frequent. In September Fatalities are down, but WIA's are up(40-60 a week) as are civilian deaths.
Iraq is a quagmire, but not Vietnam.
The Vietnam War analogy does not fit, there is no North Vietnam, no
Cambodia, no real "popular resistance". Algeria is closer analogy.
Joe, please, for the last time, what mccaffrey did (or did not) say
about street-fighting in baghdad (I sincerely doubt that he "predicted"
in the sense that people "predict" football scores, although he may
indeed have said "I fear x casualties," or "we could incur x casualties"
or what have you) is completely irrelevant.
That well-known bastion of liberal cynicism, the pentagon, worried
plenty about street fighting in baghdad and the risks. They ran
simultations, and recognized, quite sanely, what might occur.
Fortunately, it didn't, but what real military people do - what real
planners do everywhere - is plan for a variety of contingencies and do
whatever they can to maximize the likelihood of the best contingency
Unfortunately, joe, you don't do what good planners do: you keep
repeating here, incessantly, in comment posting after comment posting,
how well you believe everything is going to turn out.
There were lots of people who believed that way about vietnam, too,
which takes us back to one of the key points here in the first place:
optimism is not candor. hope is not a plan.
I didn't say casualties are less frequent. I said attacks are less frequent. I think this is an important distinction.
Do you have information on the frequency of attacks? One of the
op-eds in the New York Times from a few days ago said they are down to
fifteen or so per day from 40 per day.
Today is September 26. How do September fatalaties compare to those in August? July? June? May? April? How about wounded?
By the way, teriffic site. One of the best!
In terms of cause, morale, materiel, positional advantage, there is no comparison.
There is a similarity in the response of the US electorate. They do a
rough cost/benefit analysis and come to a conclusion. In the case of
Viet Nam, this was that the cost in lives and money was way
disproportionate to the benefit, although the initial objectives were
sensible and in some ways noble. Some of this calculation is present
already in the questioning by Congress of why we need to give $20
billion at the expense of domestic expenditures.
One reading of the history is that the efforts of the Left were
counterproductive. People were very troubled by disruption of college
campuses and terrorist activities like bombings and bank robberies.
Nixon benefitted greatly from shifting the blame for our loss to the
Left, although he and Kissinger finally settled for a result they could
have had in 1968.
If this is a correct reading, opponents of the war have little to
gain by demonstrations or extremist rhetoric. OTOH, many of the
unpopular leftist movements of the late 60's would have happened anyway,
and got bundled with the anti-war effort secondarily. There is little
danger of a repeat of the disastrous 1972 convention, entertaining
though it was.
Also, could you please try to control for things like major
offensives? We were going on a lot of raids a few weeks ago, and surely
this increased the casualty count.
Joe, it's nice that you are trying to get at the facts, but it's a
fact that not every "attack" gets reported. There's lot of evidence to
support this, of which the most recent is that General Sanchez
inadvertently said that there was no misconduct in the shooting that
killed 10 police in fallujah recently, when, in fact, he meant an
earlier shooting of police in fallujah.
that had never been reported, that is.
In addition, how do you control for the variable that US troops are much more cautious about coming out in public now?
Spare yourself embarassment and don't assert that attacks are down;
the security environment is not good, and even the backbone
administration acknowledges this.
I agree with TedL, Iraq is not Vietnam, and is not even close. While there are political
similarities in the domestic scene, that is where it ends. An American
administration was mendacious and callous about American deaths in
Vietnam, and the present administration seems to have some of the same
disease. But the similarity ends there, and there is no point in
comparing Iraq to Vietnam.
A note on casualty figures: I read somewhere (don't know where at
present) that the ~2000 casualty figure is considerably understated by
the Pentagon: the real number should be 6000+. Anyone remember where I
might have read that?
A final thing. Our quick victory in Iraq is part of what is giving
us problems now. We didn't really defeat the Iraq army or paramilitary
-- they simply disolved into the countryside. We took out their armor,
and made sure that they had no Air Force and limited artilery before
they went, but it seems that most Iraqi foot soldiers were not captured
or killed. The army just dispersed.
That is, I think, part of why we are having the trouble with violence
that we are having in Iraq. There are still plenty of people willing
and able to carry out hostile actions against us, because we really
didn't take them out before.
I am too young to remember Vietnam but it seems to me just as
incorrect to compare the rebuilding of Iraq to the rebuilding of Germany
and Japan as comparing Iraq to Vietnam. Such comparisons are, in my
opinion, the thinking of a mind trapped in "Old Europe." Our military
is not the same as the military that fought Vietnam, WWII, or even Gulf
I. We are a generation ahead of the second most modern army in the
General McCaffrey may have gotten his estimates wrong because he was
thinking in terms of the last war but the number of casulties we have
sustained is far too high to claim success by a factor of ten. The
problem with this war is that the administration does not know that
"proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance." They went in
with too few troops and are still there with too few troops. War are
won by destroying the enemy's ability or willingness to fight. That is
accomplished by an overwhelming force of arms.
We captured Baghdad with the 3rd ID and the 1st Marines. Sure, we
won a war with only two divisions. But that is not the same thing as
finishing the enemy. There should have been more troops finding,
fixing, and finishing the Iraqi army. Instead, we did it on the cheap
and the Iraqis lived to fight a querilla war. And the same thing
happened in Afghanistan.
If there is a similarity to Vietnam, it is that we risked enough blood and treasure to win the battles but not the war.
funny why we stopped those night-time sweeps -- they were counter-productive.
yet hunkering down taking convoy ambush casualties like we did in 'Nam isn't exactly productive.
When all available strategies aren't productive, that's the q-word.
Col Harry Summers was fond of relating an incident which occurred
when he met PAVN Colonel Nguyen Don Tu in 1975. 'You know you never
defeated us on the battlefield'; Tu pondered the statement a moment,
then replied: 'that may be so, but it is also irrelevant'.
Since August I have received threat condition warnings (a source inside
Iraq sends them). They consistently list 8 to 12 attacks per day that
result in KIA or WIA. I have not seen numbers as high as 15 - 40.
Whenever there has been a lull, as there was two weeks ago, it has been
followed by intensification in attacks.
There is an option on the main page to view fatalities by month (avg 1
a day in Sept, 1.39 in Aug). Yes, they are down but we are seeing more
The 6000+ figure is based on medivac numbers. It includes the sick
(physical and mental illness) as well as the wounded. It may also
include numbers from Afghanistan.
Timothy, Elvis56 beat me to explaining to you the 6000 number, which
surfaced about 2-3 weeks ago. Elvis56, as i recall reading it at the
time, it was iraq-specific.
As for iraq-vietnam analogies, i think former senator cleland nails
it perfectly in this column: many of the same mistakes are being made by
The iraq-vietnam analogy works for the reasons, not for the battles.
Vernon Loeb gave us his source for the 6000 but that person has not
returned our calls (go figure, we're just a couple peaceniks with a
Joe thinks things are getting better in Iraq -- the war is going well
and soon, a flurishing democracy will bloom there. River of Riverbend
seems to be not so sanguine as she watches the UN pull out because of security concerns -- leaving the Iraqis to face the danger without them.
What is particularly disturbing is that the UN is pulling out some
of its staff for security reasons… they pulled out a third tonight and
others will be leaving in the next few days. Things are getting more and
more frightening. My heart sinks every time the UN pulls out because
that was how we used to gauge the political situation in the past: the
UN is pulling out- we’re getting bombed.
Elvis's own site has a post with the following quote from the UN personnel:
"I've worked from Somalia to Rwanda to Bosnia to Timor and I've never seen anything like this," said a U.N. security official.
Maybe it's not Vietnam, but it is a dangerous place with the
potential to spiral out of control in ways we can't begin to imagine.
My prayers go out to those sitting on this powderkeg, both the people of
Iraq and the soldiers put there to flatter GWB's vanity. (It certainly
wasn't to reduce the threat from terrorism.)
It may be that the whole discussion here is off base. Vietnam became
a quagmire around the time of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Public
opinion wanted out and the political establishment followed. The only
question was now to extricate ourselves without losing face.
Currently, the Administration apparently wants to stay and to use
Iraq as a base for attacking other countries. This would explain the
refusal to give up any political control as a condition of getting UN
help. From the PNAC viewpoint, the more resources we pour into the
country, the harder it will be to leave. The discussion here has viewed
a quagmire as a calamity, but for the neocons it could be a goal.
>>The son of a friend is back from Iraq for his "vacation" and
he's a wreck. He can't sleep, he has recurring nightmares, he's hostile,
angry, and ready to blow at the slightest offense.>Is this beginning
to sound like Vietnam yet?
Be sure to catch this item
Sailor killed himself over Iraq war trauma
and while you are there look at this from Black Thursday
Four refugees who fled the U.S.-led war in Iraq set fire to
themselves in a camp in Jordan to protest against deadlock over their
UK soldier dies in Iraq
Rift Opens Between U.S., Iraqi Leaders
Eight U.S. soldiers hurt in north Iraq attack
Iraqi governing council member dies of wounds
U.S. forces kill nine as city bombings, ground attacks rattle Iraq
Bomb kills one at Baghdad hotel for US media
Attacks rattle Iraq as U.N. seeks solutions
U.S. Soldier dies in vehicle accident
Centcom: 1 soldier killed and 2 wounded
Centcom:1 soldier died and 1 was injured
pessimist and Laurie,
It's called "combat fatigue", among other things. Everyone has an
individual threshold for it. As a stress response, it's part of our
biology, so it goes back a long way. But it was first a major problem
in WW I, because of the long periods of unrelieved stress in trench
warfare. Previous wars tended to have major battles followed by periods
of relative calm. In WW I it was treated as a moral failing, and even
with courts-martial, but this was counter-productive. The approach in
WW II was non-judgmental and amounted to just taking the individual out
of action for a while. This wasn't accepted by some career officers --
see the controversy related to Patton's abuse of a patient. But was
much more effective, in that the affected individuals could often be
returned to duty, a major goal of military medicine. Nam didn't produce
a lot of classic combat fatigue because of the conditions of a guerilla
warfare and the provision of frequent R&R, but it did produce the
famous "post-combat stress disorder" in some individuals. Conditions in
Iraq sound more like Nam than WW II, but the lack of any time off and
daily exposure to danger would be expected to result in a higher rate of
it than Nam.
I haven't read about this in a while. There is probably some good
material available on google, using some of the terms in my sketchy
Wounded In Action Since 9/22
Thanks for the links elvis. I was already aware that people are
being killed and wounded in Iraq (and Afghanistan) and I assure you it
saddens me a great deal. I was merely commenting on the validity of
extrapolating the experiences of one person to the experiences of tens
of thousands, as well as determining the "meaning" of an entire
Thanks, Roger, for the insight into "combat fatigue." It wasn't
until much later that my dad shared some of his experiences related to
this. With my parents' generation, there was, and still is, something
of a stigma attached to anything having to do with matters
psychological. Thanks again.
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