People want to say that Iraq is not Vietnam. I guess that is understandable. We lost in Vietnam, not on the battlefield, not there, but as the NVA colonel said, that was irrelevant. The politicians don’t want to say the two wars are similar. That would make them losers. Today’s soldiers don’t want to say the two wars are alike for the same reason. Actually, most people today have no idea what Vietnam was like. No idea.
I think there are a lot of similarities. These two articles make those similarities eerily clear to one who served in that other lost struggle.
Stu Herrington is a friend. I talked to him a few days ago. His opinions, quoted in the Kaplan piece are something that should be listened to…
For me, the two big differences in these wars, are;
1- The absence of unity among our adversaries in Iraq. In Vietnam the communists ran everything on the other side. There was no doubt whatever in what you were facing. Their chain of command ran downhill in a straight line from Hanoi to some little village militia unit in the Mekong Delta with whom you might be contesting control of the local population.
2- There is no real army on the other side in the Iraq War. So far, there are no regiments and divisions equipped with solid equipment (sometimes tanks and artillery) There is nothing like the 308th NVA Division. I remember talking to captured members of that division. Some of the "old timers" had fought the French at Dien Bien Phu. So far we have not seen the kind of fighting in which whole US rifle companies disappeared in a day of fighting, melted like snow, melted away while attacking.
What is overwhelmingly the same is the war against the guerrillas. That is the war that Petraeus intends to prosecute to the end.
Lurking in the background is the ineptitude of the Bush Administration and America as a whole in trying to cope with the reality of the foreignness of Iraq. We were better at this 30 years ago, some of us. Imagine the foolishness of having a group of American policy wonks and wonkettes with no knowledge of the Middle East draft a constitution for a place as foreign as Iraq. That is what Bremer’s "government" did. Read it and weep. pl