The consequences of U.S. defeat in Iraq would be much greater than they were in Vietnam(Not one of mine)
As the war in Iraq drags on into its fifth year, comparisons to the Vietnam War grow more frequent and persuasive. There are some parallels, as there are to all wars, but key differences between Vietnam and Iraq also deserve noting.
As in Vietnam, the United States faces an enemy that cannot be distinguished from the civilian population. A preliminary hearing for Marines charged with killing 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha recalls the U.S. massacre at My Lai.
As in Vietnam, the United States is fighting a war that can't be decisively won because a determined, seemingly inexhaustible enemy would rather die than cease killing.
(One of mine)
(One of mine)
In Iraq, the United States again is allied to a democratic government that cannot successfully defend itself, no matter how much aid it receives. As it did following the Vietnam War, the United States might wind up having to resettle hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who took our side in the war but would risk being murdered if they remained in their country after U.S. withdrawal.
Similar to President Lyndon Johnson's experience, President Bush lost popular American support for the war as U.S. casualties mounted. Like Johnson, Bush is unwilling to withdraw. Repeating the 1960s, it will take a change in leadership to end U.S. combat involvement in Iraq.
In Vietnam, the United States spent hundreds of billions of dollars, suffered 400,000 casualties and inflicted more than 1 million. In Iraq, the financial cost is almost as high, but U.S. casualties number in the thousands. Iraqi combat and civilian deaths are difficult to calculate but probably exceed 100,000.
The most telling difference between the war in Iraq and the one in Vietnam is the most dangerous. When the United States could not prevail in Vietnam, it withdrew, with little consequence to U.S. strategic interests or the regional balance of power. U.S. withdrawal from Iraq could result in another rogue regime bent on anti-Western terrorism and aggression. Alternatively, civil war resulting in complete anarchy and a failed state would offer global terrorists another base from which to operate with impunity.
In some ways, Americans might come to wish the war in Iraq were more like the Vietnam War, not less.