Iraq is not another Vietnam

The military didn’t lose Vietnam, the U.S. public did.

The Vietnam War was a conflict run by politicians in Washington trying to fight a sensitive war. The United States won nearly every tactical victory, but lost the overall strategic victory. We were unwilling to win the war. The North Vietnamese knew if they could dishearten the U.S. public enough, we would leave. That is why they would send 10 men to kill one American.

I learned this firsthand when I lived in Hanoi two summers ago. They wanted an independent nation, and would do anything for it.

Back to Iraq. Within a little over a year, we took over a foreign nation (note: terrorist-sponsoring), rebuilt most of its infrastructure, and turned it over to an interim government which takes an active role in the United Nations. Iraq even competed in this summer’s Olympics. Within another year, a new independent government with a new constitution, police force and military will be running the nation.

In Vietnam, we spent almost a decade with little to no strategic victory. In Iraq, we’ve spent a little over a year with huge strategic victories. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was well protected. In Iraq, we captured Saddam. In Vietnam, we were unwilling to capture Hanoi due to politics. In Iraq, we captured Baghdad almost immediately.

In Vietnam, they hated the West for France’s evil practices (remember, Vietnam started out under French control). In Iraq, they hated Saddam for his evil practices. We are gradually handing military and police authority over to the Iraqis themselves, something we did in Vietnam only as a last resort when we decided we wouldn’t win.

But what about all the deaths? Currently, it is more dangerous to drive on U.S. highways (42,000 deaths per year) than to be a soldier in Iraq. You are more likely to die from a gunshot in Detroit than in Baghdad.

In “Iraq devolves into a quagmire” the Daily Editorial Board (editorial, Aug. 18) ceded the low-death statistic, but throws it off as unimportant. Yet the U.S. casualty rate was a major reason for us leaving Vietnam. I don’t like seeing our people die, but is has to be taken in perspective. So the comparison is ridiculous unless you mean to show stark differences.

I will say that the comparison is correct in one regard. If there continues to be strong anti-Iraq support, we will have major problems in the future.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” (a movie that implies the most untruths I’ve ever seen without actually lying) being shown in the Middle East will significantly hurt our efforts for peace. More Americans will be killed because of it. But most importantly, as U.S. citizens increase their opposition, it will render the ability of our leaders and military ineffective, just as it did in Vietnam.

The military didn’t lose Vietnam, the U.S. public did. Right now, the military and civilian forces are winning victory after victory in Iraq. The only thing that will stop us is the U.S. public. So to those who think Iraq is another Vietnam, go ahead and speak your mind. You’re free to do it. Just note there are consequences for what you say.

Chris Hill is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]