August 27, 2003

DO THE MATH

Is Iraq another Vietnam? Not exactly. In fact, itís not even another Gulf War:

In Vietnam, for example, an average of 18 GIs died a day for more than seven years. During World War II, the rate was 221 combat deaths a day for four years. Even during the first Persian Gulf War, a 42-day blitz, America averaged about nine dead a day.

And a reminder to CNN: Kosovo wasnít another Vietnam, either.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 27, 2003 01:21 AM
Comments

Could it be Vietnam, circa 1964? How many were dying per day at that point?

It could also be similar to southern Lebanon when it was occupied by Israel. Were the casualties in that conflict similar to American casualties in Iraq? Israel ended up withdrawing from that war after 15 years or so.

Posted by: snore at August 27, 2003 at 01:41 AM

Had Vietnam become "a Vietnam" in 1964?

Posted by: tim at August 27, 2003 at 02:22 AM

Isreal withdrew from Lebanon only under pressure from the US and the rest of the world and now wish they hadn't, given that Hamas is once again using Lebanon as a staging area for sniper attacks in Isreal.

What I'd really like to know is why people who claim that Americans are nothing but guillable little simpletons who lack any historical perspective on world events are themselves apparently unaware of the fact that Vietnam was not the only war the US ever fought.

Posted by: sean at August 27, 2003 at 02:56 AM

well, clearly it's the only one that mattered.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at August 27, 2003 at 03:37 AM

well, clearly it's the only one that mattered.

Clearly it matters to me.......I fought there.

Let me also remind you that the outcome of the Vietnam War was determined, in the main, from flawed political leadership in such examples as making areas of Vietnam off limits to bombing. The port of Haiphong, in particular, from which the flow of supplies to the N. Vietnamese in the South remained uninterrupted for almost the entire course of the war.
Another slight difference between Vietnam and Iraq. In Vietnam we never set foot on enemy soil, destroyed their entire army and decapitated their leadership.

Posted by: wallace at August 27, 2003 at 05:20 AM

Yes, well, there is no shortage of politicians wanting to run this war too. And talk about simpletons, most of them don't know how to pour piss out of a combat boot....which is something that they would definitely need to know if they got even near a battle area.

Posted by: K'tar Deaz at August 27, 2003 at 05:33 AM

i agree with you, wallace; perhaps your irony-detector was turned off?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at August 27, 2003 at 06:46 AM

This has to be one of Tim's more moronic straw men. Of course the comparison with Vietnam is relevant: if only to ensure that to the extent that similar situations arise, similar mistakes are not repeated.

And of course the proper comparison with present-day Iraq is with Vietnam 1962-64: the key lesson being the way that a low-level insurgency can develop into an overwhelming force if certain conditions exist (including, for example, the absence of credible domestic leadership and the availability of outside support for the insurgency).

Fortunately, I'm pretty confident that the people running the show take a more sensible view of the value of history than our Tim, in whose world, apparently, you just have to hold the right views, and only good things can happen to you.

Posted by: Mork at August 27, 2003 at 11:35 AM

In response to Mork, Mr. Blair did not say the Vietnam analogy is irrelevant. He said the lesson being drawn from the analogy is wrong. Can we draw the right lesson if we restrict the analogy to Vietman in the early 1960s, as Mork suggests? Sure, if we imagine the U.S. in 1964 conquering and occupying North Vietnam and totally destroying the regime and its armed forces. We would then have faced only a "low-level insurgency" and I think there can be little doubt about the outcome. Remember the American public was then solidly behind the war effort. The guerrillas would have received far more significant "outside support" than those in Iraq have any hope of ever getting; they could probably have counted on the aid of two great powers, one with a common border, not a collection of badly-armed foreign volunteers; they might have gotten at least initially more support from the North Vietnamese population than the Baathists are getting from their own people. But they would still have lost. As for the "absence of credible domestic leadership," get real. Saddam was overthrown four months ago. And even the Diem regime would have suddenly looked a lot more credible if it had reunited Vietnam. -- from an instructor in Asian Studies in Korea

Posted by: doyne dawson at August 27, 2003 at 02:03 PM

doyne - try thinking about Iraq as south Vietnam and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran as north Vietnam. Does the analogy make more sense now?

As for the absence of credible domestic leadership, well, obviously there is still plenty of time to make sure the right steps are taken . . . just as it is equally obvious that the danger is profound if they are not. At present, Vietnam is a warning, not a prophecy.

Fortunately, this is well understood in Washington, even if it isn't in the yappocracy.

Posted by: Mork at August 27, 2003 at 02:12 PM

Foreign Politics Today

Iraq is the new Vietnam, America is the new Rome, North Korea is the new USSR and the rest of the world is totally and utterly confused... or something like that.

Posted by: TimT at August 27, 2003 at 02:45 PM

Re Mork's comment: "try thinking about Iraq as south Vietnam and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran as north Vietnam. Does the analogy make more sense now?"

North Vietnam was armed and supported by the Soviet Union and China, two of the three largest military powers in the world at that time. Something tells me that, this time around, Russia and China won't be going to the mat for Syria and Iran (which is itself in a precarious position, being that its funding insurgents on their eastern and western borders and holding their increasingly angry population at bay).

To the extent you are arguing that half-assed reconstruction efforts in Iraq might doom America's effort like its half-assed military strategy in Vietnam early on in the conflict, I'll concede your point. However, the solution is more military presence, not less, and American military presence to boot, given the UN's even worse track record in peacekeeping.

Posted by: Sean at August 27, 2003 at 03:40 PM

Sean - your last paragraph summarises my point exactly, and I agree that part of the solution is a large American military presence for some time to come.

On the analogy - the amount of assistance that NV received from China and the USSR is sometimes overstated . . . particularly wrt China: from the mid 1960s, supply of the NV'ese got tied up with the whole Sino-Soviet tension, and NV tended to side with the USSR.

And I think that in any case, you'd be foolish to conclude that there are no circumstances in which an Iraqi resistance movement could drum up the necessary material support to pose a threat to a U.S. backed government: Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria all have oil revenues . . . plus, think of the insurgency in Chechnya, which is basically privately financed by the Islamist diaspora (and the drug trade).

Posted by: Mork at August 27, 2003 at 04:03 PM