Sunday, October 02, 2005

Iraq Is Not Vietnam

Iraq is not Vietnam. Stop drawing the parallel because you are wrong.

America won Vietnam. It is losing Iraq.

I realize that this is not the conventional wisdom regarding the former, but it is true and I will tell you why.


Anyone with half a brain and a minimal knowledge of the "Cold War" understands that many of the conflicts that followed World War II were proxy wars. They are called proxy wars because, behind the scenes of the local fighting, lied powerful nations that provided the money, arms and training to the regional armies. When you have a superpower, you have client states. When you have two superpowers, the client states have a choice of master. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, the big daddy financiers of conflict in the world were the Soviet Union and the United States and it wasn't difficult to figure out who the client states were. Korea was a proxy war, Vietnam was a proxy war, Grenada, Cuba, etc.

The goal of a proxy war is not necessarily to win militarily. Wearing down the other side will suffice as a victory if the defeated opponent's client states ultimately have no choice but to come into your camp.

Vietnam is the perfect example of such a victory. The American public was sold the war with the recycled slogan that it was a fight for "freedom" but America did not see a loss of freedom because of the military defeat. That is, of course, because the war had nothing to do with freedom. It had everything to do with bleeding the Soviets dry. And it worked.

One need only look at the change in dynamics between the Soviet Union and its client states for evidence of this truism. The collective Arab nations went to war with Israel in 1948, 1956 and 1967, with the unflinching support of the Soviet Union. After Gamal Abdel-Nasser died in 1970, a then unknown military general named Anwar Sadat became president of Egypt. Reflecting upon the humiliating defeat by American-backed Israel in 1967 and watching the exhaustion of the Soviet Union in Vietnam, Sadat decided that Egypt's future lied with the U.S., not the USSR. Sadat provoked the point by attacking Israel in October 1973. The Russians were unable to provide the Egyptian army with reinforcement tanks and the Israelis, initially on the defensive, made strong offensive gains into the Sinai. After the U.S. stepped in to call a truce, Sadat declared his desire to make peace with Israel and offered Egypt as a client state to the U.S. The Camp David Accords are a direct result of America's victory in Vietnam.

Other nations around the world followed suit and, without the client states, the Soviet Union began the shrinky-dink process, from empire to nation. The 1982 Russian invasion of Afghanistan was a last ditch effort to maintain military control over strategic neighboring countries, but we all know the ending to that story. CIA training and religious zeal were married into a band of warriors who defeated what had been one of the strongest armies in the world. The Soviet Satellite States knew it was only a matter of time before the wall would come down. It took only eight years.

American military and financial hegemony over the past 25 years is the victory for which hundreds of thousands of American soldiers gave their lives in Vietnam.


America remains the 100 pound gorilla of the world, but the war in Iraq, and recently Katrina, are siphoning resources and constraining the stretch of the empire.

All the while, client states and superpower competitors are making interesting moves. China has taken an active role throughout Africa, offering loans (to be paid back with oil and other resources), technical support and protection from the U.N. Security Council. Sudan, Angola, Zimbabwe and Nigeria are welcoming Chinese stewardship with open arms. Iran, backed by Russia and China, remains defiant about its nuclear program and, even Israel, the long-time golden client of the U.S., has been making overtures toward Europe and to the East. Notorious for re-selling the technology it receives from the U.S. to regimes with which the U.S. does not contract, the U.S. recently sanctioned Israel for selling spare parts for attack drones to China.

The American economy is now in the hands of the Chinese Central Bank, which has been purchasing Treasury Bonds that are issued to finance the Iraq debacle. Clinton left office with a surplus and Bush pissed it down the toilet on his war games.

And what do we have to show for this wild expenditure? A bunch of holy-rolling buffoons has the U.S. military bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan with no end in sight. Sound familiar?

Even if America "wins" militarily in Iraq (whatever that means), she will have been financially bled dry in the process. Bush will cut more and more domestic spending, he will continue to behave like a teenager with a credit card and devalue the dollar while China and Europe stay quietly busy in the background with their new clients. This will do far more damage than any terrorist could do (just ask the last of the Roman Emperors).

Vietnam was a victory. Iraq is an unmitigated disaster.

If you live long enough, you'll see that
every victory turns into a defeat
Simone de Beauvoir


At 1:38 PM, October 03, 2005 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Interesting. I guess that's one take. My view is that "victory" necessarily entails a measurement of the costs. So the lives lost and the deaths caused also has a play in that.

If you take those into account, was Vietnam a victory?

At 2:08 PM, October 03, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

If victory is measured by a score card of deaths on each side, then Vietnam was a disaster for both sides. I find it difficult to proclaim victory by saying we lost 200,000, but they lost 300,000 or vice versa. That doesn't sound like much of a victory to me.

That's why victory cannot be measured that way. WWII was not a victory because of a favorable death scorecard. It was a victory because Hitler was defeated and the U.S. inherited the ashes of the British and French empires.

At 4:49 PM, October 03, 2005 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

While I don't totally agree with your analysis of our involvement in Vietnam, I do agree with your overall point: we're following the Soviet model -- bleeding money that is only weakening our position in the world economy that's coming... with China the next powerhouse.

We better get our act together -- and soon.

At 4:57 PM, October 03, 2005 , Blogger Pseudo-intellectual lunatic said...

a good blo

At 5:09 PM, October 04, 2005 , Blogger Mr. Wilson said...

whoever has the resources to write history and get their version accepted is who won the war.

At 7:56 AM, October 05, 2005 , Blogger Possum said...

Interesting thoughts, I'm now thinking your comment to me on the issue of Google and Taiwan on my blog was to challenge rather than be a jerk.

If you check through my archives, since I haven't spent time to make an index yet, you'll see I comment and report on any news relevant to the Chinese.

As for Google, it sickens me to see an American company bend over and take the communist line for profit. The act of calling Taiwan a state of China is nothing less than the endorsement of fascist actions for the sake of being allowed through the great red firewall.

I equate the actions of Google to endorsing fascism. Google's actions are none better than if they had endorsed Nazis against Jews or the Klan against Blacks. I have a big problem with Google doing this and, quite frankly, you should too.
... back to the topic:

As for Iraq, you are right, it isn't Vietnam. If we could control the Iraqi borders we might even beat the terrorists. Seeing as how many of the suicicide bombers are from neighboring countries instead of native Iraqis.

Also you should note that in Vietnam we didn't have a good reason to see the fight through to the bitter end. Unless you are riding a bicycle every day you have a vested interest in seeing an Iraqi democracy succeed as well!

At 12:39 PM, October 05, 2005 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...


Regarding China and Google, the people of HK worried that when HK returned to the mainland, the government would try to make HK more Communist. In fact, however, the opposite has happened. The breakneck pace at which capitalism is burgeoning through China bodes well for more political participation, not less.

With respect to this post, access to Iraqi oil has nothing to do with democracy. It has everything to do with installing leaders who will let the U.S. control the oil. That's not democracy. The fantasy that a Constitution makes a democracy is not borne out in so many countries. Iran and Egypt both have Constitutions and neither can be remotely considered a democracy.

And, as to the entire point of this post, what good does it do for America if Iraqis can vote for their leaders, but the U.S. in financially bankrupt? Everything is about economics. Ideology is just a tool to get people to fight the rich man's battle.

At 9:49 AM, October 06, 2005 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, there is a cost associated with the war on terror, but there would also be a cost to a withdrawal from Iraq; emboldened terrorist groups with momemtum on thier side, and an unknowable level of insecurity here in the United States. 9-11 was the cost of years of inactivity against growing terrorist threats. After another 9-11, would we have to start the fight over from scatch?

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