Vietnam Echoes Are Getting Louder and Louder

News Abroad

Mr. Appy holds a Ph.D. in American civilization and has taught at both Harvard University and MIT, where he was an associate professor of history. He is the author of Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides.

Find the lowest price on Books and Textbooks. Use the Internet's fastest price comparison search engine Check the price of your next book purchase at over 10,000 bookstores at

An "invisible enemy" strikes U.S. soldiers in a faraway land we claim to be saving; overwhelming American firepower kills thousands before many citizens realize their president used phony pretexts to justify military action; policy makers insist that while progress is steady we must be patient; anti-American guerrillas attack their own countrymen, whom they deem U.S. "puppets"; only a few nations send troops to support the United States' cause; talk of a "quagmire" fills the air.

Sound familiar? The specter of the Vietnam War so haunts the American soul there is no keeping it repressed, try as we might. Even events bearing only superficial similarity to that two-decade disaster can trigger its memory. So for many the ongoing guerrilla war in Iraq has become a Vietnam War Rorschach test, in which troubling images of the present evoke nightmares of the past.

In Vietnam, the more troops we inserted, the more anger our policies produced.

No wonder Donald Rumsfeld clinches his jaw whenever he hears the Q-word. In many ways, of course, the Iraq-Vietnam analogy is strained, even absurd. We're comparing four months to two decades; linking a beleaguered occupation of Iraq after the speedy overthrow of a despised dictator to a protracted war on behalf of an unpopular South Vietnamese government against a nationwide Communist movement led by the widely revered Ho Chi Minh (who was supported by China and the Soviet Union); 240 American deaths in Iraq to 58,000 in Vietnam; perhaps 15,000 Iraqi deaths to three million Vietnamese.

However, there are also real similarities between the two wars that should be of great concern, the most important of which is that in Iraq, as in South Vietnam, massive numbers of American troops are being asked not just to fight a war, but to achieve an extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, political goal. In both wars the United States publicly defined its ultimate objective as the establishment of political self-rule and independence on foreign ground, of a local government that could survive without a large and permanent American occupation force.

On April 7, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson said, "We want nothing for ourselves -- only that the people of South Vietnam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way." President Bush makes precisely the same claim about Iraq. In truth, the selflessness is as fraudulent now as it was then. Just as four American presidents refused to consider a South Vietnamese government that would include Communist participation, the Bush administration is not about to tolerate a radical Islamist government unfriendly to a significant U.S. political, economic and military presence. In Iraq, perhaps even more than in Vietnam, the United States wants to determine the outcome of "self-determination."

American troops in Iraq are likely to prove incapable of building local support for any government.

But just as in Vietnam, American troops in Iraq are likely to prove incapable of building local support for any government -- pro-American, truly self-determining or otherwise. In fact, if we can predict one thing from history, it's that their armed presence is almost guaranteed to generate opposition to any government associated with U.S. interests. In Vietnam, the more troops we inserted and the more Vietnamese we killed, the more anger and resentment our policies produced, thus giving ever more legitimacy to the forces opposing U.S. intervention.

We can't expect soldiers to win "hearts and minds," least of all when they're being fired on. What we can expect is that our increasingly frustrated, homesick and demoralized troops may become ever more cynical about "nation-building" and fall back on the line infamously uttered by an American officer in Vietnam, "Grab 'em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow."

We should have learned from Vietnam that military dominance is not the same thing as political legitimacy. Of course, we have the power to occupy Iraq indefinitely. But, as in Vietnam, it may be that no foreign power can install a government that will gain the widespread support of its own people. And the American people may eventually decide it is no longer worth trying.

This article was first published by and is reprinted with permission.

If you like the service HNN provides, please consider making a donation.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Duke Weigh In - 8/15/2003

Cite the page numbers in your two books ("as any historian involved in a historical discussion is expected to do") which support your story about the French embassy seizure AND your hypothesis that this was an important motivational factor explaining the difference between the nearly unanimous international consensus supporting Bush I in 1991 and the overwhelming lack of international enthusiasm for Bush II in 2002-03. If you've really got something, I will retract my earlier skepticism.

Wesley Smart - 8/15/2003

The information's in two standard works on the subject.

The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991, by Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh
The General's War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, by Gen. Bernard Trainor and Michael R. Gordon.

Oh, and here's a primary source:

And if you do a google search for "French Embassy" Kuwait September 1990 you'll get this and several other sources.

Your original suggestion was that the French, Russian and Chinese motivations in 1990 were not particularly different from those now. I reminded you that the French had different motivations for participating last time round. As for the Russians, the large check for more than a billion dollars from the Saudi government bought their support. That's in those books as well.

I can't help it if you're relying on your memory for a historical discussion of events from 1990-1991. I'm relying on primary documents and secondary sources, as any historian involved in a historical discussion is expected to do.

Wolf DeVoon - 8/14/2003

Dear Mr. Thomas,
I enjoyed SCTV and 'Strange Brew' as object lessons in the poverty of pop culture. But the Grammar Spelling & Punctuation police will certainly take a dim view of the following:

Hussein's (not Husseins)
absolutely (not absoletly)

With respect to Vietnam, I find it difficult to characterize the wholesale subornation of a corrupt society as 'civil war.' The parallel in Iraq is exact, although U.S. firebombs and aircraft have improved. I think the question to be addressed at the moment is how many Iraqis have been killed and maimed by U.S. bombing, shelling, and 'pacification' to date? Perhaps 10,000? 100,000? 1 million over the past decade (of sanctions)?

Take off, eh!

-- Wolf DeVoon

kidA - 8/13/2003

i just found appy's website at
it has some excerpts from his book PATRIOTS, links to his other articles, etc.

Duke - 8/13/2003

Hundreds of French citizens seized for use as human shields in Sept. 1990 and French troops sent to the Gulf the next day ? Cite your books, West, I'd like to know more.

I was following the headlines at the time and don't recall this episode at all. But I was a busier man in those days. Maybe I missed it.

I hardly think, however, that this explains the difference between the 1991 coalition and the 2003 fake coalition.

As for having and eating cake, you choke on that one, Wes.
Removing Saddam was overdue. Trusting chickenhawks Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld. et. al. to not to make a huge mess of American foreign policy in the process of that long overdue action was the big mistake. What to do and how to do it. Two very different things. Big mistakes can happen if you don't recognize the distinction. Like getting rid of Gore by electing Bush instead of McCain.

Wesley Smart - 8/12/2003

Duke is welcome to double check the sources with me. I consulted two standard reference works on the chronology of the first Gulf War written by historians, not government officials, and available from the library. The Iraqi forces attacked the French embassy and four others, as well as the French ambassador's residence in Kuwait, on September 14, 1990. In addition, several hundred French citizens were taken hostage and held as human shields throughout Iraq and Kuwait. Prior to this action Mitterand had been attempting to resolve the situation peacefully, and had sent numerous emissaries around the region to seek a non-military solution and to persuade the Arab nations that the military force was there as a defensive, not offensive, one.

Duke must not understand the deep significance of attacking an embassy, which is nominally the territory of the guest country. Iraq was attacking the country of France implicitly by its actions.

Consequently, the French sent additional forces to the Gulf the very next day. All of this is publically and widely known. Who knows what additional information is still classified about French actions after this attack.

Again, on the percentages question: would you care to hazard a guess as to what percentage of the total foreign combat troops in Vietnam the Koreans and Australians provided? Would you care to compare that with the percentage of foreign, non-US troops in Iraq this time around? I suspect that you'd be disappointed by the similarities. That's aside from discussing the particulars of the forces employed (special forces vs. regular logistics troops) and the missions undertaken.

Your final paragraph left me laughing. I am interested to learn that removing a dictator is both a mistake and an overdue necessity. Oh to eat your cake and have it too.

Wesley Smart - 8/12/2003

We are in the realm of counterfactuals. It is not unreasonable to see where the Chinese might have stood to benefit from embarassing the Soviet Union in Vietnam. By the time of the Tet Offensive, the split is complete. It is a wonder the two parties were cooperating at all in assisting North Vietnam. I would not be surprised if documents turn up to indicate that the two parties worked at cross-purposes to hurt each other at the expense of the North Vietnamese.

Under the circumstances, Nixon's 1972 normalization of relations with China was the optimal way to use the split for diplomatic advantage, rather than to seek in Vietnam alone a way to play the two parties off one another.

Arch Stanton - 8/12/2003

An interesting point. I had forgotten that the Iraqis occupied the French embassy in Kuwait. What is publicly known or speculated about why they did that?

Josh Greenland - 8/12/2003

"What makes you certain that the Chinese would have been interested in intervening in North Vietnam before 1979?"

I did indicate certainty, didn't I? Well, let me soften my previous statements, because one can never be certain of future political events, and say that it is very unlikely that China would have tolerated another superpower moving into a small country on its border, motivated by territorial nervous that is normal for superpowers. Also though, China had occupied Vietnam for many (perhaps hundreds of) years in the past, and even with changes of government, empires and ex-empires often hanker for control of smaller countries they've controlled in the past.

I still insist that China refusing to respond militarily to a US ground invasion of North Vietnam is so unlikely that it's a waste of time to fantasize about it, and that anyone considering it at the time was a dangerous person best kept away from the levers of power.

"What does the state of the Sino-Soviet split by that point indicate about the willingness of the Chinese to do anything that would have bolstered their Soviet rivals?"

Are you saying China responding militarily to a US ground invasion of North Vietnam would have somehow bolstered the Soviet Union? If so, how?

Duke - 8/11/2003

"Meaningful discussion" would be furthered if Wesley Smart would double-check his sources instead of just trying to rhetorically dig himself out of the pro-Bush propaganda pit he has so eagerly jumped into. Where did that bit about the French "joining the coalition" after their Kuwait embassy was "occupied" come from, I wonder ? When was this "occupation" ? In August, 1990 during Saddam's two-day war against Kuwait ? Months before the U.S. Congress authorized Desert Storm ?

Smart's sidestepping of the percentages question cannot cover up the obvious truth. In some wars there are real coalitions, like US, UK and USSR against Nazi Germany, with each partner chipping in 10, 20 or 30% of the men, material and lives. Other wars get boosted by strategic use of misleading propaganda (e.g. Gulf of Tonkin resolution). The Cheney-Perle-Wolfowitz Iraq invasion is being justified by misleading propaganda about "coalitions".

One can "meaningfully discuss" an "alliance" this year between Bush and Blair perhaps, or even between the US and Britain, but a "coalition of Norwegians, Poles and Australians" ? That is just pure Dubya-in-2004 campaign deceit.

It was a mistake for the US to intervene in the already long-raging Vietnam War in the 1960s. It was a hopeless cause from the start. Colin, at least (unlike the Rambos posting here) learned that lesson, if nothing else: pick a war you can win quickly.

By contrast, getting rid of Saddam was not only not a mistake, it was long overdue. But trusting a bunch of incompetents in Washington to do the job was a very big mistake. As one TV pundit crudely but accurately put it: "How badly do you have to suck to lose in a popularity contest against Saddam ?" America won that war quickly nevertheless, and notwithstanding all the bull about "shock and awe". But, America lost the peace, and our international reputation, by the inept failure to make the war it started a multilateral effort.

Wesley Smart - 8/11/2003


From this suggestion of Nigerian nuclear weapons to your confusing question about percentages [we might well ask about percentages of foreign troops involved in the 'police action' in Korea, 1950-1953], I think there is much you need to revisit about the course of events over the past several months before meaningful discussion can occur.

For example, as per your mention of France and the 1990-91 Gulf War, you may be interested to know (a) that in 1990 the French joined the coalition in earnest after Hussein forceably occupied the French embassy in Kuwait City, and (b) that in the run up to this Gulf War, the French foreign minister explicitly informed Powell that France would have no opposition, and then announced publically shortly thereafter (without consulting the U.S.) that they would oppose the new resolution regardless of its overall popularity. A difference in diplomacy, or a difference in conditions? I submit to you that the answer is obvious.

Wesley Smart - 8/10/2003

What makes you certain that the Chinese would have been interested in intervening in North Vietnam before 1979? What does the state of the Sino-Soviet split by that point indicate about the willingness of the Chinese to do anything that would have bolstered their Soviet rivals? I ask these as serious historical questions.

The Vietnam case is a spectacular arena for counterfactuals. We will never know whether widening the war into North Vietnam through a ground invasion would have yielded any appreciable results, nor whether the generals who claim that the political/diplomatic difficulties confronted by the Johnson administration hampered the military operations are correct.

Dave Thomas - 8/9/2003

Vietnam began as a struggle to end colonial domination and ended as a civil war.

Husseins regime had absoletly nothing in common with Vietnam from 1917-1975 at all.

Political motives produce horrendous historical perspectives.

Josh Greenland - 8/9/2003

I'm sure the Chinese would have been happy for an excuse to get into Vietnam before 1979, and a US land invasion of North Vietnam would have been a perfect one. The idea that China wouldn't respond militarily to the invasion of a communist country on its borders by the USA can be dismissed out of hand. The notion of the US fighting the NVA alone in North Vietnam was an impossible fantasy. That some pro-Vietnam War hawks claim that this could have happened makes me respect them even less than I already did. If that was the quality of thinking of those who planned and pushed for the war, it explains its result.

Duke - 8/8/2003

Tell us please: What was the percentage of combat troops from countries other than the United States participating in this year's Iraq invasion ?

I suspect that that percentage is minuscule compared to the ratio of Koreans, Australians, etc. who served in Vietnam. And yet no one ever tried to sell the anti-Hanoi forces as some kind of grand "coalition". Though their administrations were hardly hallmarks of candor and accuracy, LBJ and Nixon were justifying a reluctant military action, not trying to launch (after Labor Day) a foreign war of aggression as some kind of international defense against terrorism and Nigerian nukes. More non-echoes.

As for French-German-Russian-Chinese "motivations", were they really much different in 1990-91 when UN authorization WAS successfully obtained ? An international boondoggle which is the result of an inept American president requires a degree of
"Amerocentrism" before it can be properly explained (or before
partisan propaganda trying to whitewash that boondoggle can be exposed).

Wesley Smart - 8/8/2003

In the interests of accuracy, Mr. Weigh In is reminded that the United States participated in a coalition of forces in Iraq. These additional forces, it will be recalled, included the British, the Australians, the Poles, and, I believe, the Norwegians. Doubtless there were others whose contributions were in the special forces roles and therefore eschewed publicity.

The idea that the United States acted "unlaterally" is a canard and weakens any utility that your overall argument has.

The idea that a more competent administration could have secured a resolution for intervention is an Amero-centric approach to the subject that ignores the actions and motivations of the French, Germans, Russians and Chinese in and out of the Security Council.

John Weigh In - 8/8/2003

In Vietnam we lost 50,000 men and hundreds of billions of dollars (and not because Nixon and Kissinger were too soft on communism as semi-educated arm-chair Rambos like to pretend). The president-select's war on Saddam was much less costly in lives, and probably in dollars too, but much more costly to America's long term international respect and reputation.

In Vietnam we intervened in a long-standing war. In Iraq, America for the first time ever, was the solitary overt aggressor and initiator of bloodshed. And unnecessarily so, since a competent US Administration (e.g. as in 1991) could and would have secured UN backing for a legitimate intervention. And an America with the UN behind it would have much more credibility now in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc.

In Vietnam we slipped into a morass, against our better judgment but with honorable intentions. In Iraq, the most incompetent U.S. government in decades turned policy over to a hypocritical clique of think tank cowards.

Different indeed.

Elia Markell - 8/7/2003

Not a good sign for the quagmire crowd. The fiesty guerrillas of Baghdad are apparently facing a dwindling supply of willing assasins and have had to raise the bonus offered to anyone who kills an American from $1,000 to $5,000. In a market economy, prices send the key signals. Handwriting's on the wall.

Wesley Smart - 8/7/2003

I'm not sure if your comments were in response to mine, but I assure you that I specified *ground* invasion, not merely the air campaign, as the decisive course not taken. I am not arguing in favor of it or against such a course of action, but merely responding to Messers. Moner and Thornton.

It isn't really in doubt that if the United States had initiated a ground invasion of North Vietnam it would have been able to stop the logistical support of the NVA regulars and VC forces in the south, assuming that only the North Vietnamese were present to defend the country. The larger issue was whether such an action would have initiated a counterinvasion by the Chinese; the operational assumptions of the Johnson administration was that the Chinese certainly would have done so. Sometimes the military solution to a problem is completely at odds with the diplomatic solution to the problem, and this was the case in the Vietnam War.

Given that the Chinese themselves invaded North Vietnam in 1979, I am not one hundred percent convinced that the Chinese would have opposed a U.S. invasion of North Vietnam.

Josh Greenland - 8/7/2003

It's nice to hear arguments almost 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War that US forces were "held back" by the politicians and that the US would only have been fighting North Vietnamese troups if it invaded North Vietnam.

Nice dream. The huge Chinese army was right over the border and I'm sure we would have had a second Korean War on our hands, but maybe bigger and a lot worse. If we didn't hold back from going into North Vietnam, there's no reason China would have.

Therefore, the "US against the NVA only" scenario of the "we could have won in Vietnam crowd" is an impossible historical fantasy.

And we did attack North Vietnam. We ran an air war against it, bombing all cities except Haiphong and Hanoi out of existence. The B52 carpet bombing was so bad that North Vietnam manufactured culvert sections for the sole purpose of being upended and put into holes dug into the ground all over that country for citizens to jump into at a moment's notice, including out in rice fields because US aerial bombs were so ubiquitous. I'm not sure any of the younger folks who weren't around then can imagine the intensity of that bombing campaign. It must have been seriously disruptive of the Vietnamese war effort against the US, but they still won.

jim naso - 8/7/2003

Prof. Appy acknowledges that "the Vietnam-Iraq analogy" is "in may ways...strained, even absurd," but he carries on anyway. In support of the Iraq side of the analogy, he cites selectively and tendentiously items he has either read in a newspaper (New York Times, perchance?)or heard on the radio (NPR?). Having no more factual information than I or anybody else has, Prof. Appy relies instead upon nuggets of political rhetoric, hearsay and anecdote in order to arrive at his "guaranteed" dismal conclusion. Call me old-fashioned, but I expect a greater degree of intellectual honesty and rigor from a trained historian sporting a Ph.D.

Any analogy, when scrutinized closely, will undoubtedly seem strained, even absurd. But since that is the game we are playing today, let's consider the case of Japan. We dropped two atomic bombs there, maintained a military occupation for nearly ten years there, and imposed a constitution there. Japan remains a democracy, and is one of our closest allies and trading partners. And most Japanese like Americans. If a Japan-Iraq analogy seems strained in the current political environment, it seems so, in part, because the "greatest generation" has been supplanted by an "intellectual" elite which started yelling "quagmire" even before the first bomb was dropped.

John Kipper - 8/7/2003

Maybe this will help. You can find the entire British dossier at:

On page 8 of the document, in the executive summary, you find:

[Irag has]military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons,including against its own Shia population.Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them;

Further, on the next page:

.illegally retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles,with a range of 650km,capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads;

.started deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile,and has used the absence of weapons inspectors to work on extending its range to at least 200km,which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations;
.started producing the solid-propellant Ababil-100,and is making efforts to extend its range to at least 200km,which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations;
.constructed a new engine test stand for the development of missiles capable of reaching the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and NATO members (Greece and Turkey),as well as all Iraq ’s Gulf neighbours and Israel;
.pursued illegal programmes to procure materials for use in its illegal development of long range missiles;

It is obvious that the British government was not concerned about a WMD strike on the homeland with only a 45 minute lead time, as there was no Iraqi capability to deliver the strike. The concern was for in-theater, tactical use.

Wesley Smart - 8/6/2003

The Tet Offensive, it is widely understood by historians of the war, was a military failure for the North and the VC but a diplomatic and political disaster for the United States. The United States, it will be recalled, was not in a position to launch a ground invasion of North Vietnam, out of fear that the Chinese and the Soviet Union would have countered with military action of their own, elsewhere. Had the United States launched a ground invasion of the North, it would have inflicted at a minimum a serious disruption to the ***logistical and personnel support network backing the war in the south.*** It might well have been enough to bring the overall organized war to a halt or indeed a complete end. [no bullets or rockets, no organized attacks!] The Johnson administration was not willing to risk the chance of wider conflict, however, and so a ground invasion of the North never occurred. This is one key element in the argument that the United States could well have achieved a military victory if it had been free to fight the war in the best way possible.

Gus Moner - 8/6/2003

Mr Thornton would have us believe we were “a shot away”, as the Rolling Stones song goes, from victory. The question is not whether Vietnnam was a 'military loss'. Clearly a victory it was not.

If the VC and NVA were so 'finished' after Tet, what exactly stopped the US from gaining the upper hand? Moreover, it’s worrying to read “Avoiding a confrontation with the USSR and PRC was more important to Presidents Johnson and Nixon rather than prosecuting the war in Vietnam to victory”. What were we supposed to have done, gone nuclear?

Some old Vietnam hands tell us they could have won. Well, they did not. Some Germans say they could have won in WWII, or WWI. They did not. It’s a simple as that,

The NVA, VC and many S Vietnamese we were “saving” saw to it the US lost. Were we supposed to have gone nuclear to ‘win’? Sheer madness. An enemy everywhere and nowhere was eating the US and their small ‘coalition allies’ alive in the jungles and cities.

Heading north wouldn’t have changed that scenario, but merely broadened it and it would have got China and perhaps the USSR involved, while wasting even more people and land.

Escalation, it was not a brilliant strategy and it failed under Nixon and Johnson. Just how were the US forces supposed to enter N Vietnam and ‘regime change’ their government? I suppose Mr Thornton would have us believe the N Vietnamese would have laid their weapons down and welcomed the US whilst Russia and China would have stood by and watched their ally defeated.

Gus Moner - 8/6/2003

Good question. I'll try to find an answer.

Will J. Richardson - 8/6/2003

Dear Mr. Appy,

Elia Markell covered the major flaws in your comparison of Iraq to Vietnam. I write to add one nore. In Vietnam the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong had safe havens in adjoining countries. In Iraq there are no sanctuaries that the U.S. is willing to tolerate. This was demonstrated by the incursion into Syria earlier this year in which the U.S. detained Syrian border guards and citizens. Without foreign support and safe bases the Bathist and Islamist terrorists are bound to fail in the end.

Herodotus - 8/6/2003

Wasn't that the 45 minutes from order of use by Hussein to actual use by the Iraq field commanders in theater, not against Western European cities by short range SCUD missiles?

Elia Markell - 8/6/2003

Prof. Appy's Vietnam echoes are in the minds of the Vietnam generation of academia and nowhere else to be heard. Let's just take each element in Appy's opener:

"An "invisible enemy" strikes U.S. soldiers in a faraway land we claim to be saving;"

In Vietnam, the enemy was, first and foremost, the army of North Vietnam. The NLF was the creature of that army, which itself was supplied by Russia and China. The final collapse of South Vietnam was a result of an end to U.S. aid to the South followed by a final invasion by that army, the NLF as a fighting force having been decimated after Tet. In Iraq, meanwhile, an utterly uncoordinated series of pot-shoters are taking out soldiers at about the rate of LA street-gang violence. The population is increasingly aiding the U.S. in ferreting out these dead-enders or al Qaeda fanatics. There are no supply lines to superpowers or even second rate powers to keep the arms flowing. As for the leaderhip, the equivalent of General Giap and the entire Vietnamese Politburo are dead or in jail, and the Ho Chi Minh of the day is hiding in basements as we close in.

"overwhelming American firepower kills thousands before many citizens realize their president used phony pretexts to justify military action; "

The dastardly 16 words have faded to page 3 since the killing of Saddam's sons. To say this and other snippets of speculation on WMD proves it was a "phony pretext," is to demean the UN, the Brits, the Russians and even the French, as much as the U.S., all of whom held Saddam in breach of resolutions demanding he account for his WMD programs. This is why the huffing and puffing on this will never make it into a Tonkin Gulf myth for the left (Tonkin Gulf itself never having fed any widespread popular discontent about the war anyway, as opposed to among post-Vietnam nostalgia in the colleges). The public is not responding to the "where's the outrage" rage of the left on this for a very simple reason. They share the president's view that our policies on terrorism post 9/11 must now be preemptive, that, as he said, we cannot wait until the threat is immanent, and that the threat was plainly high enough in potential to fully justify what we did.

"policy makers insist that while progress is steady we must be patient; anti-American guerrillas attack their own countrymen, whom they deem U.S. "puppets";

These two go together. Progress is in fact steady. Electricity and water are back to Saddam levels or better. The ENTIRE south, where Shiite hostility was the headline de jure in May and June, is now quiet. Town governments are forming. Local police forces are shaping up. By no stretch can the interim governing council be portrayed as a puppet since it includes many long active key Shiite and Kurd freedom fighters. Reports from the field, as opposed to the desperate effort to turn the news into a daily body count, suggest growing respect, cooperation and understanding from the Iraqis. This all will grow as the Baathist dead-enders fade.

"only a few nations send troops to support the United States' cause; talk of a "quagmire" fills the air. "

This is the biggest hoot of them all. Outside of the pages of the New York Times, Maureen Dowd, Chris Matthews, Paul Krugman, and the whole A.N.S.W.E.R. crowd and fellow travelers, who are in fact salavating in the hopes of "quagmire," no one on planet earth is using the term. Really, Appy, come on out to the Midwest, and see. The air is full of misquitos and pollen. Otherwise, it's clear and pleasant. Not a quagmire in sight. As for the few nations sending troops, why, apart from perhaps the Poles, the British, would the US or the Iraqis WANT them? Thank God they are not nosing around getting in the way.

James Thornton - 8/6/2003

War is really a contest of wills. After Tet, the VC and NVA were militarily finished. If the military had been permitted to use ground troops and change the regime in Hanoi, the outcome would have been completely different. Vietnam is the war we lost despite winning the battles because of inept political leadership. Avoiding a confrontation with the USSR and PRC was more important to Presidents Johnson and Nixon rather than prosecuting the war in Vietnam to victory. If you take a broader survey of history you will find the US is one of the most succesful in counter-insurgency. The Indian Campaigns and the Philippine Insurrection are examples of classic successful counter-insurgencies.

NYGuy - 8/5/2003

Just another "what if" analysis using a static situation as if there has been nothing changing in the world for over 30 years. It is hard to believe the quaqmire crowd can't understand they are in a black hole with no light or knowledge allowed to come in.

Who really believes that today's world is the same as 30 years ago? Certainly not the youngsters who are getting ready to go to college and are well aware of the significant technological changes that has changed this world. They also know that nuclear and biological weapons are of greater concern than during the Vietnam period. They know that the U. S. was attacked and two 110 story building were brought down as well as killing in others parts of the U. S. by fanatics. Some also felt the loss of this attack on the U. S personally. They at least have a chnace of growing up, not like the anti-war groups from Vietnam who always see shadows and believe in "what-if" analysis which is not appropriate for our times.

During the 1990's we followed the approach they recommneded and what did we get. An inept U. N. that does nothing to stop the dangerous trends in the world, a U. S. government that engaged in the same idyllic ideas that did nothing to protect this country.

Prof. Appy's analysis is typical of what this over-the-hill group of propagandist spew out. Nothing has changed, the world is the same as when we were on the picket lines. What glorious days they were. Let us try to go back and recreate that feeling by writing fantasy articles that Iraq is the same as Vietnam. We even leave class to protest, but the students paying $20,000-30,000 per year for our knowledge tell us to get back in the classroom, we want to learn not become propagandists

Try as they may to convince the public, the average citizen knows the difference,even if they did not go to college. Sometimes people are too smart for their own good.

There lack of knowledte is proved every day with articles like Prof. Appy's as well as those experts who predicted quaqmire a week or two before we won in Iraq.

Today we are in a better position to protect ourselves, and the world then we ever were in the Vietnam era or for the 1990's.

Gus Moner - 8/5/2003

Untold horrors in the form of BCWs.

Herodotus - 8/5/2003

What was supposed to reach London in 45 minutes?

Gus Moner - 8/5/2003

No one, you, the author or myself, ever said there was "no Iraqi Air Force". The fact they buried their aeroplanes in the desert shows their trust in its capabilities in time of war.

But from your comment I infer that you assume the vaunted WMD that Bush solemly announced had been distributed to front line Iraqi units whose officers were authorised to use in case of invasion, will also turn up in the desert.

You can bet that some WMD will turn up, planted or found, otherwise these NeoCon Judeo-Christian Crusaders will lose their face and the elections. I always contended they existed, whilst disagreeing with the policy to attack, but I may yet have to eat my words if they are not located.

Whatever is located will never equal the threat level, the level of development and sophistication (does reaching London in 45 minutes ring a bell?)attributed to the Iraqis in the rush to frighten us into submission by the time the invasion was ready to be launched. In fact, the course of events have proven that the UN inspection regime was rather successful in the end.

You can bet the WMD won't have their tailfins sticking up from the sand when they are 'found'!

Herodotus - 8/5/2003

Yup, no WMD. Just like there was no Iraqi air force. Oh wait, it just turned up in the desert, buried.

Gus Moner - 8/4/2003

There is a big difference in the way we ended up in each war. The US slipped and slid, tripped and tumbled into Vietnam. Before you knew it, soldiers were dying and an incident was used to trigger a massive occupation.

In Iraq, we blundered and entered en-masse. Whatever else is said, the US planned and executed the invasion resolutely. There ca n be no doubting who were the theologians and the converts, the executors and all are there to see.

However, they failed to even glimpse the collapse and occupation, with Wolfowitz telling Congress 60 days and a few thousand million.

The shooting gallery there will continue, regardless of Saddam's eventual fate, it's time to get out of the way. The best plan is to put up - a government- and get out- letting Iraqis rule themselves and deal with their thugs their way.

Whether one supported the 'pre-emptive' attack or not, the US job is basically done; there are no WMD, no vaunted Iraqi army nor anymore an onerous regime. Let's wrap it up.