General Petraeus in Iraq has raised the Vietnam analogy in predicting widespread militant activity in the weeks leading up to the September deadline which apparently is supposed to result in changes in policy. He fears a “mini-Tet” referring to the Vietcong Tet attack.
Vietnam definitely was a civil war and we got caught in the middle. However, the analogy doesn’t exactly fit. There was no religious conflict tearing apart the Vietnamese people, and the Vietnam armed forces were light years ahead of the present dysfunctional Iraq army. South Vietnam lost due to incompetent political leadership and too many incompetent military officers. The terrain was vastly different affording hiding places in rural areas.
If there is anything General Petraeus has learned from the Vietnam conflict is the importance of honesty. American generals lied in their daily “count” of dead Vietcong which was more like a guess than any sort of actual description of dead enemy. He might also recall our reliance on bombing from planes caused widespread civilian deaths and turned many ordinary people to seek help from the Vietcong. Remember the lessons of Vietnam and what do they teach? Shouldn’t we be asking the right questions?