Is Iraq Another Vietnam?
Robert K. Brigham
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Buy *Is Iraq Another Vietnam?* by Robert K. Brigham online

Is Iraq Another Vietnam?
Robert K. Brigham
224 pages
August 2006
rated 5 of 5 possible stars
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Robert K. Brigham raises a question that’s been much-discussed in the media and among the American public for some time now: Just how many similarities are there between America’s involvement in Vietnam and its “war against terror” in Iraq? The title is provocative, and is likely meant to help sell more books. Of course, Iraq is not at all another Vietnam, being much different in several ways. Robert K. Brigham is not trying to say that Iraq is another Vietnam at all. He discusses the differences and similarities between both wars, making Is Iraq Another Vietnam? an intriguing read that people of any political affiliation should find of interest.

When Richard Nixon described his policy on a timeline for troop withdrawal from Vietnam, he said it would happen when the South Vietnamese armed forces were capable of defending their country, that it would only happen from a position “from strength and not from weakness.”Sound at all like we’re living through “deja vu all over again”? President George W. Bush says basically the same thing regarding U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq, his plan being to eventually transfer more responsibility to the NIA (New Iraqi Army) as a prerequisite to withdrawing American forces from Iraq. There are a few minor roadblocks which have blocked any thought of withdrawing troops, including “...poor planning, insufficient staffing, and inadequate equipment.” Robert K. Brigham quotes U.S. General Paul D. Eaton in 2003 as saying:

“We were told to find anything we needed for the soldiers--boots, canteens, rucksacks, belts, beds, blankets” from Iraqi sources whenever possible.
Though this particular example may point to the contrary, Robert K. Brigham presents an analysis of the differences and similarities of the Vietnam and Iraq wars in a balanced way. He does not claim at all that both wars are the same in every single way, but that there are at least three crucial similarities between the two, as this information from the publisher condensing from the book shows:
  1. In Iraq, like Vietnam, the original rationale for going to was has been discredited
  2. In both cases the new justification became rebuilding a stable society out of chaos that the war had caused
  3. With declining public support for the war, it is likely that an “Iraq Syndrome” will develop to limit future U.S. foreign policy initiatives, as “Vietnam Syndrome” did
Is Iraq Another Vietnam? serves as a stark reminder for those of us old enough to have lived through the era of the Vietnam War about just how bad that war actually was, and the unfairness of how Vietnam vets were treated. Also, though the ways in which America entered both wars are different, both involved a certain amount of fabricated reasons given to both Congress and the American people. For instance, in the case of Vietnam,
“ the destroyer USS Maddox was on a secret mission in the Tonkin Gulf, near North Vietnam’s coastline. The Maddox was part of a larger flotilla that had launched attacks against the nearby island of Hon Me. South Vietnamese gunboats had launched the attacks to see how North Vietnam would respond.”
They responded by firing at them. This enraged President Lyndon Johnson, “but he ordered no new retaliation” Instead, he and the navy decided to see if North Vietnam would dare attack us again and tried to draw them into another exchange. Though Johnson was told a second attack occurred, Brigham writes that: “It now seems clear no second attack did occur, even though it is doubtful McNamara purposefully deceived the president.” And, in the case of Iraq, Brigham sums up the issues of why went to war there and compares it in this one sentence: “There was no provocative second attack in the Tonkin Gulf, and there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

Though Is Iraq Another Vietnam? only comes in at 167 pages, not counting the pages for the acknowledgments, notes, and index, Robert K. Brigham nonetheless presents a learned and intriguing look at similarities and differences between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, backing up his conclusions with hard evidence. This is a valuable addition to the literature about both wars, sure to be enlightening and a must-read book for its gathering direct facts about both wars together in one volume. Highly recommended.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Douglas R. Cobb, 2006

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