Similarities Between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War
As time passes, every society endures situations which stress its’ very fabric. Each societies’ history is sprinkled with these situations. One such situations which the United States underwent was the Vietnam war. For years this particular event has been hotly debated. Hardly anyone who was present at the time agrees on any point concerning this war, except that they regret it. It has become “the greatest American foreign policy calamity of the century.” . Now the United States finds itself entangled in another war. A war in Iraq which is beginning to resemble more and more the events of the Vietnam war. Many analysts, and even the public have begun to wonder if the current situation is the same as what took place in Vietnam. The answer is a disturbing yes. The current military engagement in Iraq is showing signs that it will become for this generation what Vietnam was to that generation.
While there are many similarities and differences between these two engagements, there are more similarities. One of the most visible similarities between the two situations are the situations of the current and past Presidents. The President in charge at the beginning of the Vietnam war was Lyndon B. Johnson. The current President in charge of the war in Iraq is George Bush. Both presidents were launched into situations which they were unprepared. Johnson was catapulted unexpectedly into the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Bush also was launched into an unexpected war on terrorism after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. While their goals differ the outcome of their decision ended up the same. Johnson’s goal was only to do enough in Vietnam in order to avoid losing Vietnam to communism. Bush’s goals are to fight terrorism and prevent other possible terrorist attacks.
In both cases public opinion of the president and of the military engagement went down. Polls of American society showed that Johnson’s popularity, at just 35 percent had fallen lower than any other president since Truman. Currently Bush’s popularity has fallen to the mid 40 percent. Increasing numbers of citizens are beginning to believe that his handling of the Iraqi threat has only increased the overall terrorist threat. Public opinion which was once heavily in support of the war in Iraq, has fallen to 57 percent, just barely a majority. In the case of the Vietnam war the next president’s first order of business was to remove the troops from battle, and already the talk is of how to disentangle the troops and get them home. Presidential candidates during the Vietnam era placed heavy emphasis on their commitment to withdrawing troops, while present Presidential candidate John Kerry has been quoted as saying “We need to set a new course in Iraq,we need toput an end to the American occupation.” During the Vietnam Era, there were numerous protests. Thousands of Americans protested American involvement in Vietnam. All across America there were protests on college campuses and many such incidents ended in violence. In some cases the National guard was even sent in to calm volatile situations, such as the protesting at Kent State University which left four students dead.
These foreign commitments also held similar military elements. Neither president initially intended to send the number of troops as they ended up sending. In 1963 after Kennedy’s assassination there were 16,000 American troops in Vietnam. By the end of 1965 there were 184,000. The number of American troops continued to increase until it reached its peak at 542,000 in 1969. The number of troops continued to increase despite continuing reports from the government that an end was near. Currently General John Abizaid stated “he needs at least 10,000 more troops than he had previously envisioned.”
A major reason for the public backlash was the personal aspect of the war. The Vietnam war seemed to hit home, this led to most of the widespread protests. The current war is the same with the added element of television. As communications have become faster and clearer, the war has been brought into people’s homes like never before. President Bush has acknowledged this by stating “Look, nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens, I don’t. It’s a tough time for the American people to see that. It’s gut wrenching.”
In conclusion, while the Vietnam war of the 1960’s and the current war in Iraq are two distinctly different wars, the latter is showing signs of becoming the former. All of the major aspects of the Vietnam wars are being shown, if only in lesser portions, in the current military engagement in Iraq. Both wars have negatively effected the Presidents in charge, both are viewed as military debacles, both are an intense source of debate and protest in America, and both increased the number of troops in action to numbers previously deemed unnecessary.