Reflections on Vietnam and Iraq: The lessons of two failed wars,

Andrew J. Bacevich , president of the Quincy Institute

[…] The challenges awaiting Biden and Harris arguably outweigh those that confronted any of those past administrations, Roosevelt’s excepted. In a recent New York Times column, the man who lost that disputed 2000 election, Al Gore, inventoried the most pressing problems that Biden’s team will confront. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, they include:

“40 years of economic stagnation for middle-income families; hyper-inequality of incomes and wealth, with high levels of poverty; horrific structural racism; toxic partisanship; the impending collapse of nuclear arms control agreements; an epistemological crisis undermining the authority of knowledge; recklessly unprincipled behavior by social media companies; and, most dangerous of all, the climate crisis.”

That makes for quite a daunting catalog. Yet note this one striking omission: Gore makes no mention of America’s seemingly never-ending penchant for war and military adventurism. […]

I could write pages and pages on how Vietnam and Iraq differ from each other, beginning with the fact that they are separated in time by nearly a half-century. Locale, the contours of the battlefields, the character of combat, the casualties inflicted and sustained, the sheer quantity of ordnance expended — when it comes to such measures and others, Vietnam and Iraq differ greatly. Yet while those differences are worth noting, it’s the unappreciated similarities between them that are truly instructive.

Seven such similarities stand out:

First, Vietnam and Iraq were both avoidable: For the United States, they were wars of choice. No one pushed us. We dove in headfirst.

Second, both turned out to be superfluous, undertaken in response to threats — monolithic Communism and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction — that were figments of fevered imaginations. In both cases, cynicism and moral cowardice played a role in paving the way toward war. Dissenting voices were ignored. Läs artikel