Steve Chapman on Iraq and the Echoes of Vietnam

Iraq proved the lasting applicability of Vietnam.


Saddam Hussein
U.S. Military / Wikimedia Commons

In June of 1964, as conditions deteriorated in South Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson assured a journalist he was not about to get too far in or stay too far out. "We won't abandon Saigon, and we don't intend to send in U.S. troops," he insisted. He was betting that U.S. military advisers would be enough to head off defeat.

Half a century later, President Barack Obama has adopted a similar policy, dispatching some 300 advisers to Iraq in an effort to keep its military from being routed. Once again, the fervent hope in the White House is that a small commitment will suffice.

The difference is that Obama's decision comes in the aftermath of a catastrophic American intervention, following our departure, rather than at the beginning of one, as we're about to plunge in. It's an epilogue, not a foreword, writes Steve Chapman.

But the parallels between the two wars are more conspicuous than ever. And there are clear morals to be drawn from them, according to Chapman.