Shall I compare thee to… Vietnam? What can we expect from the Iraq war?

December 19, 2006 at 11:51 pm (Politics thoughts)

For about two years now the Iraq war has been compared to the Vietnam war. Those comparisons mainly revolve around the motive going in, and the unexpected resilience in the local resistance (though some would like to include reprehensible behavior by US troops as another comparison we will decline comment on that subject for now).

Though I wasn’t alive during Vietnam I have heard and read my fair share of those days and my personal conclusion is that such a comparison is unwarranted. This leads to a very interesting, and by default, pertinent question. Is there a war that we can accurately compare with the current Iraqi war? The reason this question is pertinent is because if there is then we can and should learn from that war. I believe there is an excellent comparison in the 1982 Lebanon war.

Similarities between Iraq and the 1982 Lebanon war are uncanny.

1. A very real threat exacerbated by a very real personal motive.

2. Misinformation as a primary tool to gain public support.

3. A total mismatch in military strength.

4. A high number of civilian casualties.

5. Terrorist-like, guerrilla tactics “asymmetrical warfare”

6. Multinational Forces involved in a prolonged occupation.

7. Obvious religious undertones of the entire war.

The list could continue but I think this is enough to say it is a fair comparison. Now with the comparison it is very important that we look at A) How the war ended and B) What was accomplished by it.

In many ways we could say that the war hasn’t completely ended. Israel crossed back over the Blue line in 2000 but the war was rekindled earlier this year with rocket fire from Lebanon and a ground invasion by Israel.

Does this mean we will never see and end to the Iraq war?

What was most significantly accomplished in the 1982 war was that the PLO was pretty much ruined, but a strong argument could be made that it is actually even stronger in the form of Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah. And perhaps most frightening is Osama Bin Ladens claim that it was the 1982 war that festered his hatred for the United States.

Conclusion: If the comparison is accuarte then we can expect the next 25 years to do 3 things

1. Increase overall security for the US (As has been the case for Israel)

2. Creation of an armed and zealous militia with religious motivations to fill the power vacuum in Iraq. (Hezbollah in Lebanon)

3. New Terrorists in the model of Bin Laden to plan more and more attacks on the US and its Ally’s.

Dang, I hope I am wrong on my comparison.

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9 Comments

  1. Echo_ohcE said,

    Daniel,

    I don’t think you’re entirely wrong, but I don’t think you’re entirely right either.

    The situation in Iraq is a little bit different than Lebanon, but it’s different from Vietnam too.

    What’s happening in Iraq certainly could have been avoided. In Iraq, what’s happening is a power vacuum. That’s the primary thing going on. The US simply does not have enough troops on the ground to really control the situation.

    You see, Saddam was essentially a secular dictator, but he was still a Sunni Muslim. Those who are loyal to him are thus, the Sunnis. When the British left Iraq in the 1920’s I think, they left the Sunni minority in charge. So for decades, the Shia grew more and more restless, as they were the majority. In the late 60’s or early 70’s, Saddam took power. In 1979, the Iranians had a revolution and installed a Shiite theocracy. Now you have a Shiite theocracy next door to a country that is predominantly Shia, but has a Sunni secular dictator. This was just what the Shia wanted. Parts of the area south of Baghdad, ancient Babylon, are holy places for the Shia. So of course, when the Shia took power in Iran, they turned their greedy eyes to the West, and their holy land. And so, whoever actually started it is not the point, thus began the Iran-Iraq war.

    Well, after that war ended – we helped Saddam quite a bit – Saddam was left with a gigantic military and huge debts. Kuwait had loaned him a lot of money to keep the Iranians at bay, so when the war was over, he told Kuwait that they would simply have to forgive his debt to them. After all, he saved their country for them. But they refused. So he invaded them. That’s when the US came in and kicked him out. But we didn’t finish the mission, we didn’t destroy his army. And frankly, that was probably a good move, to keep Iran at bay. Unfortunately, Saddam is an extremely depraved individual, and did all sorts of horrible things in order to remain in power, to which the US turned a blind eye. Not the least of which was the mass Shia uprising that took place while Saddam’s nose bled in retreat from US forces, to which Saddam replied with extreme violence.

    Meanwhile, Iran looked on, and did not give up its dream of taking over Iraq because of their holy land, and all the Shia in the South.

    So eventually, we went in and took Saddam out of power. We took the Sunnis out of power. We soon discovered that the Sunnis would not relenquish the reins of their country so easily. To complicate matters, Iran rushed in so fast, no one really knew what was happening until it was too late. As the main effort of Marines pushed through southern Iraq, they chewed through the Iraqi army. Don’t believe what they tell you. The Iraqi army was no joke. But neither were the Marines. They killed anyone with a gun. In their wake, because they moved SO fast, there was a period of lull. The occupying force had not yet arrived, but there were no US troops keeping things under control. Thus you saw the rioting and looting on TV. But that wasn’t all that was going on. Iraq’s eastern border with Iran is extremely porous. And in order to monitor it, it would require huge numbers of troops. Troops that we couldn’t spare. If that wasn’t enough, there are LOTS of roads in SE Iraq. So many that the number of troops it would require to patrol them is dizzying.

    Does this sound like a recipe for disaster yet? It was. Like water coming through a cracked dam, Iranians poured over the border into Southern Iraq and began stirring up trouble. They called themselves the Badr Corps or the Iraqi Hezbollah. Make no mistake, they were Iranians. Soldiers, or something worse, but definitely Iranians. And what an efficient propaganda machine they were! They stirred up the people almost immediately, staging protests and all sorts of crazy things.

    By the time the US was able to actually occupy these areas, it was too late. The Iranians had already won over the people in a lot of places. At the time, I dubbed what they were doing as “influence scavenging.” That’s an appropriate name for it, because that’s what it was.

    Today, you have a number of parties messing around in Iraq. You have the Sunnis who want their power back, the Iranians, who want to take power, and the Iraqi Shia, who think that the Iranians are going to help them take power. If that isn’t enough, there is also the Wahabbists and Sunnis of Al-Qaida, who simply hate the US and hope to turn Iraq into a new den of thieves. They want to establish a foothold.

    So how are all these parties going about their business? Well, the Sunnis hate us because we removed them from power and are now trying to talk about power sharing. They aren’t interested in that, so they attack us, because they want us to leave because we are in their way. They want to take all the power in the country for themselves, but as long as we stay there, they can’t do that. So since they want us to leave, and they hate us for being infidels, they attack us.

    The Iraqi Shia don’t entirely hate us, but they aren’t really interested in sharing power with the Sunnis after being oppressed by them for so long. So they want us to leave because we’re in their way. Once we leave, they can have a proper war with the Sunnis in order to win the entire country for themselves. Meanwhile, they are looking to their older brother Iranians for leadership and guidance. They even speak of an EU type merging of the two countries. Fools. Like sheep to the slaughter, or a moth to a flame.

    The Iranians absolutely hate us. They too want us to leave, because they want to annex Iraq and give birth to a new Persian Empire under Shia Islam. So they are stirring up the Sunnis by attacking them in the name of the Shia. So the Sunnis attack the Shia in return. This galvanizes the Shia, causing more and more of them all the time to become militant. At the same time, the Iranians hate us and want us to leave, so they attack us as well as the Sunnis.

    In the news, all you hear about is the Shia-Sunni conflict and they call it civil war. While there is some truth to that, it wouldn’t be anywhere near what it is if Iran had kept its nose out of it. But they didn’t. If the US had predicted that the Iranians would have been such a problem, maybe steps could have been taken to avoid it. And there were some of us who spoke into the air about this. But for the most part, our leadership didn’t listen.

    Donald Rumsfeld came at the Secretary of Defense job like a good CEO would. He’s concerned only about the bottom line. Fewest number of troops to get the job done. That was his motto. But wars don’t work like that. In order to effectively win a war, you have to totally overwhelm your enemy and defeat them, leaving none alive with any will to fight. That’s the only way to do it. If that takes a lot more troops, then you’ll simply need a lot more troops. What the administration thought it was doing was defeating an army and toppling a dictator. They had enough troops for that. What they didn’t realize was that Iran would just sit in their living rooms and watch it on TV. And they didn’t realize that the Sunnis would rather die than live under Shia authority. They thought that everyone would understand their defeat and cut their losses. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be a fat, dumb and happy American?

    No. These people are not Americans. They don’t want to sit on a leather couch watching TV all day. They don’t want to drive SUV’s and eat McDonald’s drive through. They find that repulsive. They are not, in short, driven by greed for material goods like we are. Something else drives them, namely their religious ideology. They don’t want to live in a democracy. They want someone to be at the top. They think heirarchically. They want someone who will lead them, so they can call him the Caliph and carry his picture in their protests against the US. They want a king.

    We have tried to tell them that they can all be kings, but that’s not what they want. So is it any wonder that they want us to leave and are trying to kill us?

    Here is the solution in Iraq. 1 million troops. Guard the borders, patrol the roads, kill anyone with a gun. Then occupy like that for a while. With that many troops, all the violence will effectively cease, and peace will reign. This will give the Iraqis a vision of a peaceful, prosperous country that they can rally around. Right now, they cannot rally around such a vision. They are rallying around visions of different kinds of theocracies. They need to get a taste of peace, a taste of freedom, a taste of consumerism. It will not be hard to lull them to sleep after a couple years of the fat life. Meanwhile, we can train up an enormous army for them, large enough that they can begin defending their own borders, building perhaps a wall on their borders with Syria and Iran. As they begin to take over security, we can go home. Sure, no one will like it much, and with that many troops it will be pretty boring.

    But mark my words, if that is not the solution, the inevitable result will be the annexation of that country by Iran.

    In sum, I think this is quite a different situation from Lebanon, though you’re right, there are a number of similarities. There are also some similarities with Vietnam, because of the quagmire nature of it. But then, Korea is the same kind of thing.

    The question we have to ask ourselves is, why did we lose the will to fight after World War II? Boy, we fought that war with gusto and everyone contributed. It was hard, but we came out on top. In Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq, we have demonstrated that we neither know how to accomplish our purposes with wars, nor have the will to fight them. We won this war. We decimated the Iraqi army. The problem is, our purposes in fighting the war were bigger than just winning the war. We needed to turn Iraq into a bastion of health, wealth and blessing in the Middle East, so that everyone would get a taste of the fat life throughout the Middle East, and that they would be jealous and revolt, ushering in the New World Order. We really wanted to turn Iraq into a little mini-America, a son in our own image. We failed at that miserably. So did we win? Kind of. But who cares? We weren’t there to win, but to father a son and change the Middle East, making the world safe for democracy.

    Ever since the time of the Romans, that’s all we’ve ever really longed for: pax romana, the peace of Rome. That’s why people loved the emperors, because they had peace as the empire just kept growing. That’s still our dream today, essentially. Our weakness is that we assume that it’s everyone’s dream. It may be the Western dream, but it’s only that – a Western dream. The Muslim dream is to have women running around in burkas and everyone praying to Allah under sharia law. This is hardly the same thing.

    In the US, our god is our stomach. I know everyone thinks it’s a Christian country essentially, but it really isn’t. Maybe it is nominally, but in reality, in practice, the god we worship here is our own stomach. We worship ourselves. We want our big beautiful cars, our big beautiful houses, our plastic surgery and hamburgers in 30 seconds or less. All to please our various appetites. The Muslims know this and see this about us and are repulsed. That’s why they call us the great satan. But we think we can seduce them if only we can give them just a taste. Foolish and naive.

    I’m not sure what I’m saying is relevant to your post anymore, so I’ll stop babbling now.

    E

  2. Daniel B said,

    Not exactly relevant to the post since I was primarily looking to see war to war comparisons, but insightful none the less. Do you agree though with my 3 results we will see in the next 25 years? baisically that the US will be as Israel has been over the past 25 years.

  3. Aaron said,

    Echo_ohcE, I am terrified that there are people out there who think like you. One million troops shooting any “insurgents” on site is going to REDUCe violence and create peace? I think that you are sadly mistaken. I believe that Americans (I am Canadian, so I will throw much of us in the same category) have no concept of war since their country has never been occupied nor attacked in any concerted fashion (don’t give me the revolutionary war, that war 230 years ago and was in a time when only 33% of Americans were pro-independence from Britian.)

    To your point Daniel about comparisons between the 1982 war and the current war in Iraq, I suppose I would only have an ideological question for you: why does it matter? In my studies of history I have always found that the worst kinds of historical interpretations come from those who try to impose a modern set of constraints upon something which happened in the past. In short, Lebanon in 1982 was a time and place that cannot be duplicated and thus drawing parallels, in my opinion, is an empty pursuit. As far as the Vietnam comparison–I think this is being used by anti-war advocates (including myself) who are trying to insult the American government in the worst fashion possible, namely, a war that was assuredly a failur. (and not because there were not enough troops–Echo_ohcE–but because you cannot subjugate ideology, culture and thousands of years of history with guns and troops. It will never happen. I would also note that, while Hezbollah have numerous religious overtones, they are primarily considered in Lebanon to be a semi-secular group fighting for nationalist goals, in this case regaining land stolen by the Israelis–countries and groups in the Middle East have divergent histories and interests and it is dangerous to lump them into an “us” vs. “them” dichotomy.

  4. Albino Hayford said,

    Great, Daniel. Now you’re getting advice from that great military power: Canada. 🙂

    you cannot subjugate ideology, culture and thousands of years of history with guns and troops. It will never happen

    In Japan, a country we conquered with guns and troops, we took a people who WORSHIPED their leader and gave them democracy in 10 years. Oops…

    As to the question of 1982, yeah, I see some similarities, but I still see a possible positive outcome here for the Iraqis. The Kurds are already peaceful and DELIGHTED with America for liberating them This website
    illustrates this fact.

    I have a modified Echo solution, based on Senator Biden’s solution, which I detail on my blog. I would totally empty Baghdad of people, completely clean it out of guns and bombs, then let people back in, family by family. That’s the ONLY way to get security, and without security, there is no peace.

    Every US Marine I talk to who returns from Iraq is optomistic and wants to finish the mission. I hope we don’t fulfill Osama’s prophecy: “America is weak and doesn’t have the stomach for a long conflict with casualties. They proved this when they ran from Somalia after taking a few casualties.”

  5. danielbalc said,

    Aaron, fair enough. I appreciate the acknowledgment as to the motivation of comparing Iraq to Vietnam. That candor is what is lacking by the anti-war advocates. The reason I am trying to find a comparison is to find the best way out. It seems though that president Bush is indeed going to go with the more troops method. OK, but that is still just a temporary solution. As for the war being a failure, I don’t know. Is anything less then a world series championship a failure in baseball? Failure comes when you don’t meet your goals. Who knows, maybe the current state in Iraq was the goal of the Bush white house? It seems to me their only goal was to overthrow Saddam. That was a success. Their failure then is only because they had the wrong goals. They should have made it their goal to stabalize the fragile middle eastern relations with a unifying factor. It seems like the only factor that motivates in the middle east is religious zeal and that motivation is frightening because it leads to people wanting to “wipe Isreal off the map” and “cut off the head of the great Satan (USA)”. Of course this will also lead to the destruction of millions of Muslims who don’t adhere either to sunni or shia or sufi beliefs.

    Conclsion: Marxism is the answer.

    Though I say that sarcastically it does at least intellecutally SEEM like the elimination of religious zealots would lead to the peace for all nations as a religious zealot myself I cannot accept my own deletion.

    Alternative conclsuon: Democracy is the answer.

    The freedom to practice your own religion peacfully and have your governmental leaders selected by the masses.

    dang it, was that the goal of the white house going in?

    The reason why I compare it with the 1982 war is because Israel is the only genuine democratic country in the Middle East. Religiously I do not believe Israel is entitled to any land. Politically i believe it is imperative that Israel exists and coexists with it’s neighbors. They are not making attempts to co-exist with Palestien or Lebanon. But what is Isreali leadership, religious zealots? Hardly, they are more secularist and communist then anyone (note the mastermind of the 1982 war, Begin).

    Another Conclusion: The American right has been duped into supporting communism veiled as national Israel. This is do mostly in part to the horrible theological deception of dispensationalism. Consequently to get out of this quagmire we (Christians) must make a very genuine distinction between Christianity and Judaism. By clarifying that we do NOT beleive in the same God, and that Jesus IS the only messiah, we will open the door to a Christian revival in Israel that will create a genuine democracy and in turn make attempts to co-exist with the neighboring Islamic nations and opening the doors for Christian revival in those nations as well.

    In other words the problem is dispensationalism, the solution is faith in Christ.

    (How is that for some crazy ramblings)

  6. Aaron said,

    Oh man . . . I think I’ll leave all you right-wingers to fight with each other and stick to talking with you (Daniel) about baseball.

    War is wrong. And bringing Christianity to Israel is an absurd thought–I think missionary Christians such as yourself need to understand (as hard as I’m sure it is for you) that all peoples of the world have beliefs that are equally strong as yours, and to try to impose your system of values (whether it be through Jesus, bombs, diplomacy, technology, culture or international loans) is out of touch with reality and, in most cases, racist. Clearly you believe Christianity would solve all of the world’s problems, but I think Judeo-Christian theology (as all others) are just texts written by powerful men to entrench and expand their power over those they deem inferior (women, people of colour, the poor etc.) Obviously we disagree–but for you to think so strongly that you are right and I am wrong is a point of view that I simply cannot accept. Each person has their own reality and that must be understood before any other discussions can be had.

    Accepting others’ beliefs and trying to work with one another on that basis is the only way to achieve peace.

    And Albino . . . if you think the American war machine/economy is so strong, come and talk to me in ten years–you’ll be begging to get outta there.

  7. Echo_ohcE said,

    Dear everyone,

    Please look very, VERY closely at Aaron’s posts. Particularly post #6, which exemplifies postmodernism to a T. Do you see how Aaron’s view of truth is: what’s true for you might not be true for me, and what’s true for me might not be true for you? This is postmoderism. We’ve all got a little piece of the truth, but no one can have the whole truth.

    Well, except Aaron. Aaron can have the full truth in his view. He claims that it is outrageous for anyone to make absolute claims of truth, but look at his post again. Are there any absolute claims there? Sure there are. Some are explicit, some implicit. For example, and it is only one example of many, he says that “war is wrong”. He offers no argument for this, but just asserts it based on his own authority. Meanwhile, “each person has their own reality.”

    But look at how confused he is, poor guy. Aaron, if we each had our own reality, then you would accept that my view might be true for me. You might accept that war might not be wrong for everyone. You might accept that while war is wrong and horrible in your eyes, it might be a useful tool to acheive peace in other peoples’ eyes. But you don’t really believe that we each have our own reality. You believe everyone should conform to your reality. You only use these ideas when it’s convenient for you to do so.

    “War is wrong.” But, “Each person has their own reality…”

    Daniel, this is a crystal clear example of irrational self contradiction. Ugly, isn’t it. But you and Albino should probably interact with this guy – maybe not on Iraq. I mean, he is very typical of our unbelieving culture these days. Every claim to truth is perceived as a power play. But of course, he’s allowed to make all the absolute truth claims he wants.

    But just consider this statement: “Each person has their own reality and that must be understood before any other discussions can be had.” On the one hand, truth is relative. On the other hand, this one thing “must be understood”, implying that it’s true for everybody that truth is relative.

    Aaron: reality is universal, and you must understand this before you can begin to exercise rational thought.

    Everyone has their own reality, but Aaron can even predict the future of our economy, and how Albino will respond to it. “Come and talk to me in ten years – you’ll be begging to get out of there.”

    Anyway, you guys might find it a useful exercise to figure out how to communicate with such people, since you are pastors. I personally don’t have the patience for such irrationality. It makes no sense to me.

    Everyone has their own reality, BUT “Accepting others’ beliefs and trying to work with one another on that basis is the only way to achieve peace,” is apparently true for everybody.

    This is a great example of what our culture is all about these days. We should accept everyone’s beliefs – except those who think that their beliefs alone are true. We should accept everyone except those who don’t accept everyone. Everyone should be as irrational as me! “for you to think so strongly that you are right and I am wrong is a point of view that I simply cannot accept.” But “each person has their own reality…” And “Accepting others’ beliefs and trying to work with one another on that basis is the only way to achieve peace.” Hahahahaha…

    Well, you guys have fun.

    Aaron, you’re just as exclusive in your beliefs as we are. We just admit it.

    E

  8. Echo_ohcE said,

    Daniel,

    Re: 2

    Here are your 3 predictions:

    1. Increase overall security for the US (As has been the case for Israel)

    2. Creation of an armed and zealous militia with religious motivations to fill the power vacuum in Iraq. (Hezbollah in Lebanon)

    3. New Terrorists in the model of Bin Laden to plan more and more attacks on the US and its Ally’s.

    – Echo:

    1. Do you mean that our security will improve, or that we’ll have to beef up our security?

    2. Such militias are already there and have been from the beginning. As soon as we pull out, they’ll definitely take over. But I mean they’ll take over, not like in Lebanon. In Lebanon, they at least have a government.

    3. Yeah. However, that in and of itself doesn’t mean that we’ve done anything wrong. The more contact we have with the Middle East the more terrorists there will be. They just aren’t like us. The more contact they have with us the more they’ll hate us. Lots of terrorists have gone to college in the US. They don’t come to school here and leave wishing their country was more like ours. The leave here thinking we are all like a country full of irrational children whose only god is our stomach. And they’re RIGHT. They’re justified in being appalled at our culture. We think that the more they are exposed to us, the more they will be seduced by us. Not so, at least in the short term. Maybe over the generations that will be true, but for now, it has a really negative impact. So just having our troops in the Middle East will cause more terrorism.

    The thing we have to keep in focus is that terrorism is not the fault of the US. It is the fault of crazy finatics. They are like the Borg on Star Trek. They must continue to assimilate. They must, that is their purpose.

    That’s why it’s just crazy talk to think that the Iraqis can have Sunnis and Shia living peacefully side by side. Part of their belief system entails a press for dominance. They’re like postmillennialists and theonomists in a lot of ways. Their beliefs necessarily mandate that they work toward global domination. They cannot be true to their beliefs and not work towards that. And they sure aren’t going to allow Iraq to be governed exclusively by the other side, and the only way to prevent that is to govern exclusively themselves. It’s very similar to how the Roman Empire kept expanding defensively. The barbarians on the fringes were a threat, and since the Romans did not wish to fear them, they conquered them. But once they conquered them, there were new barbarians on the far side of them. So they had to conquer them in the interests of security. In the same way, the Shia want to conquer the Sunnis in Iraq because they don’t want to be oppressed by them. The Sunnis feel the same way. Power sharing just isn’t in the cards. There’s too much at stake. Both want to take over the world ultimately, and Iraq is just too juicy a prize to be left sitting there. It’s a big opportunity for them both. Anyway…

    E

  9. danielbalc said,

    Aaron, again your candor is very helpful. Don’t let echo’s harshness exclude you from the conversation. In many ways my post #5 was comndemning of the religious right. It was also condemning of the nation if Israel. those two sources, I think are indeed the main instigators of these wars, but for entirely different reasons. It seems to me that Israel has a recent heritage of communistic thought that it is trying to make a reality (Marx was an atheistic jew). The religous right (at least the majority of it, hello SBC, Calvary Chapel etc) has fallen into theological error (the jews are God’s chosen people) and has stongly influenced the bankrolling of Israel believing it to be a true democracy. Democracy is the political solution! Whether that be in Canada, USA, Israel or Iraq the people must have the ability and capability of deciding how they themselves will be governed. I am claiming that the byproduct of a true democracy and accurate teaching in Christianity will bring about revival in the evangelical community. But it can’t happen if we (Christians) continue to turn a blind eye to Israel and fail to uphold justice in our national dealings. My call is to the church to change its ways and politics will follow suit and when the politcs change the church will benefit.

    Obviously not adhering to any religion you would at first disagree, but I want to know why? You yourself acknowldged the power of religion and the religious texts. Isn’t what I am asserting the best use of religious text to help propgate a measure of world peace?

    I really enjoy your comments because I have to work hard to see things from your point of view since It has never been my point of view. I realize the same must be said about you trying to understand my point of view but I would hope that you don’t give up just yet.

    Daniel

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