Today’s headlines forecast the imminent demise of the regime now ruling Iraq as the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria rolls across the country. The Iraqi military, upon which the US spent billions of dollars to train and equip, melts away. Bagdad is expected to fall imminently.
We’ve seen this before. It was in the spring of 1975 in Vietnam. The regime that the United States had created and sustained at such a high cost in American lives and finances collapsed not long after US troops withdrew. That’s not the end of the parallels. Our entrance to both wars was based on lies. In Vietnam, that North Vietnamese patrol boats had attacked a US naval ship in the Gulf of Tonkin – not true. In Iraq, that Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction” – also not true. In both cases, US troops were committed in situations that deprived them of the edge they possessed in advanced weaponry and technology – In Vietnam, it was jungle fighting; in Iraq it was urban warfare. In both cases, the United States propped up corrupt regimes that not only failed to win the popular support of their people, but seemed not to even care about winning that support. Both faced committed enemies with great patience and unlimited endurance which allowed them to persevere until after US combat troops departed. Because our government’s rationale for fighting both wars was without merit and cloaked in deceit, the American people soon concluded that continuing the fight was not a vital strategic interest of our country and soon opposed the continued cost of involvement in American lives and money.