The War in Iraq Is Just like Vietnam: ... and Every Other War in American History

American Heritage, April-May 2005 | Go to article overview

The War in Iraq Is Just like Vietnam: ... and Every Other War in American History


History teaches, but only those who are open to being taught. For others, history supplies a convenient set of templates into which everything that happens afterward can be fitted. The current Iraq war is a case in point. Supporters say it's World War II all over again, while opponents say it's Vietnam. In fact, it has some features in common with both. But why stop there?

THE WAR IN IRAQ IS LIKE:

the Revolutionary War because ...

* American battle deaths have totaled in the thousands (around 4,400 in the Revolution, though diseases took many more).

* intervention by a third party (France, of all places) helped free a nation from tyranny.

the War of 1812 because ...

* one of the main reasons for the war disappeared soon after it started (Great Britain's Orders in Council, which prevented American ships from trading with Britain's enemies, were rescinded a few days after Congress declared war. Sir George Prevost, the governor-general of Canada, and Gem Henry Dearborn signed an armistice in August 1812, expecting the conflict to be settled by diplomacy, but communications were slow and military events elsewhere had already been set in motion).

* guerrilla acts (attacks by British-backed Indians) took the lives of many troops and civilians.

the Civil War because ...

* many people in the land being liberated bitterly resented it.

* there was no declaration of war by Congress.

* optimists expected it to be over quickly ("On to Richmond" was the slogan in the summer of 1861, and the first group of Union volunteers was enlisted for just 90 days).

* vigilantes nullified some of the war's gains. …

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The War in Iraq Is Just like Vietnam: ... and Every Other War in American History
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