Vietnam vs. Iraq

VIETNAM VS. IRAQ….Is Iraq a quagmire like Vietnam? Hell, according to John O’Sullivan at NRO, even Vietnam wasn’t a quagmire like Vietnam:

[The Tet Offensive], in addition to being a strategic defeat for the Vietcong, was also ample justification for America’s Vietnam intervention on both humanitarian grounds.

But that is not how it was presented to the people by the U.S. media at the time. As the late Peter Braestrup demonstrated in his magisterial study, Big Story, the mainstream U.S. media depicted Tet as a severe defeat for the United States and as the beginning of an endless quagmire for American forces. That became the conventional wisdom of both the media and political elites. And as a result, the North Vietnamese eventually triumphed on the only battlefield where the United States could be defeated ? the American home front.

It was all just media spin? Talk about revisionist history.

1967 was the year of the “light at the end of the tunnel.” LBJ and Robert McNamara kept telling us that North Vietnam was on the ropes, that the war was winding down, and that our boys would soon be coming home.

Then came Tet. It was indeed, as everyone agrees, a military debacle for the Viet Cong, but although the Tet Offensive did little objective damage, it did show that North Vietnam had plenty of fight left. Public opinion turned not because of media spin, and not because anyone mistakenly thought it was a massive defeat for U.S. forces, but because it demonstrated that our leaders had seriously deceived us about the course of the war. We had been led to believe the war was almost over, but in fact it was just getting started.

And the lesson? Wartime leaders need to tell the country the truth about how things are going and how long our troops are going to be fighting. If there really is a parallel between Vietnam and Iraq, that’s where it lies.