THE BLOG
09/12/2006 01:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Vietnam v. Iraq: Let the Battle Begin

While the Administration has been pulling out the jugglers, plate spinners and dancing girls to draw links between Iraq and WWII, the Civil War and, it seems, just about any old war since Hannibal crossed the Alps on elephants, there's been one war they've quite surprisingly overlooked. (Oh, okay, not too surprising...) Vietnam.

In all honesty, perhaps they left it out simply because far too many parallels between Iraq and Vietnam have already been made. Indeed, almost as soon as Baghdad was shocked and awed, comparisons began to pile up atop one another.

But let's be fair, are Iraq and Vietnam truly equal? To find out, it's necessary to do a side-by-side study and discover which of the two can claim the title as the most pointless, disastrous war in U.S. history.



SPLITTING THE COUNTRY

Vietnam:
Far beyond political disagreement, protestors actively took to the streets. Richard Nixon created an Enemies List, upsetting many for being left off. Moreover, you had students at Kent State University actually killed by the National Guard. (This was a quaint war when the Guard was still stationed in the U.S. for its fighting.) And division continues 40 years later, bringing such things as the Swift Boat Society for Fake Thinking.

Iraq:
The country is also divided today, but not nearly as split as when the war began. In fact, it's turning into a rout, with polls showing the public wants at least some troops withdrawn soon, by a whopping 61-34%. The one bright spot is that student protests are non-existent compared to Vietnam. Not having a draft can do that.

Advantage:
Vietnam


DIVISIVE IMPACT ON NATIONAL INTERESTS

Vietnam
:

The reason for fighting Vietnam was the Domino Theory. That if we didn't stop communism there, then Southeast Asia would fall. And then Europe, Cancun and Antarctica. Considering that we didn't stop communism there, the dire predictions haven't been borne out well. However, the Soviet Union has subsequently gone democratic, and East Germany collapsed, so it could be argued that Vietnam did impact communism - just not the way expected.

Iraq
:

Our rationale for fighting in Iraq was the imminent threat of WMDs. Er, sorry, to topple Saddam Hussein. Or rather, to bring democracy. I mean, to be the roadmap to peace in the Mid-East. Whatever. Anyway, with no WDM found, Iran increasing its nuclear capabilities, Lebanon and Israel dropping bombs, and the entire region destabilized, breeding new terrorists, all that offsets finding Saddam Hussein in a basement.

Advantage:
Iraq


HURTFUL AFFECT ON AMERICA'S REPUTATION

Vietnam:
America's reputation took a big hit, as international critics thought the war was mindlessly wrong and the unnecessary act of a bully. America, though, was still looked at as a superpower with many strong attributes, just that none of them were on display in Southeast Asia.

Iraq:
Because America is now the only superpower left, it no longer gets cut any slack for resisting other superpowers. Instead, you have diplomats from our main ally England referring to President Bush's record as "crap" and that he has "badly let down" Prime Minister Tony Blair, adding "How can anyone have faith in a man of such low intellect?" One can only imagine what those who aren't our main ally are saying. A record of "crap" pretty much wipes out your moral authority.


Advantage:
Iraq


QUAGMIRE

Vietnam:
The Big Q word became popularized with Vietnam. Folk singer Pete Seeger even had a notable song, "Waist Deep in The Big Muddy." It's not just that America stationed heavy combat troops in Vietnam for 10 Quagmire Years, but we even had soldiers there much earlier, for a grand Quagmire total of 16.

Iraq:
Though President Bush has stated that the issue of Iraq is one for "future Presidents" (plural), those 61-34% poll numbers for withdrawal suggest that the future has a limit.

Advantage:
Vietnam


NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE AMERICAN ECONOMY

Vietnam:
Any war has the potential to boost the national economy, as defense materiel must be provided. Vietnam didn't give that great boost to the economy one really dreams of from a crushing war, but things were reasonably stable.

Iraq:
With little Congressional oversight (code word for "none") of war profiteering, the door was thrown wide open to raise corporate profits. Alas, the war has only benefited Halliburton, while draining $2 billion per week from the economy.

Advantage:
Iraq


ANGER AT THE PRESIDENT

Vietnam:
Pretty darn bad. Lyndon Johnson was coming off one of the great landslide victories in American history and chose not to run again. His successor, Richard Nixon, created an environment so corrosive and criminal that he was forced to resign from office.

Iraq:
George W. Bush went from a 90% approval rating to a current 34%. That's "Yipes" territory. For pure gut-wrenching anger directed at a President unable to point to any accomplishments, Bush trumps his predecessors. Moreover, one President against two is an impressive feat. However, it's tough to overlook two Presidents forced out of office.

Advantage:
Tie


MUSIC

Vietnam:
The war song industry created by Vietnam virtually created a soundtrack to a generation. "Something's Happening Here," "Who'll Stop the Rain?," "One Tin Soldier," "Give Peace a Chance," "Eve of Destruction," "I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" and even "The Ballad of the Green Berets." The music was so wonderful and extensive, it almost made you grateful that there was a war. Almost.

Iraq:
What war songs have come out of Iraq? "Hollaback Girl"? Okay, maybe not. "Have You Forgotten" comes close, but that was about 9/11 which actually had zero to do with Iraq. Basically, there's the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" and Neil Young. Other than that, anti-war music is largely limited to Bruce Springsteen bringing back Pete Seeger.

Advantage:
Iraq


MOVIES

Vietnam:
Vietnam had only one great war movie and one TV series, both "M*A*S*H." (Yes, it was about Korea, but not really.) There was also "The Green Berets," filmed in the early days when even John Wayne could barely get away with it. All in all, it was pretty pathetic time for making war movies.

Iraq:
Many war-related movies, though most have been about 9/11 (see above: not actually about Iraq). "World Trade Center," "United 93," "Flight 91" and "Snakes on a Plane." (Hey, who knows? Maybe the frightening snakes are sub-text...) Also, "The Path to 9/11," though it could be argued that's less about history than re-writing it. "Jarhead" was specifically about Iraq. There also have been two war-related TV series - "The Unit" and "E-Ring." Not too shabby for just three years.

Advantage:
Vietnam


When totaling up the results, the advantage goes to Iraq by a narrow 4-3-1 score as the most pointless, most disastrous war in American history. As further categories are added and analyzed, no doubt historians will debate the issue for years to come.