Like John I get annoyed when people make ridiculous comparisons between Iraq and other wars. Some examples:
[T]his crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile. [President George Bush in what one hopes was an unintentional slip, 9/15/01]
Just before Boykin was put in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and then inserted into Iraqi prison reform, he was a circuit rider for the religious right. He allied himself with a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier that advocates applying military principles to evangelism. Its manifesto – Warrior Message – summons “warriors in this spiritual war for souls of this nation and the world … ”
Boykin staged a travelling slide show around the country where he displayed pictures of Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. “Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army,” he preached. They “will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus“. It was the reporting of his remarks at a revival meeting in Oregon that made them a subject of brief controversy. [General William Boykin, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, unambiguously invoking the Crusades]
World War II
Invoking the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Bush on Tuesday cast the war in Iraq as the modern-day moral equivalent of the struggle against Nazi fascism and Japanese imperialism in World War II, arguing that the United States cannot retreat without disastrous consequences. [8/30/05]
Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. [Donald Rumsfeld, 3/19/06]
The Cold War
[Speaking at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library, Rumsfeld said] that America’s impatience and political division over the war on terror mirrors disagreements during the Cold War. He said that during the Cold War the nation was tired after World War II and not in the mood “for more global involvement.”
During the Cold War, he said, “the future then too was unclear, the tasks often seemed insurmountable, and it was difficult to view things with the perspective that only history can offer.”
Critics have compared Iraq with:
We humans tend to argue by way of analogies. Ethicists generally operate, for example, by taking a questionable action and then comparing it to a clearly acceptable action and a clearly unacceptable action, and seeing which one is more similar.
If we want to play the which-conflict-is-more-similar game I’d have to go with Vietnam rather than Afghanistan. The government’s dishonest salesmanship, the obvious military superiority on our part, the long-burning counterinsurgency, the gradual public disillusionment and the problematic relationships with neighboring countries all smell similar enough to make a useful analogy. Not the same, obviously, but enough so that we can make some effort to learn from our mistakes. This field dispatch from Soldiers for the Truth (front page, no permalink) does not encourage me:
” Operation Swarmer was compromised by the Iraqis. As soon as Iraqi units left their barracks, their soldiers and local police watching movements were on cell phones. Orders are not even issued to Iraqi units until 1 hr prior to loading onto trucks and slicks. The insurgents were tipped of, people we interviewed in the area stated the insurgent cells and cell leaders abruptly left 3 hrs before we even arrived. This operation was an exercise in PR on how well the Iraqi forces are taking the fight to the enemy, but had little operational success.”[NOTE: After the Viet Nam war we discovered that every tactical operation of battalion size or larger, that took place after August of 1965, was compromised. There was no, repeat no, effective OPSEC, due to the penetration of South Vietnamese military by the North Vietnamese intelligence services.]
Critics of the Iraq war often pointed out that the president had surrounded himself with unrepentant Vietnam boosters who slearned all of the wrong lessons from history. It seemed logical that people who thought that we made no mistakes in Vietnam would find a way to make them again. What do you know, they did.