The Problems of Comparing Iraq to Vietnam and the Failures of President Bush's Surge Speech

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Damn, he did it again. The most powerful man in the free world, the commander in chief, “the decider,” has gone and done it again. About 18 months ago, the president commented on a newspaper article and spoke about Vietnam and Iraq in the same breath. At the time, many were beginning to compare Iraq to Vietnam and using the word “quagmire” to describe both.

To do this was a mistake; it was wrong, bad karma, bad ju-ju, “do not pass go,” and a run back to the corner until this thought passes, type of thing. So, to have the president add to the misconception that they were, are, or will be, wasn’t helpful. That was 18 months ago.

Last week, in front of an assembled group of veterans, Mr. Bush did it again. While giving a history lesson, he said that those who opposed Vietnam were wrong and that millions died because we left Vietnam — and that it will happen if we now leave Iraq. I gotta tell ya, whatever bonehead wrote and whoever approved this speech needs to go down the road.

When the president evokes Vietnam, it gives everyone free reign to, once more, compare one disaster to another — this while the combined poll ratings of the administration and Congress are in the crapper.

The president made it OK for people to compare how both wars got started: the bad intelligence, deception and incompetence. He made it OK to compare the Gulf of Tonkin, that it was not investigated until we were knee deep in blood in ‘Nam, to the WMD that weren’t there in Iraq. He made it OK to compare how both wars were fought; soldiers doing their jobs, day in and day out, despite the worst political and military leadership ever seen. He made it OK to compare the rapidly disappearing patience of the U.S. citizens now with the lost patience we experienced during Vietnam.

When the president evoked Vietnam, he gave free reign to those who wish to note that many in the president’s circle avoided service during Vietnam, starting with the vice president. What the president should have said was, “The surge is working. We have the right general — finally — in Petraeus; we are winning on the ground.”

The problem is, had he said that, he would have then had to admit that we did not concentrate on the political and economic issues until it was too late; that despite the military success of the surge, that Iraq is not working.

You, Mr. President, could have pointed to real success in Iraq, but instead you chose to evoke Vietnam. The last guy to try that was Sen. John Kerry. You remember what happened to him? Kerry mistakenly used his service in Vietnam, and that war, rather than focusing on the wars we are fighting now. It did not work and the guilt, anger and unanswered questions of that war engulfed Kerry in a fire he could not put out.

The president needs to wait until after we have won to compare Iraq to other wars. Bringing up Vietnam and Korea, with their questionable endings and lack of complete victory, was a huge mistake. Mr. President, your decisions will stand or fall on their own and our soldiers’ brave hearts and deeds must not be compared to other wars — not while they are still fighting this one.

Now, sir, make another speech and take it back.

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Colonel David Hunt, U.S. Army (Ret.), is a FOX News military analyst and the author of the New York Times bestseller They Just Don’t Get It. He has extensive operational experience in counterterrorism, special operations, and intelligence operations. He has trained the FBI and Special Forces in counterterrorism tactics, served as the security adviser to six different Olympic Games, testified as an expert at many major terrorist trials, and lectured at the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency. You can read his complete bio here.