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Bricks of Straw

Visiting Professor David Kaiser asks “Is Iraq Vietnam?

The wars in Vietnam and Iraq differ in major respects, but U.S. policy in both suffers from the same fatal flaw. The publication of National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley’s Nov. 8 memorandum shows a critical similarity between the American approaches to these wars.

In both cases the United States has tried to turn a nation into something alien to its nature. Now as in Vietnam, the U.S. government is refusing to base its policies upon reality and is looking for a local leader who can make political bricks without straw to build the nation the United States has in mind. For that reason, the intervention in Iraq, like that in South Vietnam, seems almost certain to end in failure.

Read the whole thing. I don’t think that the metaphor of making “political bricks without straw” works that well, but the analysis seems sound. Time for partition.

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#1 Comment By Ken Larson On December 21, 2006 @ 11:32 am

There are good points in your article. I would like to supplement them with some information:

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting at my blog entitled, “Odyssey of Armaments”


The Pentagon is a giant, incredibly complex establishment, budgeted in excess of $500B per year. The Rumsfelds, the Administrations and the Congressmen come and go but the real machinery of policy and procurement keeps grinding away, presenting the politicos who arrive with detail and alternatives slanted to perpetuate itself.

How can any newcomer, be he a President, a Congressman or even the new Sec. Def.Mr. Gates, understand such complexity, particularly if heretofore he has not had the clearance to get the full details?

Answer- he can’t. Therefore he accepts the alternatives provided by the career establishment that never goes away and he hopes he makes the right choices. Or he is influenced by a lobbyist or two representing companies in his district or special interest groups.

From a practical standpoint, policy and war decisions are made far below the levels of the talking heads who take the heat or the credit for the results.

This situation is unfortunate but it is absolute fact. Take it from one who has been to war and worked in the establishment.

This giant policy making and war machine will eventually come apart and have to be put back together to operate smaller, leaner and on less fuel. But that won’t happen until it hits a brick wall at high speed.

We will then have to run a Volkswagen instead of a Caddy and get along somehow. We better start practicing now and get off our high horse. Our golden aura in the world is beginning to dull from arrogance.