Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn From the Past

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From the launch of the ?Shock and Awe? invasion in March 2003 through President George W. Bush?s declaration of ?Mission Accomplished? two months later, the war in Iraq was meant to demonstrate definitively that the United States had learned the lessons of Vietnam. This new book makes clear that something closer to the opposite is true?that U.S. foreign policy makers have learned little from the past, even as they have been obsessed with the ?Vietnam Syndrome.?

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Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past

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From the launch of the “Shock and Awe” invasion in March 2003 through President George W. Bush’s declaration of “Mission Accomplished” two months later, the war in Iraq was meant to demonstrate definitively that the United States had learned the lessons of Vietnam. This new book makes clear that something closer to the opposite is true—that U.S. foreign policy makers have learned little from the past, even as they have been obsessed with the “Vietnam Syndrome.”

Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam brings together the country’s leading historians of the Vietnam experience. Examining the profound changes that have occurred in the country and the military since the Vietnam War, celebrated historians Marilyn B. Young and Lloyd Gardner have assembled a distinguished group to consider how America has again found itself in the midst of a war in which there is no chance of a speedy victory or a sweeping regime change.

Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam explores how the “Vietnam Syndrome” fits into the contemporary debate about the purpose and exercise of American power in the world. With contributions from some of the most renowned analysts of American history and foreign policy, this is an essential recovery of the forgotten and misbegotten lessons of Vietnam.


  • Christian G. Appy
  • Andrew J. Bacevich
  • David Elliott
  • Alex Danchev
  • Elizabeth L. Hillman
  • Gabriel Kolko
  • Walter LaFeber
  • Wilfried Mausbach
  • Alfred W. McCoy
  • Gareth Porter
  • John Prados
  • Marilyn B. Young
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Iraq is not Vietnam, the makers of war tell us, hoping we will forget. The writers in this volume insist that we remember, and in these thoughtful, sobering essays they explain why. It is history at its best, meaning, at its most useful." —Howard Zinn, author of Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal and A People’s History of the United States

"Vietnam and Iraq are the main signposts that militarism and imperialism are out of control and undermining the American republic. In both cases planners deliberately created threats out of whole cloth to justify going to war. This book tells us the correct lessons of Vietnam. There is a great deal of wisdom in these ominous essays. " —Chalmers Johnson, author of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595581495
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Pages: 322
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lloyd C. Gardner is professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including The Long Road to Baghdad, Three Kings, The Road to Tahrir Square, and Killing Machine, and a co-editor, with Marilyn B. Young, of The New American Empire and Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam, all published by The New Press. He lives in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

Marilyn B. Young is a professor of history at New York University. She is a co-editor (with Lloyd C. Gardner) of The New American Empire: A 21st Century Teach-In on U.S. Foreign Policy and Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past and (with Yuki Tanaka) of Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History, all published by The New Press. She lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2012

    highly recomend

    I am a VN Vet - I have just started reading the book, so far it has been a good read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2007

    Fine studies of two disastrous and immoral wars

    This is an excellent collection of essays on the USA¿s wars, past, present and future. As the Washington Post noted, ¿the lesson of Vietnam is that once you make the initial mistake, little you do afterward is right. If the basic policy is flawed, the best tactics in the world will not salvage it.¿ When the attacks on Vietnam and Iraq were mistakes, then all proposed solutions ¿ a different strategy, more troops, more bombing, attacking neighbouring countries ¿ will fail. The editors write, ¿Iraq is most certainly the greatest so far of the neo-colonial wars as the great powers seek out spheres of influence and special advantages in the oil-rich areas bordering the Persian Gulf.¿ Yet Rumsfeld lied, ¿it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.¿ The US resolution for war against the `threat posed by Iraq¿ was in the US state¿s long tradition of faking threats to justify aggressive wars. After 9/11, Rumsfeld¿s undersecretary Douglas Feith scolded the senior staff officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ¿Why are you working on Afghanistan? You ought to be working on Iraq.¿ Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of Britain¿s Secret Intelligence Service, noted, ¿the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.¿ And Bush told Blair, ¿the diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning.¿ In every counter-insurgency war ¿ Japan against China, France against Vietnam and Algeria, Britain against Kenya, Malaya and Northern Ireland, the USA against Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan ¿ the people do not want to cooperate with the occupiers. So the occupiers, unable to find out about the resistance, resort to mass torture to get information. In Vietnam, the USA had its Operation Phoenix. Now it has Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo. As the Red Cross said, ¿The construction of such a system ¿ cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture.¿ Once a counter-insurgency war has got started, the occupiers are doomed to defeat. Capitalism will drive imperialism to repeat the same disasters for ever ¿ make trouble, fail, make trouble again, fail again ¿ if we let it.

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