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

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595581495
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 05/01/2007
Pages: 322
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.70(h) x (d)

About 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 was a professor of history at New York University. She was 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.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction   Lloyd C. Gardner   Marilyn B. Young     1
Parallel Wars? Can "Lessons of Vietnam" Be Applied to Iraq?   David Elliott     17
"I'm with You": Tony Blair and the Obligations of Alliance: Anglo-American Relations in Historical Perspective   Alex Danchev     45
Forlorn Superpower: European Reactions to the American Wars in Vietnam and Iraq   Wilfried Mausbach     59
Manufacturing the Threat to Justify Aggressive War in Vietnam and Iraq   Gareth Porter     88
Wise Guys, Rough Business: Iraq and the Tonkin Gulf   John Prados     106
Gulliver at Bay: The Paradox of the Imperial Presidency   Andrew J. Bacevich     124
Class Wars   Christian G. Appy     136
The Female Shape of the All-Volunteer Force   Elizabeth L. Hillman     150
Familiar Foreign Policy and Familiar Wars: Vietnam, Iraq ... Before and After   Gabriel Kolko     162
Mr. Rumsfeld's War   Lloyd C. Gardner     174
Zelig in U.S. Foreign Relations: The Roles of China in the American Post-9/11 World   Walter LaFeber     201
Counterinsurgency, Now and Forever   Marilyn B. Young     216
Torture in the Crucibleof Counterinsurgency   Alfred W. McCoy     230
Notes     263
About the Contributors     303
Index     305

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Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn from the Past 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a VN Vet - I have just started reading the book, so far it has been a good read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.