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How the Vietnam War Influenced the Iraq War Essay

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2021

The war in Vietnam demonstrated that there are limitations to a military superpower’s capabilities. This is a lesson the defunct Roman Empire never learned and a similar fate waits America if it continues to repeat the same mistake that was Vietnam such as the one in Iraq. The same mentality that would have the US still in Vietnam led us to an unnecessary war in Iraq.

During the Vietnam era, the neo-conservatism movement expanded due to the political polarization occurring in the country between the anti-war, anti-American sentiments of the counterculture and neo-cons who championed blind patriotism. Neoconservatives were not collectively for the expansion or continuance of the war but they were united in their fear that communism would spread. The term ‘domino theory’ was used quite often by the neo-cons to justify America’s military involvement in Southeast Asia. If Vietnam fell to the communists, they reasoned, the remainder of the region would be systematically consumed by the ‘Red Menace.’ Some of the Vietnam era neo-cons, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, went to the right opposing domestic spending; advocating tax reductions for the wealthy and an attack-first, ask questions later mentality. Though domestic issues were once a rallying point then abandoned by contemporary neo-cons, foreign-policy matters invoked the most emotion therefore attention from this group. They reasoned then, as they do now, that foreign affairs were a more important consideration for national discussion because the very survival of the nation was at stake. “If a domestic policy fails, you can try another. If a foreign policy fails, you may find yourself at war” (Muravchik, 2007). The Vietnam War sharply divided the country but neo-cons, even the ones who were less than hawkish, were always on the defensive regarding the consequences of losing to communism. When war opponents voiced the opinion that communism wasn’t the most imperative concern, that American imperialism and expansionistic tendencies were the big issue, neo-cons were quick to rebuke what they thought was unpatriotic rhetoric. This same rhetoric echoed throughout the Iraq war during the Bush administration.

The hard lesson learned, seemingly, from America’s involvement in Vietnam was that possessing an overwhelming military force does not guarantee victory. Though three million enemies were killed compared to 58,000 on the American side, the ‘big dog’ in the fight eventually had to run home with its tail between its legs, beaten and humiliated. Thanks to the unprecedented media covering the truth of the war, the U.S. rapidly lost credibility worldwide including within the borders of its own country. The war in Iraq has only exacerbated this loss of credibility and has reproved that the belief that a technologically advanced military machine combined with the world’s mightiest economic power is adequate to conquer any enemy is only a dangerous delusion (Adhikari, 2004)

The war in Vietnam could not have produced a more poignant or pronounced message but has been ignored to the peril of American prestige and respect throughout the world and to its military, economy, security and young soldiers lives. ‘Never again’ was the national mantra following the Vietnam War. It’s shamefully ironic that the generation that lived through the Cold War, even the neo-cons, should have understood this sentiment the most but is the ones that are repeating the same mistake.

Works Cited

Adhikari, Gautam. “American Power: The End of the Unipolar Myth.” International Herald Tribune / YaleGlobal. (2004). Web.

Muravchik, Joshua. “The Past, Present, and Future of Neoconservatism.” Commentary Magazine. (2007). Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, November 26). How the Vietnam War Influenced the Iraq War. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-the-vietnam-war-influenced-the-iraq-war/

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"How the Vietnam War Influenced the Iraq War." IvyPanda, 26 Nov. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/how-the-vietnam-war-influenced-the-iraq-war/.

1. IvyPanda. "How the Vietnam War Influenced the Iraq War." November 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-the-vietnam-war-influenced-the-iraq-war/.


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IvyPanda. (2021) 'How the Vietnam War Influenced the Iraq War'. 26 November.

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