Sen. John McCain says the Vietnam War taught a generation of U.S. leaders two lessons, both of them ignored in Iraq.
- You must have the public’s support to wage war.
- Use overwhelming force while waging it.
“We seem to have forgotten them in the conduct of this conflict and it’s costing us an enormous amount – not just in Iraq but all over the world,” said the likely Republican presidential candidate in 2008. He is joined by three other veterans, including Washington fixture Jack Valenti, on a HOTSOUP.com Hot Issues panel about the Iraq-Vietnam parallels.
McCain supported the Iraq war, but has criticized the Bush administration’s planning and execution. While calling for more U.S. troops in Iraq, the former Vietnam prisoner of war has implied that he’d prefer immediate withdrawal to a politically motivated staggered pull-out. “What I cannot do is ask (a U.S. soldier) to return to Iraq, to risk life and limb, so that we might delay our defeat for a few months or a year,” McCain said in a Nov. 16 address.
The Vietnam-Iraq panel was requested by HOTSOUP community members debating Iraq on the site. “Our desire to free Iraq from Saddam’s death grip was a noble cause, yet we did not fully understand the radicalism and hatred – the mindset of the people we were trying to free,” wrote “rcdude” in one of the site’s many forums on Iraq.
“What makes things worse,” added Badger38, “is we seem totally willing to sit around for a month or so until committees issue reports after which the whole matter will be discussed some more and argued over while people are dying.”
“I don’t think that there’s a possibility that Iraq will be better of when we’re done,” replied Ian Broverman, a former Hot Issues panelist, “but I’ll wait to see what the new leadership does with Iraq before I write it off completely.”