Syria Is a Clusterf*ck with parallels to Vietnam

30 October 2015 1:04 pm

Flashbacks to 1965. There are some creepy parallels between Syria and Vietnam.

Think of it: a corrupt government that has alienated many of its people finds itself unable to overcome a growing insurgency in an endless civil war and expects superpowers on the other side of the globe to come to its rescue. That's the story in Iraq and Syria today—which carries eerie echoes of the not-so-distant past.

Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe at the Washington Post report there’s a push in Washington to move US troops closer to the front line in Iraq and Syria.

They write: “The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria for an extended time and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

“The changes would represent a significant escalation of the American role in Iraq and Syria. They still require formal approval from Obama, who could make a decision as soon as this week and could decide not to alter the current course, said U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are still ongoing. It’s unclear how many additional troops would be required to implement the changes being considered by the president, but the number for now is likely to be relatively small, these officials said.”

Daniel Ellsberg,the former defence department official who famously leaked the Pentagon papers, says the parallels are eerie.

“As in Vietnam, the U.S. is heading towards an American ground combat war under a president who assures us — before an election — that it isn’t going to happen. And as in Vietnam, his generals claim he can’t achieve his goal without boots on the ground.

“Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, says you can’t defeat ISIS without ground troops. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified he will recommend U.S. ground forces in Iraq if and when air power alone is not sufficient. That day is certain to come, sooner than later, although not before the November elections.

“In fact, I doubt there’s a single person in the Pentagon or the CIA who believes Obama can achieve his goals to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria with air strikes and advisers alone.”

Vietnam involved refugees and cruel treatment of the old South Vietnamese regime supporters by the conquering North. The full horror of the debacle in Southeast Asia was of course in Cambodia with the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge. History does not really repeat. But the parallels with Iraq and Syria seem to be getting more and more accurate.

The events now unfolding in Syria confirm the adage that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.