Saturday, February 10, 2007

# Posted 7:50 AM by Patrick Porter  

HEARTS AND MINDS AT HOME: I meant to post on this a while back.

Apologies for raising this yet again after so much discussion - the comparison of the war in Iraq with Vietnam.

For the USA, Vietnam was longer and bloodier, and there is a good argument that the nature, structure and dynamics of the two insurgencies / guerrilla conflicts / wars are fundamentally different.

But: in one aspect, it seems that today's Iraq war, especially the Bush Administrations handling of it, has become worse in terms of domestic public opinion.

Both wars generated vast opposition in the 'hearts and minds' of America.

Kevin Drum noted a few weeks ago that the actual level opposition to the war in domestic opinion is not so different.

But here's the thing: recorded opposition to the Vietnam war reached its ceiling in 1971, at 61%. Whereas 62% of Americans, according to one poll, say the war is not worth fighting.

In other words, it took Americans in that era roughly ten years to reach such peaks of opposition, and after a much higher rate of casualties.

(This depends a bit on when you measure the exact beginnings of American intervention in Vietnam in any substantive scale. Formally, intervention is said to have begun under President Kennedy in 1961, though 'escalation' and 'Americanisation' didn't start until 1964. Nevertheless, its still a shorter time frame than the Iraq war).

Whereas the Iraq war has now gone for just less than four years, and the casualty rate has been significantly lower, yet opposition is comparable to 1971.

Wherever public opinion in the US ends up, the heamorraging of support is happening much faster with less loss of life than during the Vietnam war.

Pushing the comparison a bit more: does this fraying of the support for a major part of a broader struggle mean that the long-term 'GWOT' will now have to be reconfigured around police action, constabulary efforts, intelligence gathering, and special forces?

Will it have the same generalised effect of undermining the support base needed for a global struggle and indeed for any military intervention anywhere, as Vietnam did in the mid to late 70's?

The danger seems to be that even the polymorphous, 'networked', decentralised terrorism of today still depends often on state patronage, and that treating terrorism as a non-state phenomenon that can be managed only as a 'criminal' offence overlooks this.

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(9) opinions -- Add your opinion

Evidence, please, that AQ and other transnational Islamist terrorists depend on state aid to a significant degree.

For example, which state provided critical aid to the Bali, Madrid, and London bombings? Other than a haven, did the Taliban provide material or financial support for AQ's operations? More likely the other way around, actually.

Also, why bring up Iraq? Please provide any evidence at all that links Iraq with transnational terrorism in either the pre-Saddam or post-Saddam era? Other than acting as a significant trigger to inspire the London bombers, of course.
hi tequila,

I'm not saying Iraq was tied to AQ operationally, instead I'm asking what will be the effects of the Iraq war on the broader conflict, and wondering whether one of the effects will be to cause governments and public opinion to reconfigure anti-terrorism in ways that neglect the role of state sponsorship.

havens, training camps, intelligence are non-trivial sources of state assistance for AQ and others.

I should have added more broadly that charities that export extreme Islamic fundamentalist ideology have been aided by funding from state benefactors:

It doesn't always come directly from states, as you suggest, but states can be involved.
One huge difference between the two wars is the draft which spread the burden somewhat more evenly in society. Opposition to the war dropped significantly with the end of the draft in 1973, but the war was winding down as well.

And if there has been any link between AQ and Iraq it has been as an effect and not as a cause.
How important is victory in Iraq thought to be, compared to the Vietnam war?
Tequila: (Transnational muslim terrorist during Saddams reign): abu nidal, some of the guys who bombed the trade center the first time, Zarqawi, money to Palestinian groups that murder civilians in an attempt to reach a politcal goal. Richard Clarke had a better list than I can think of, maybe you should look for some of his comments. I am not saying Iraq was working with al-queda, but they did have contact with them.

Post-saddam transnational terrorism: watch the news.
I think the main reason the war has lost support so quickly is the lack of leadership from the White House. LBJ and Nixon were not great leaders, but they did at least appear to know what they were doing and didn't just shrug off data they didn't like and say things Americans knew weren't true.
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