What are two similarities and two differences between the Vietnam War and the 2003 Iraq War?

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This is a very powerful question whose answers will have to examined through the lens of political affiliation.  On one hand, some differences between both conflicts would be that the military escalation of forces is not the same.  In Vietnam, the conflict experienced a wide escalation or swelling of military personnel before a deescalation.  In Iraq, this is not present.  The President has committed to withdraw troops with somewhat of a timetable, but the noticeable escalation of military presence that was such a part of the Vietnam war is not there with the Iraq conflict.  Another major difference is the casualty count.  Any and all loss of military life is extremely painful for which to account.  Yet, the casualty number in Iraq is nowhere near the count for Vietnam.  When such a number far exceeds 50,000, the situations are not entirely the same.

Some similarities are present.  The first would be that the wars experienced an increased in unpopularity.  The Iraq Conflict and Vietnam Wars were and are unpopular.  The large scale of increased support from the body politic are not as present in analyzing both conflicts.  Another similarity would be that each conflict proved to be more difficult than originally envisioned.  The Vietnam Conflict was seen as the mighty power of America against a "bunch of people in black pajamas."  Yet, once the war had continued, there was a distinct complexity that forced America's hand in being trapped between options that were undesirable.  The same situation presented itself in the immediate stages of the Iraq conflict.  The notion that America would be "greeted as liberators," that there would be an immediate reality of a lower price of oil, and that once Saddam Hussein would be removed from office, democracy could take a quick hold were all false assertions.  The removal of Hussein and anti- American fervor that developed ended up allowing multipolar tensions to surface, making "the enemy" that much more difficult to identify.  Additionally, the removal of Saddam Hussein actually helped to allow Al- Qaeda operatives to enter the region, causing even more instability.

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  • These were both wars that were not officially declared by Congress.  Congress in both cases voted to give the President power to do more or less what he wanted, but did not declare war.
  • They were both wars that were "optional."  Neither was in response to that country attacking us.
  • Both were wars that were likely to turn into guerrilla conflicts.


  • Iraq was not part of a bigger Cold War-type struggle.  Therefore, the Iraqis did not have a superpower on their side helping them.
  • There was very little serious controversy or protest within the US about the Iraq War.  Even as the war got to be unpopular, there was very little protest.
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For two similarities, I would argue that 1) We are fighting an insurgency against a native population that is unfriendly in a culture we do not understand, just as in Vietnam  and 2)  In Iraq it is quite difficult to tell the difference between friend and enemy as the insurgents are often civilians by day, just as in Vietnam.

Two major differences are that 1) the Iraqi insurgents do not have nearly the amount of outside help that the Vietcong and North Vietnamese had from the Soviet Union, so they are not able to fight as effectively in Iraq.  2)  Our army is much more professionally trained and better armed than we were in Vietnam, in part because we no longer draft people into service, and because war technology has advanced so much in the last 40 years.

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