Occupation of Iraq: Geostrategic and Institutional Challenges
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY CONFLICT
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The occupation of Iraq represents a profound strategic challenge for the United States as a nation, its political leadership and its military institutions. The Bush Administration has placed American credibility squarely on the line with its commitment to restore a civil society in Iraq. Not since decisions made at the outset of the Vietnam War has American prestige and power become so vested in achieving a singularly defined outcome in a distant land far from its shores. The early commitment of forces to Vietnam was made with the best of intentions and with a certain naivete that eventually got drowned in the rice paddies and lost amidst the jungles of Southeast Asia. At the time, the political leadership repeatedly assured the American people that the task would be relatively simple and that the nations political-military objectives could be accomplished in a short period at relatively little cost. The Vietnam War eventually broke the Johnson presidency politically, had profound fiscal consequences that laid the groundwork for the inflationary times of the 1970s, and, perhaps, most importantly, challenged the spirit and unity of the nation. While the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq are easily overdrawn, that does not make moot any analysis of these parallels and should not discourage the process of drawing analytically useful inferences. There is similarity between the broad objectives that we hoped to achieve through the use of force in both cases--installing and supporting a new government more supportive of American interests. And, as was the case in Vietnam, today the nations political leadership seems to have become inexorably vested in a successful outcome on difficult terrain in a far away land. Last, as was the case in Vietnam, forces have been committed in Iraq with the best of intentions--of ending a brutal and dangerous dictatorship and rebuilding a civil society.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics