Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
Since the divisive Vietnam experience, US Presidents have avoided diplomatic and military intervention in the affairs of other states fearing a negative American public reaction. US involvement in Beirut and Somalia was cut short and the use of ground forces in Kosovo was off the table. As President H.W. Bush concluded in 1991, a Vietnam Syndrome had taken hold of the public. Bush explained this problem in greater detail I dont think that public support for the 1991 Gulf War would last if it were a drawn-out conflagration. I think support would erode, as it did in Vietnam. Additionally, foreign adversaries have also made calculated, strategic decisions on the belief Americans are unwilling to support protracted, bloody conflicts. This was especially true in Osama Bin Ladens calculus when he declared war on the US. In fact, in a 1998 ABC News interview he emphasized the symbolic importance of the 1983 Beirut bombing referring to US soldiers as paper tigers. In a letter to his chief deputy in Iraq, Al Qaedas number two leader, Zawahiri wrote,The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam, and how they ran and left their agents, is noteworthy.