Sunday, October 22, 2006

Iraq and Vietnam

One similarity between the way we're fighting in Iraq and the way we fought in Vietnam is that a tour of duty is limited, and if you want out when your enlistment is up you can get out.

So, for the individual soldier the way to survive is just to survive. In WWII soldiers were in for the duration. Keeping your head down did not ensure personal survival. Only winning the war ensured personal survival.

In WWII, if we won the war you went home. That's it. No ambiguity.

Iraq isn't being run exactly like Vietnam. Back in the old days many were draftees with a 2 year active duty commitment. That meant a single one year tour in Vietnam and you were done. Keep your head down for 1 year and you lived forever. Today the length of a tour in Iraq might get extended, and there are no 2 year enlistments so you'll probably do at least two tours and even then you have a total 8 year enlistment, serve a 3 year active duty tour and you go in the reserves. And, unlike Vietnam the reserves get sent to Iraq.

But today's troops aren't in for the duration.

Looking at the casuality numbers strongly suggests that the military is very much following a strategy of "keeping your head down". The casualty numbers for US soldiers are very low when compared to casualty numbers of Iraqi civilians.

Keeping your head down is the correct response for a soldier. But I'm not sure that giving them the incentive to follow that tactic is good for the country.

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