Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What does ISIS have in common with the Vietcong?

Vietnam War photo (public domain)

David Ignatius, foreign affairs columnist at the Washington Post, is one of a couple of pundits whose opinions I continue to respect. So it was chilling this morning to read his take on President Obama’s strategy for responding to the Islamic state.

Connecting the current conflict with ISIS to America’s tragic involvement in the Vietnam war, Ignatius writes:

Underestimating an adversary’s will to win can be a costly mistake in war, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted in an interview last week. He said the U.S. had made that error recently in assessing the Islamic State, just as it did nearly 50 years ago in evaluating the staying power of the Vietcong.

Clapper’s comment was part of a broader trend over the past week in which senior military and intelligence officials have been unusually forthright about issues involving President Obama’s strategy for combating the Islamic State. In addition to Clapper’s remarks, this “push back” has been evident in comments by Gen. Martin Dempsey and Gen. Ray Odierno, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chief of staff of the army, respectively, about the possibility that ground combat troops might be needed in Iraq and Syria.

It’s as if senior officials, having been through the vortex of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, don’t want to make the same mistake this time of suppressing concerns or misgivings. Many military, intelligence, and foreign-service officers had doubts a decade ago about the wisdom of invading Iraq, but those worries were mostly unexpressed. Not this time.

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