The Myth of the Vietnam Syndrome

Remember the Project for the New American Century? They were the neconservative think-tank group that had been advocating invasion and regime change in Iraq since back in Bill Clinton’s administration. Many of those involved – including Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld – got their wish, to the detriment of millions of innocent people.

Well, now PNAC is called The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) and they’re doing the same misinformation and war-advocacy for Iran that they once did for Iraq. This piece highlighted at their website, originally published in Foreign Affairs, explicitly calls for a U.S. military strike aimed at regime change. Besides fear-mongering with falsehoods about covert elements of the Iranian nuclear programs, among others, authors James Fly and Gary Schmitt write that instead of simply bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, “it would be better to plan an operation that not only strikes the nuclear program but aims to destabilize the regime, potentially resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all.”

This kind of talk is not new, and you know that if you’re a regular reader of this site. See here for my recent piece on the propaganda campaign for war with Iran and here for why aggression is so unnecessary and counterproductive.

But as I read that FPI piece, it occurred to me that these elite neocons don’t represent the country. Right? What do Americans think of a war with Iran?

Released just two weeks ago, this Pew Research Survey found voters strongly in favor of aggression towards Iran. “Of those following the Iran situation,” Pew finds, “54% say the U.S. should take a firm stand against Iran’s actions, while 39% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran.” Trevor Thrall at The National Interest picked up on this at the time, noting that “support for military action against Iran today is almost exactly the same as support for the invasion of Iraq right before the war began.” And that was after one of the most coordinated and aggressive propaganda efforts in American history.

This leads me to believe that getting outside the bubble of elite foreign policy wonkery is not a worthwhile exercise. If the people in the halls of power in this country want to launch another war of aggression in the Middle East, they simply will. They have their mandate from the electorate. People talk about there being little appetite for war after the terrible experience in Iraq. They talk of so-called Vietnam syndrome – the technical term for a mental disorder associated with “sickly inhibitions against the use of military force” – but where is this society-wide malady? I don’t see it. And neither do the “decision-makers” in Washington. And that, more than anything else, makes this next war increasingly possible.

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