As Iraq devolved into insurgency in 2004, the Washington policy community was filled with ominous warnings of “another Vietnam.” The war in Vietnam was, after all, America’s benchmark for counterinsurgency and hung like a dark cloud over every debate on U.S. national security policy during the height of the Iraq War.
But it soon seemed that the Vietnam analogy did not apply to Iraq. After a careful assessment, Jeffrey Record and Andrew Terrill, both widely published national security experts, concluded as early as May 2004 that “the differences between the two conflicts greatly outnumber the similarities.” Soon references to Vietnam faded from the national debate over what to do in Iraq.
Perhaps, though, this was an overly hasty conclusion. Iraq’s unraveling over the past year and the dramatic gains of the so-called Islamic State (IS) suggest that the Vietnam conflict may provide indications of Iraq’s future after all.