Small Wars Journal

Protesting War: Comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam

Thu, 10/27/2011 - 7:23am

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Since the divisive Vietnam experience, US Presidents have been reluctant to intervene militarily in the affairs of other states fearing a negative American public reaction.  US involvement in Beirut and Somalia was cut short once there were military casualties 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 don’t 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 Laden’s calculus when he declared war on the US.  In fact, in a letter to his chief deputy in Iraq, Al Qaeda's 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.”  So, given the Afghanistan War is now longer than the Vietnam War, why have Americans not protested to the same degree?  By comparing and contrasting George W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson Administrations, this work examines three possible explanations—supporting war rationale, economic sacrifice and personal connection.

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About the Author(s)

Col George “Marty” Reynolds (BS, United States Air Force Academy and Pennsylvania State University; MBA, Gonzaga University; MA, George Washington University; MS, Air Force Institute of Technology; Masters of Strategic Studies, Air Force Air War College)  is a reconnaissance/surveillance/electronic warfare pilot.  He has commanded three electronic combat squadrons and held staff assignments at the wing, center, numbered air force, headquarters Air Force and Joint Staff levels.  Colonel Reynolds participated and commanded squadrons during multiple contingency operations, including Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and operations in South America.



Sun, 10/30/2011 - 3:41am

Is anybody else having trouble downloading the article? I click the link and nothing happens.