Irak es otro Vietnam?

Mucha gente ve los ataques diarios y las muertes de soldados estadounidenses regulares y piensan que estamos haciendo los mismos errores que hicimos en Vietnam. Si te fijas bien en los hechos, verá que las circunstancias y los acontecimientos en Irak no reflejan las de Vietnam.



North Vietnam had a functioning government that enforced laws, collected money, and paid their civil servants. Iraq’s government is completely dominated by the US. There is no opposition government that is enforcing laws or collecting taxes.


The Iraqi army had 400,000 soldiers when the US invaded. They were not detained (I.E. taken prisoner) after the war. Even though these soldiers are able to live freely in Iraq there is no real command-and-control infrastructure to allow them to operate as a regular army. Además, the opposition cannot pay them or provision them like a regular army. They may have the training of a standing army, but they cannot operate as one. A lo mejor, these soldiers could operate as a militia or a guerilla army. The North Vietnamese had a capable, professional army that fluctuated between 180,000 y 285,000. This was a real army with an intact command-and-control and logistical infrastructure.


The North Vietnamese were singularly organized around the principle of a political system that they believed was righteous and moral. The current insurgency in Iraq can be divided into at least three groups. The Kurds in the north want independence, the Sunnis want to return to power, and the Shiites want to establish a theocracy.

In addition, most Americans honestly believed that communism was evil and that if we did not fight in Vietnam then we might eventually be overrun by the communists. America is coming to realize that a country like Iraq is not a threat to our security.


Vietnam vs. Iraq
Vietnam 1965 Iraq 2003
Population 37 million 25 million
US Troops 185,000 131,000
US Deaths 1800 600 (estimated)

We have seen many deaths in Iraq in recent months. With at least 25 attacks a day on US forces, it looks a lot like Vietnam. In terms of troop deployments, the most comparable year of Vietnam to Iraq is 1965.

1965 has another parallel with 2003. En 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which granted the president the authority to use military force in Vietnam. The language and timing are very similar to the resolution Congress passed authorizing the president to use force in Iraq.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second. Considering we deployed fewer troops to Iraq than to Vietnam, we will multiply 600 por 1.5 and pretend that there are 900 US deaths in Iraq for 2003. That compares to the 1800 deaths in Vietnam in 1965. That is still not the same casualty rate as Vietnam.

Iraq is not Vietnam

We took bigger casualties in Vietnam and occupied less than half of the country. In Iraq, we are administrating many services and can move troops with impunity. I do not think that we can study Vietnam to improve our understanding of Iraq.

The Real Precedence

Desde 1979 a 1989, the USSR fought a war in Afghanistan. That war has many more parallels to Iraq than does Vietnam. We are duplicating the occupation strategy of the Soviets almost precisely. It is fair to assume that the outcome will be similar.


The USSR completely occupied Afghanistan in a number of weeks and ran the government for the entire ten years. They sought to create a government that was fronted and elected by the citizens of Afghanistan. They also tried to have the Afghani army and police provide as much security as possible. This is exactly what is happening in Iraq today.


The military deployment of the USSR in Afghanistan was about 100,000 soldiers. The Soviet army was trained to fight a conventional war in Europe, not a guerilla war in the mountains. Del mismo modo, most US forces do not have adequate training in anti-guerilla warfare in the desert. También, the US just announced that they will drop troop levels a 100,000 por 2004.

The original Afghani army was decimated by the Soviets in a matter of weeks in early 1980. The resistance was loosely organized and poorly provisioned guerillas that called themselves the mujahedeen. The current Iraqi resistance is similarly organized and also poorly provisioned (compared to the Americans).


Afghanistan vs. Iraq
Afghanistan 1980 Iraq 3/2003 – 3/2004
Population 13 million 25 million
Troops 80,000 131,000
muertes 1484 800 (estimated)

The Soviet military had almost 14,000 casualties in ten years in Afghanistan. 1980 was the first full year of the occupation. 1.3 million Afghanis also died during that time.

The Forecast

The US military is somewhat more prepared for this occupation than the Soviets were; sin embargo, American politicians will not tolerate the high level of losses that the Soviets did. If we continue with our current plan, we will lose 5000 a 7000 soldiers over the next six to seven years, at which time we will withdraw. 50,000 a 100,000 Iraqis will also die during this time.

The Military Alternative

If we believe that we need to occupy this country for security reasons, then we are doing it all wrong. To successfully fight against a guerilla force in Iraq, we must face certain realities.

  1. US forces must exclusively handle all counter-insurgency operations
  2. US forces must exclusively handle all security of major targets
  3. Iraqi forces can handle only basic police functions (robo, traffic, etcétera)
  4. The US must govern Iraq as a protectorate, not a Democracy

US Troops

One guerilla can engage ten regular soldiers. How many guerillas are in Iraq? The Iraqi army had 400,000 regular troops before the war. One third of them are probably professional soldiers. One third of them are either unwilling to serve in the American-run police organizations or are rejected by the US. That creates 50,000 former Iraqi soldiers, most of them Sunnis living in the central part of the country. 10,000 Kurds in the north have been fighting a guerilla war against Iraq and Turkey for 25 año. They have started attacking Americans in Mosul and other northern towns. Add another 40,000 Shiite fighters in the south that want to form an Islamic theocracy and you have 100,000 guerillas divided into three different command structures fighting against the US occupation in three different locations.

To fight 100,000 militants, we need one million troops. It would take about two years at that troop strength to capture or kill all the militants, destroy their weapons, and cut-off their local funding. Para comparacion, China has stationed 300,000 troops in Tibet to enforce rule on a population of nine million. This is the same ratio as one million troops for 25 million Iraqi citizens.

We need one million troops to guard all major targets. Major targets include airfields, docks, rivers, major roads, oil fields, oil pipelines, power plants, water plants, and banks. We also need to use those troops to run aggressive counter-insurgency campaigns.

Why not use Iraqi troops?

The current US plan is to train an Iraqi army and police force. The US wants to limit American casualties by getting the Iraqis killed first. The soviets tried this in Afghanistan. This is silly at best. A major disadvantage of any occupation force is intelligence. By using Iraqis in military operations, we make it possible for the guerillas to know our troop and supply movements. Además, in Afghanistan, defections from the army to the mujahedeen were common and crippling.


We will pay $600 billion for the first three years for only military operations. We need one year to recruit, train, and deploy one million troops to the area. Then they need to stay for two years. Troops normally cost much more than this, but most of these troops will be light infinity which cost less than other types of troops. This figure only includes the cost of security.

Politics will likely dictate that the puppet Iraqi government will incur major debt to finance infrastructure projects. After that we will still need a massive troop level in Iraq for 15 years at a cost of about two trillion dollars.


Over the next three years we would have 25,000 US dead from battle, 500 US dead from non-battle wounds, y 200,000 US sick or wounded. A major source of sickness will be theGulf War Syndrome”. The depleted uranium used in ammunition will cause many veterans to become ill towards the end of the three years. The Iraqis would suffer around 500,000 dead. The number of casualties in the following 15 years would be minorno more than US 1200 dead.


The irony in this entire operation is that Iraq will not be a true democracy until the country is stabilized and an entire generation is re-educated. This alternative will provide a stable Iraq, but it will not be a democracy for 18 a 20 año. Peor, after we withdraw our troops in 2025, the country could fall into a civil war or another war with Iran. There is no guarantee that we will establish a stable democracy that does not require us to occupy Iraq. Note that we have occupied Germany and Japan for 58 año.


We allegedly invaded Iraq to quickly create a democracy there. There is no way to do that. There are no examples in history of one country forcing democracy on another country in the seven years that most war hawks predict. To create a democracy in Iraq would take at least twenty years, three trillion dollars, 25,000 dead Americans, y 500,000 dead Iraqis.

The Withdrawal Alternative

Leaving is not much easier or prettier. The Kurds will declare independence. The Sunnis and Shiites will fight amongst themselves and with each other for power. Iran, Syria, and Turkey will each invade parts of Iraq and the country will be divided into three regions. The Turks will occupy the Kurdish north, the Syrians will occupy the Sunni center and west, and the Iranians will occupy the Shiite south and east. In the first year, 10,000 civilians will die.

The Kurds

The Kurds in the north will continue to fight a guerilla war against the Turks. Since the Turks will not form an alliance with Syria or Iran, they will have to deal with the situation alone. The Turks have enough soldiers to completely crush the Kurds. If the Turks choose to fight hard, 40,000 people could die over three years in that region. The situation could become much like the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The Sunnis

The Sunnis will work with the Syrians to set up a new Iraqi state. The new state will function and look a lot like the Saddam-era Iraq. Dentro 10 año, this government will be completely autonomous.

The Shiites

The Shiite south could go two ways. In the unlikely event that the Ayatollahs in Iran and Iraq are able to work together, southern Iraq will become a protectorate of Iran. They will set up a government that claims to be the real Iraqi government and fight the Sunni government of Baghdad. This would be a very costly war. As many as one million could die over twelve years.

Por otra parte, it is more likely that the Shiites of southern Iraq will reject the leadership of Iran and set up a horribly inefficient theocracy. Once the Baghdad government is stable, it will occupy the south and reintegrate the Shiites into an Iraqi state very similar to the Iraq of the 1980s. This would come at a minimal loss of lifesomewhere around 1500 dead.

Back to the future

If we leave Iraq tomorrow, 15,000 Iraqis will die in fighting over the next five years. There is a small chance that hundreds of thousands could die. Sin embargo, the most likely scenario is that within five years, Iraq will be a stable, secular dictatorship.

No Peace

I hope that you are disappointed that there are no ways to quickly achieve peace and democracy in Iraq. There is no clear path from here to freedom and safety for the average Iraqi citizen. Americans should realize that it is not possible to use war to force people to be free. War is not peace, and occupation is not freedom.

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