Robert Kaplan writes about the warrior mentality with many examples that I, and most civilians, will never have heard of. Reading this at the end of August, 2007 what hit me was this paragraph about Vietnam. Bush's analogy is looking better by the day.
While historians cite 1968 as a turning point because of the home front's reaction to the Tet offensive, the My Lai massacre, and the protests at the Democratic party convention in Chicago, on the ground in Vietnam, 1968 marked a different trend: William Westmoreland was replaced by Creighton Abrams, population security rather than enemy body counts became the measure of merit, "clear and hold" territory replaced the dictum of "search and destroy," and building up the South Vietnamese Army became the top priority. "There came a time when the war was won," even if the "fighting wasn't over," writes Lewis Sorley, a West Point graduate and career Army officer, in A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam (1999). By the end of 1972, Sorley goes on, one could travel almost anywhere in South Vietnam in relative security, even as American ground forces were almost gone. Retirees I know in the armed forces affirm how much more benign an environment South Vietnam was during this period than the Iraq of today.
God, that is frightening. I don't mean the way it demonstrates how short our memory is and how we keep having to learn the same lessons. No, I mean the way we don't learn.