Iraq and Vietnam: a comparison for the Gratification Generation

(first draft) The article referenced below is one of the most thoughtful pieces, loaded with facts and clear analysis, about why Iraq is NOT Vietnam and the trouble in America that will plague our society and threaten our freedom until we excise it from our collective psyche. It stimulated me to consider further what will affect this country far beyond the current war.

The Truth About Iraq and Vietnam

By Alan W. Dowd | 8/3/2007

When it became apparent after 9/11 that the US would strike back not just at
the tendrils of terror but also at the roots of terror—regimes like
Afghanistan’s Taliban and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—I wondered if my
countrymen had the stomach and stamina for what was to come. This is,
after all, the land of fast food and FedEx, which helps explain why the
quarter-century before 9/11 was marked by a series of push-button,
almost-bloodless wars. In the shadow of Vietnam, each mini-war
conditioned the American people to expect less blood and less sacrifice
than the previous conflict. And this, in turn, conditioned the American
military to be overly cautious, leading inevitably to more low-risk,
low-impact wars. In Iraq and Afghanistan, that cycle has ended.

Dowd offers an excellent statistical analysis of the objective difference between the two and goes deeper to explain much of the reason why Americans have little stomach for what has turned into a real war rather than the mini-wars of the Clinton era. However, one factor remains unclear to me — one which is troubling in regard to America’s future ability not simply to defend itself, but to continue to thrive at all. First a point made well by Dowd.

Dowd wrote:

I wondered if my countrymen had the stomach and stamina for what was to
come. This is, after all, the land of fast food and FedEx ….

The “land of fast food and FedEx” speaks volumes about where we are today in America’s approach to life. Add to that the internet — indeed the source of this article that I find so fascinating about about which I write at 5AM in my bathrobe, blithley sipping coffee made in an “instant brew” coffee machine (Starbucks, just down the street and soon to be on every corner, was not yet open) — and we see the all-pervasive perspective of our society today.

What is the impact of having that sort of perspective that pervades the very core of our being as Americans? Look at the fundamental difference between Iraq and Vietnam: In Vietnam the country had no understanding of why we were there. In my two tours on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk I sure never heard a good explanation. Yet in Iraq both the reason and purpose for our presence is clear notwithstanding the political bickering that clouds the issue for the personal gain of professional politicians. As Dowd points out: we were attacked, the retaliatory focus was (at least at one time) clear, and this country formally declared war albeit lacking a nation state to name on a piece of paper.

And still the country tires so easily once the laser-guided video show is over? Incredible! Absolutely incredible that our nation has become so corrupted with a self-absorbed populace that such is even possible. Compare that with the Greatest Generation as so eloquently described by Tom Brokaw. World War II brought victory, peace and unimagined prosperity on the shoulders of one generation. My parents were part of that generation, and part of that effort. My generation was then caught up in Vietnam, the 60’s, and the social/moral decline which, when combined with the Gratification Generation culture, has led us and those following into a fog from which we may not be able to emerge.

A not-so-fine state of affairs and upon whose shoulders does the blame fall? It falls on all of us. On the silent majority now so worried about “political correctness” that our tongues are frozen and incapable of speaking out. On the media where news and editorial opionion are hopelessly blurred. On the Gratification Generation so consumed in its self-interest that it barely has time for 30-second sound bites of news and information. On professional politicians who have co-opted the notion of the citizen-legislator fashioned by the Founding Fathers. And in sum, on the decline of patriotism — the love of God and Country — around which this nation formerly rallied.

We had, and we still have, more that binds us in common in America than divides us, if we would only recognize and appreciate it. Will the Gratification Generation allow that to come to the surface once again? I hope so.

About Gil Jones

CPA/Attorney/Judge by training and trade. Hobby nut at heart with BMW m/c, computers, ham radio, kayak fishing, photography, hiking and, starting in 2010 some semi-serious running and bicycling (road and mountain bikes). Retired after 16 years on a Texas District Court bench and since 2013 have been mediating cases. I am a Credentialed Distinguished mediator (TMCA).
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