Some say that the war in Iraq is just like the Vietnam War. Yet Fareed Zakaria, editor and columnist of “Newsweek International” made a different analogy.
He linked the war in Iraq to the Korean War. One of the striking similarities between the Korean War and Vietnam War is public dissent to military involvement.
However, it was with Vietnam that these issues were addressed on a scale of mass resistance.
While polls show disapproval of the war in Iraq, there is no great revolution. Student movements, like those that occurred during the Vietnam War, is missing.
Operation Iraqi Freedom has a personality of its own, with traits that are similar to both these wars. To some, the most jarring would be the similarity to Korea, a war that ended in a stalemate.
During the 1960s, both President Lyndon B. Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, claimed that progress was being made overseas. History tells a different story.
Operation Iraqi Freedom, however, is not a total loss. Two of its three objectives have been achieved. Saddam Hussein is out of power and has been sentenced to death.
The U.S. has assured that Iraq is incapable
of using weapons of mass destruction, which they didn’t have.
But the third objective – to find and eliminate terrorists in Iraq – has not been remotely achieved. Digging deeper, this war is so strongly reminiscent of Vietnam. The death toll is high for U.S. forces and much worse for civilians.
The United States has 144,000 troops in Iraq at a cost of $90 billion a year. The Iraqi unemployment rate is extremely high – up to 70 percent in some sections of the country. Sectarian violence is skyrocketing.
The Iraqi government does not have a strong grip on its country.
While Americans seem to think we are fighting a war against terrorism, the Iraqi people are in the midst of a long-expected civil war. In Vietnam, the U.S. insisted its interests were in avoiding the spread of communism. To the Vietnamese, the war was also a civil conflict.
But the home front of the Vietnam War is not like the home front of the ’60s – this is a home front of silence. And college students especially are relatively quiet.
Nobody wants to see another violent protest like the one that occured at Kent State University in 1970, where National Guard troops fired at student protesters. But it would be nice to hear a voice screaming some critique. Keeping quiet assures college students’ apathetic reputation.
For some, the best way to voice an opinion is by voting. But if the feeling is that voting doesn’t make enough of a difference, there is no point in remaining dormant.
While the amount of student voters has risen over the past few years, many are not content with the state of their country. For war dissenters, the midterm election may have offered hope. The Democratic
party gained control of Congress. The day after the elections, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigned. Still, there must be a voice for students beyond the polls.
A riot doesn’t need to break out at the Bell Tower, but there should be some type of action. Change cannot be initiated if there is not an impetus for such movement. It seems that there is no better time than now to take that plunge into radical action by printing pamphlets or marching on Washington, D.C.
Protesters in the 1960s did not necessarily change the American political system, but they did find a spotlight to express their opinions. They created a stage and a vehicle to vent their frustrations. Because
of the past, young and fiery college students are expected to stick their necks out and have a voice.
If we are unhappy, then we should fight for change. History tells the tale of heroic, outspoken university students. It is time to write our own.
Erin Bernard can be reached at