Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam

Or, How Not to Learn from the Past

Leading historians tease out the connections between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War—and point to the many lessons that went unlearned

“All the wrong people remember Vietnam. I think all the people who remember it should forget it, and all the people who forgot it should remember it.” —Michael Herr, author of Dispatches

From the launch of the “Shock and Awe” invasion in March 2003 through President George W. Bush’s declaration of “Mission Accomplished” two months later, the war in Iraq was meant to demonstrate definitively that the United States had learned the lessons of Vietnam. This new book makes clear that something closer to the opposite is true—that U.S. foreign policy makers have learned little from the past, even as they have been obsessed with the “Vietnam Syndrome.”

Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam brings together the country’s leading historians of the Vietnam experience. Examining the profound changes that have occurred in the country and the military since the Vietnam War, celebrated historians Marilyn B. Young and Lloyd Gardner have assembled a distinguished group to consider how America has again found itself in the midst of a war in which there is no chance of a speedy victory or a sweeping regime change.

Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam explores how the “Vietnam Syndrome” fits into the contemporary debate about the purpose and exercise of American power in the world. With contributions from some of the most renowned analysts of American history and foreign policy, this is an essential recovery of the forgotten and misbegotten lessons of Vietnam.


  • Christian G. Appy
  • Andrew J. Bacevich
  • David Elliott
  • Alex Danchev
  • Elizabeth L. Hillman
  • Gabriel Kolko
  • Walter LaFeber
  • Wilfried Mausbach
  • Alfred W. McCoy
  • Gareth Porter
  • John Prados
  • Marilyn B. Young


“Iraq is not Vietnam, the makers of war tell us, hoping we will forget. The writers in this volume insist that we remember, and in these thoughtful, sobering essays they explain why. It is history at its best, meaning, at its most useful.”
—Howard Zinn, author of Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal and A People’s History of the United States
“Vietnam and Iraq are the main signposts that militarism and imperialism are out of control and undermining the American republic. In both cases planners deliberately created threats out of whole cloth to justify going to war. This book tells us the correct lessons of Vietnam. There is a great deal of wisdom in these ominous essays. ”
—Chalmers Johnson, author of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic

Books by these authors

Bombing Civilians
A Twentieth-Century History

Yuki Tanaka, Marilyn B. Young

The New American Empire
A 21st Century Teach-In on U.S. Foreign Policy

Lloyd C. Gardner, Marilyn B. Young

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