Iraq is Not Vietnam, It's Guadalcanal
Learning the real lessons history has for today's war on terror.
by Powl Smith
In one of our first counteroffensives against the Japanese, U.S. troops landed on the island of Guadalcanal in order to capture a key airfield. We surprised the Japanese with our speed and audacity, and with very little fighting seized he airfield. But the Japanese recovered from our initial success, and began a long, brutal campaign to force us off Guadalcanal and recapture it. The Japanese were very clever and absolutely committed to sacrificing everything for their beliefs. (Only three Japanese surrendered after six months of combat--a statistic that should put today's Islamic radicals to shame.) The United States suffered 6,000 casualties during the six-month Guadalcanal campaign; Japan, 24,000. It was a very expensive airfield.
Which brings us to the next lesson of World War II: Totalitarian enemies have to be bludgeoned into submission, and the populations that support them have to be convinced they can't win. This is a bloody and difficult business. In the Pacific theater, we eventually learned our enemies' tactics--jungle and amphibious warfare, carrier task forces, air power--and far surpassed them.
But that victory took four years and cost many hundreds of thousands of casualties.
Iraq isn't Vietnam, it's Guadalcanal--one campaign of many in a global war to defeat the terrorists and their sponsors. Like the United States in the Pacific in 1943, we are in a war of national survival that will be long, hard, and fraught with casualties. We lost the first battle of that war on September 11, 2001, and we cannot now afford to walk away from the critical battle we are fighting in Iraq any more than we could afford to walk away from Guadalcanal. For the security of America, we have no recourse but to win.
Lieutenant Colonel Powl Smith, U.S. Army, is the former chief of counterterrorism plans at U.S. European Command and is currently in Baghdad with Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Link
(note: This analogy was of special interest to me because my father landed, (and survived) at Guadalcanal. I am sure he would be ashamed of the actions by our cut and run politicians who refuse to see the bigger picture on a war against those who have proclaimed to destroy us.)