(Nguyen Cao Ky and LBJ in 1966 - Tea leaves in the eye of the beholder)
Like Afghanistan, Vietnam wasn't instantly met with derision and questions over our involvement. Like Iraq though, we were also sold a somewhat leaky bill of goods and goaded into pledging lives and untold millions over an involvement that had no timetable and no real plan.
The difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is Iraq bears some resemblance to an organized country. Where Afghanistan is one big grab-bag of tribes, sects and factions that have been over-run, quasi-colonized and fought over for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Just like Vietnam.
In 1966 we were still getting our feet wet in Vietnam, having gone from "advisers" to "troops on the ground" in a little over a year. Support and the "domino theory" were still very much alive and our presence increased on an almost daily basis.
But also in 1966 there were the seeds of questions being sown - what was the plan? How long was it going to take? When it is supposed to end? How many troops are needed? What really was the government of South Vietnam all about?
Just like Afghanistan.
And so on June 21, 1966 Eric Severeid delivered a fifteen minute commentary on our state of siege in Vietnam.
Eric Severeid: “A crucial question: Whether our resistance in Vietnam is preventing the spread of Chinese dominance in other Asian countries, through their propaganda infiltration and subversion. The Administration points to Indonesia, where the powerful Chinese-inspired Communist apparatus was smashed not long ago. That would never have happened, we like to think were we not there in Vietnam. If this is true, all of us would feel very much better about this war in Vietnam. My personal opinion is that it’s not true.”
Needless to say, those questions only grew in number and intensity over the next several years as our justifications grew less and less feasible. It would seem we are heading in that direction again.