Quagmires

You have to give President Bush credit. After all these years of denying the Iraq war compared to Vietnam, the president now says there are parallels. Flexibility is a good thing, particularly from the stubborn. 

But he's ignoring perhaps the most important similarity. The major U.S. military commitment in both conflicts came as the result of U.S. government deception: the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

And, of course, there's the enduring, bitter division over whether we should have gotten involved in either.

There is also the question about how military planners (is that an oxymoron?) could have ignored the similarities to another recent combat zone, the Balkans.

Then and now, the biggest obstacle to success was/is the suppressed religious hatred that exploded into deadly violence the moment it could. And yes, the ethnic divisions in the former Yugoslavia also had a huge religious component, as they always do.

But back to Vietnam. That adventure was a serious blow to American prestige, just like Iraq, and there probably are many lessons to learn.

Maybe one of them would be that after the United States swallowed its pride and left the Vietnamese people to their own devices, they emerged with a growing economy that may be the catalyst for democratic change.

Maybe that could be Iraq's "light at the end of the tunnel."