In 2015, CNN posted an article titled “Is Syria America’s Next Vietnam?” written by Sean Kennedy. At the time, election nominees were still being debated and President Donald Trump was not yet the Republican pick. Kennedy comments in his article how many Republican candidates were voicing their willingness to push American influence in the Middle East. Kennedy also calls for both parties to “…ask themselves this: ‘Do I want to inherit a second Vietnam, a geopolitical morass that, like quicksand, only pulls you down deeper the harder you try to pull yourself out?’”
Also in 2015, USA Today posted an article by Gregory Korte titled “16 times Obama said there would be no boots on the ground in Syria.” It goes through then-President Barack Obama’s statements in 2013, including the line, “We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach.” And then on July 2, 2015, Obama said, “There are no current plans to do so.” Most of us believed him. The biggest reluctance against having troops in Syria is dragging the U.S. deeper into the region and potentially making the war even worse.
Recently, Trump approved the use of bombs in Syria. The U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles on the morning of Friday, April 7. These missiles endangered civilian lives and the lives of our allies, but now run the risk of killing Soviet soldiers and sparking nuclear-armed Russian anger in response. Russia and Iran have voiced threats of retaliation in response to the recent bombing, much like how Russia and China supported Vietnamese communists in the past.
All of Trump’s campaign trail statements on conflict in the Middle East point to no boots on the ground. During the third presidential debate on Oct. 19, 2016, Trump said “…if they overthrow Assad, as bad as Assad is, and he’s a bad guy, but you may very well end up with worse than Assad.” Back in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson promised, “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home…” This sounds like the same message—and look where we ended up last time.
Trump’s willingness to drop bombs in Syria, in what he justifies as a response to the chemical attacks by Assad on their own people, is just a small stepping stone. Once we can justify the use of missiles at $1.87 million a pop, the price of troops starts to seem smaller and smaller. How long until politicians and high-ranked military personnel push for ground troops?
I do not mean to trivialize the horrors of the war in Vietnam or to discredit the sacrifices American soldiers made for the sake of our country. I only seek to bring attention to the parallels between the continuous conflict in the Middle East and the Vietnam War. America loves acting as the world’s police, even at the cost of American lives — even, if not especially, when the conflict we seek to resolve is only made worse by our presence. Carpet bombing in Vietnam didn’t dissuade Vietnamese soldiers. It killed half a million civilians and destroyed their homes and their ways of life. Bombs in Syria will do no better. If Trump has flip-flopped on a few foreign conflicts, what’s to keep him from doing so again?