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Archive for Tuesday, March 19, 1991

LESSONS OF WAR

March 19, 1991

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To the Editor:

While half a million American servicemen and women were rolling to victory in the desert sands, I accompanied eight other veterans of American's last major war before the Persian Gulf, back to old battlefields and still vivid memories. Five of us were combat veterans, four had been wounded, and two permanently disabled by our war. We each sought, and to varying degrees found, our own separate peace with our own personal war. But we were considerably distracted by concern for the new generation of American warriors. Because we understood what ground combat was like, we dreaded the onset of the ground offensive in the gulf. Thus we were all both overjoyed and astounded when it ended in just 100 hours and in only about 100 American combat deaths.

The 43-day Persian Gulf War was of a species I thought did not exist the near perfect textbook war that went not only according to plan but better than planned. Whereas everything that could go wrong in Vietnam did go wrong (as in most wars), everything, from leadership to strategy to weaponry, worked to near top form in the gulf. America's 10th major war was the swiftest, sweetest and least sanguinary war in our history.

Amid all the euphoria of the easy victory, I hope that the lessons of the Vietnam War will not be lost that war, with few exceptions, is the absolute worst solution to any crisis; that, with all of America's might and power, victory in certain circumstances is either impossible or would be so costly that its attainment could not possibly be worth the sacrifices; that superior technology and overwhelming firepower may defeat a tinpot tyrant like Saddam Hussein with ease but may not necessarily prevail against a determined and resourceful foe who makes up for his lack of ``smart'' weapons with courage and commitment.

It would be an ironic tragedy if America's leaders and its people, as a consequence of its overwhelming victory in its shortest war, forgot the agony of its longest war and assume that every problem in the world and every difficult dictator can be rapidly handled by a Tomahawk cruise missile.

If we shake the so-called ``Vietnam Syndrome'' so thoroughly as to reacquire the attitudes of arrogance and invincibility that led us into Vietnam in the first place, then the sacrifices of two and a half million Vietnam veterans and the ultimate sacrifice paid by 58,000 of them will have truly been in vain.

Michael Clodfelter,

1614 W. 28th.

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