Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is
that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens
whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people,"
"re-education camps," and "killing fields."
The analogy, of course, is that withdrawing from Iraq will lead to disaster, the deaths of millions of innocent lives. I don't know what's going on in that White House, but I think they're cracking up over there.
America's biggest psychological hang up is the Vietnam War. That war was such a social and political catastrophe that to this day, 35 years after we pulled out of Vietnam, its spectre haunts every single foreign policy decision involving the use of military force. Even in the military, you can pretty much talk about a Vietnam and post-Vietnam force, particularly in the Army, as if the war and its effects on the Services were a demarcation line between states.
So back to Bush's speech. If you are an anti-war person, you pretty much want to link the conflict to the Vietnam War in any way possible. This will have provide your audience with an automatic, knee-jerk association: CAUTION, BAD, STAY AWAY. But if you are pro-war, then you want to stay as far away as possible from any Vietnam comparisons, no matter how trivial. Perhaps you can find a way to link your war to a "good one" like WWII. But definitely, don't touch Vietnam. I would think this is common sense. So, what the heck were Bush's press people thinking? Particularly now when some type of a withdrawal in 1998 is all but inevitable?