Here are a few of the lessons that [Bush] overlooks.
In unconventional wars, body counts don’t really count. In the Vietnam War, superior American firepower enabled U.S. forces to prevail in most tactical engagements. We killed plenty of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. But killing didn’t produce victory — the exertions of U.S. troops all too frequently proved to be counterproductive.
"Killing didn't produce victory," eh? Now that's profound. It implicitly assumes that the deaths of non-Americans matter only to the extent that they impact American goals and policy, and have no other inherent significance. And it also implies that if killing does produce victory, then it's ok. (This could change professional sports forever, and I say that's for the best; after all, isn't it about time they caught up with the visionaries behind Rollerball?)
Next, Rosa Brooks tosses out her two cents:
For most Americans, the lessons of Vietnam were reasonably clear before we invaded Iraq and have been painfully reinforced by the ongoing disaster there:
Don’t fight needless wars; don’t go blundering around in countries where you don’t know the language, history or culture; don’t underestimate the power of nationalism, ethnicity and religion to bind together — or tear apart — people whose interests otherwise seem to diverge or converge; and, most of all, don’t imagine that military force can solve fundamentally political problems.
Again, penetrating insight. But there's a little problem there, Rosa: many argued, and many would argue to this day, that Vietnam was a deeply necessary war--and there will always be someone to make that argument in almost any instance. So "don't fight needless wars" would seem to be relative to the point of meaninglessness.
For all the evident erudition of these patient teachers of ours, I prefer a much simpler lesson from a more authoritative source--namely the Nuremberg Tribunal, which declared:
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
The real lesson I take from this straightforward statement is that the lives of Vietnamese (and everyone else in the world) matter exactly as much as the lives of Americans, and the US has no right to end them by initiating wars of aggression. Sadly, as the articles I've cited illustrate, this simple lesson is all but inexpressible in the mainstream media.
If you like your lessons even more basic than that, though, you can read the final word from the father of George Bush's favorite philosopher.