I stared at the title of this thread with gaping jaw for an age before hitting the reply button.
Should the Vietnam War matter to us now? Are you kidding me? Is this a joke thread?
As far as I know, there is only 1 member of the Bush inner circle who served in Vietnam, and he is (according to Woodward’s book) the only member of that inner circle who urged caution and careful consideration about invading Iraq. Colin Powell saw first hand in Vietnam that overwhelming might doesn’t mean you automatically “win”. That’s the kind of wisdom I would like in my leadership.
We still apparently have no exit plan in Iraq. It is now becoming possible, 16 months after “winning”, to entertain serious thoughts that there may have been no exit plan contemplated in the first place.
A candidate who served in Vietnam, and who was aware and active in the political movements that surrounded that war, is armed with experience that is eminently relevant to the current world situation, which is in many ways analogous to the situation around the time of Vietnam.
I truly get the feeling from the American zeitgeist ever since 9/11 that a great portion of our electorate doesn’t remember just how threatening Communism seemed to us in the sixties. “Clear and present danger” and “imminent threat” (duck and cover, anyone?) was a cloud that hung over our heads just as ominously (I suggest more so) than terrorism or WMD from a tinpot dictator.
Reasons for applying military force in Vietnam were really quite similar to reasons for applying military force in Iraq (natural resources, indirect threats to us, ensuring markets for western business, humanitarian concerns, etc). Both situations also seemed like no brainer wins due to our overwhelming military advantage. Both situations turned out to be much more challenging than originally envisioned.
The OP suggests to me that much of the electorate thinks the debate over service in Vietnam is all about who was macho and who chickened out. I submit that the question of service in Vietnam is vastly deeper than that. Who has the life experience to evaluate possible outcomes to applications of military force? Who has lived through the repercussions of a plan-gone-wrong? These are very serious, and very relevant questions.