A Tale of Two Quagmires: Iraq, Vietnam, and the Hard Lessons of War

Book Info

  • Length: 160 pages
  • Trim size: 6" x 9"

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  • ISBN: 978-1-59451-352-7
  • Publish date: February 2007
  • List Price: $33.95
  • Your Price: $28.86


  • ISBN: 978-1-59451-351-0
  • Publish date: February 2007
  • List Price: $163.00
  • Your Price: $138.55


There is an important debate raging about whether Iraq is becoming another Vietnam. Those who deny the similarities most vociferously are often those who know (or remember) the least about Vietnam. Kenneth Campbell knows Vietnam from his thirteen months of fighting there (he received a Purple Heart), and years of political organizing to get the United States out of the war. Here, Campbell lays out the political process of getting into, sinking deeper, hitting bottom, and finally pulling out of the Vietnam quagmire. He traces the chief lessons of Vietnam, which helped the United States successfully avoid quagmires for thirty years, and explains how neoconservatives within the Bush administration cynically used the tragedy of 9/11 to override the “Vietnam syndrome” and drag the nation into a new quagmire in Iraq. In view of where the United States finds itself today—unable to stay but unable to leave—Campbell recommends that the country rededicate itself to the essential lessons of Vietnam: the danger of imperial arrogance, the limits of military force, the importance of international and constitutional law, and the power of morality.

  • The first book to systematically examine the similarities (and differences) between the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq.
  • Written by a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient who turned against the war as a result of his on the ground experience and who went on to become a professor of political science and international relations.
  • Uses photos, poetry, documentary films, and other unconventional materials to convey the aura of the times then and now.

Author Info

Kenneth J. Campbell is associate professor of political science and international relations and director of the international relations program at the University of Delaware. He is the author of Genocide and the Global Village (Palgrave 2001).


“The plethora of best-selling new books on the Iraq War today merely catalogues the tactical errors and leaves the false impression that had the war been fought differently, victory would have been achieved and U.S. interests advanced. Campbell's lucidly written comparison of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq shows how costly this illusion is, a deception consciously fostered by American leaders and cheerleading members of the Fourth Estate.”
Lieutenant General William E. Odom (U.S. Army, retired), Senior Fellow with the Hudson Institute and former Director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan Administration.

“Campbell cuts through the rhetoric and obfuscation that passes for debate over Vietnam and Iraq, offering in their place measured, thoughtful, clearsighted analysis. Anyone who wants to understand two of the greatest debacles of my generation, how they relate to each other, and what we might do to avoid future such failures needs to read this book.”
W. D. Ehrhart, author of Vietnam Perkasie: A Combat Marine Memoir

A Tale of Two Quagmires is a passionate and thoughtful analysis of the old war in Vietnam and the new one in Iraq. Kenneth Campbell understands war as a veteran and as an historian. The book is an invaluable aid to understanding the past and the present.”
Marilyn B. Young, Professor of History, New York University

A Tale of Two Quagmires is a concise, cogent, meticulously-researched examination of how the American public was deliberately misled into ruinous military adventures in Vietnam and Iraq and of the “crucial lessons” that must be acknowledged in order to avoid such debacles in the future. Once a young, battle-hardened Marine determined to survive his time in a war of dubious necessity now a highly-regarded scholar of international affairs, Professor Ken Campbell offers a reasoned alternative to this cycle of deception and quagmire. In doing so he does not entirely reject the necessity of wars: only those without legitimate purpose and clear-cut strategy. The wisdom contained in A Tale of Two Quagmires has the potential to put the United States on a road to recapturing "the moral high ground in international relations" and, in the process, spare humanity the horrific consequences of such senseless and protracted conflicts—a gift beyond value to future generations.”
Michael Archer, author of A Patch of Ground: Khe Sanh Remembered

“Informed by the hard lessons of first-hand experience and a lifetime of reflection, Ken Campbell offers a compelling and heart-wrenching story of America at war. Whether liberal or conservative, hawkish or dovish, thoughtful citizens must confront the questions Campbell bravely raises. America’s aspirations as a moral nation depend on voices like Ken Campbell’s – voices that challenge conventional wisdom, generate debate, and put into motion the forces of self-correction that keep us true to the best of our values and traditions.”
Joel H. Rosenthal, President, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

“Every American at all levels of society can benefit from this book, but it is especially valuable for young Americans who need to ponder these national traumas so as to make their recurrence less likely.”
Richard Falk


Foreword by Richard Falk

Chapter 1: The Great Debate
No, Iraq is Not Vietnam!
Yes, Iraq Is Vietnam!
The Strategic Essence of a Quagmire
The Quagmire Process

Chapter 2: Personal Encounter with a Quagmire
Philly Corner Boy
Volunteer for America
To the Nam
Up North
Down South

Chapter 3: The Vietnam Quagmire
Entering: Deception about Purpose
Sinking Deeper: Deception about Progress
Hitting Bottom: Deception about Methods
Blocking the Exit: Deception about the Difficulty of Withdrawal

Chapter 4: The Lessons of Vietnam
The Five Schools
Institutional Prevention
The “Vietnam Syndrome”
Thirty Years of Success…until 9/11

Chapter 5: The Iraq Quagmire
Entering: Deception about Purpose
Sinking Deeper: Deception about Progress
Hitting Bottom: Deception about Methods
Blocking the Exit: Deceptions about Withdrawal

Chapter 6: Last Exit from Baghadad
Broken Army
The “Essential Domino” Falls
Any Solution?
The “Wise Men and Women”
The Lessons of Iraq


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