Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, a new generation of policy-makers ignored the lessons of Vietnam and decided it would make fine policy and good politics to carry out regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, to win those hearts and minds, to fight the insurgents, and to build democracy in sandy soil. They sent off a new generation — of professionals, not conscripts — to do the job, to the cheers of the home crowd and with the encouragement of the vast majority of the Congress, eager for vengeance, even if Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.
Once again, policy failed. We are now living with the unanticipated consequence of that war — widespread regional instability and conflict. And we have lost more than 6,700 soldiers with roughly 50,000 wounded Americans, along with another large number of post-combat stress disordered lives.