The War in Iraq is going to outlast three United States Presidents. Two Republicans, one Democrat. This war has been going on since 1991. It has been a shooting war, and we can't seem to find the end game. Seventeen years so far, this has dominated United States foreign policy towards the rest of the world. By the time Bush 43 leaves the White House, we will have been dealing with the Iraq war for a generation. In total years at war, we could have fought the Revolution (1775 - 1783), the War Between the States (1861 - 1865) and World War II (1941 - 1945) in the time that the Iraq question has yet to be settled, and we could have taken a year off in the process. Perhaps it is because, as some suggest, that we are fighting multiple wars in Iraq and none of them are the ones we invaded for in 1991, attacked for in the interim, and re-invaded for in 2003.
In other news, the ramifications and results, the history and reasons, the significance and divisiveness that was Vietnam are still being fought over today. (HT: Cracker Squire) From the halls of the United States Senate to the social investigations. Vietnam was started, in a cursory way, under the Eisenhower administration, expanded under Kennedy and spiraled out of control under LBJ. This lack of control destroyed the Democratic Party's credibility of foreign policy (with the notable exception of some Southern Democrats), ripped the party in half, and kept open American societal wounds festering from the Civil Rights Movement at home. Nixon was able to extricate us from Vietnam, but by that time, Vietnam had done more damage to the United States - in terms of national identity - than any enemy other than the Confederate States of America.
We're still dealing with that damage today. Iraq is not Vietnam. Comparisons are inevitable due to both being wars fought in the media, both being wars that took well over ten years to settle, both being wars where no formal Declaration of War was adopted, both being wars where political ramifications were too highly considered, both being wars that sharply divided the American public, and both being wars where - despite our overwhelming advantage in technology - we were unable to project enough power to end non-traditional warfare. And, of course, the rhetoric from both sides being eerily similar.
But Iraq is not Vietnam. Iraq is the continuation of Vietnam: an ideological cul-de-sac of foregin policy that leads us to open ended military campaigns that we should win going away but don't, because the strategy at the top is unclear and 'leaders' fear making rational and tough decisions that are required to settle the question. Until that ideological cul-de-sac is closed, we will continue debating the ghosts of Vietnam and Iraq and never settling the question.