Apparently, Letters to the Editor of The Ventura County Star published on line do not appear in Google searches. I will therefore immodestly post them. <http://www.vcstar.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/letter-vietnam-syria-and-isis>, 6 Oct. 2015. Reference: Star editorial 4 October, "U.S. talks while Russia uses its military force."
ISIS, Vietnam, and Historical Memory
The editorial board of the Star stresses its reluctance to "throw U.S. military forces at the world’s problems," noting among other upshots of U.S. warfare after World War II that "Vietnam is in the hands of our enemy."
Vietnam is now a country Americans visit peacefully, with which we trade on the scale of billions of dollars annually, and with which we are in informal alliance against Chinese ambitions. As far as human rights go, Vietnam does poorly, but better than Saudi Arabia, our way-too-close ally.
We lost the Vietnam war, and America is nevertheless doing all right and would be doing better if we had not fought. By definition, no literally vital interests of the United States were involved in Vietnam, but well over a million people are dead, plus other casualties and destruction.
There are lessons there about land wars in Asia and getting involved in civil wars and taking sides in insurgencies.
Those lessons need to be remembered as we face ISIS in the Middle East: a militant and fanatical movement that can give rise to a truly mass movement that can threaten world peace as nothing we have seen since the 20th-century Fascists. We need a diplomatic solution fast that eases out Assad and makes us effective co-belligerents against ISIS with Iran and with Russia.