Ever since MacArthur crossed the 38th parallel in 1950, US governments have shown a chronic tendency to over-reach themselves, and to squander blood, treasure and international respect as a result. The Vietnam disaster reined in this tendency for a while. But then neoconservatives invented the term ‘Vietnam syndrome’ to describe the perfectly sensible lessons most people learned from the US defeat. In the end, it took the Iraq fiasco to provide a remedial lesson for the slower learners.
It really is remarkable how widespread the term “Vietnam syndrome” managed to become, as if America’s relative reluctance to launch major military operations abroad in the years 1975–1990 caused Communism to triumph during the Cold War. I wonder which countries sundrome-mongers think we should have invaded?