We didn't lose the war because of those fish, of course, and I'm not suggesting that American troops failed to fight valiantly for a cause that our political leaders insisted was in the national interest. But what bothers me to this day about Vietnam is we really didn't understand what was going wrong until it was too late. Our vast superiority in science and technology wasn't enough to win the war.
We lost because we lost the people of South Vietnam.
Now, all these decades later, we stand on the brink of another war. And boy, have we got the other side outgunned. We've got smart bombs and satellite imaging and night vision and even live coverage on television.
As we saw years ago in Desert Storm, those fantastic tools will do most of the work for us, wiping out enemy weapons before the first soldiers have to go in. It should be a lot easier now than it was during Vietnam, when our science and technology was good, but still in the middle ages compared to what we have today.
Or so we are told.
But if there is one lesson we should have learned from Vietnam it is this:
Don't place too much confidence in your science and technology when it comes to conquering another country.
In the end, it's the foot soldier who has to do the job. And if the people of Iraq aren't happy to see him, no new gadgets are going to get it done.
Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on ABCNEWS.com. A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.