I hate the vast majority of movies about the Vietnam War, since they largely overlook the Vietnamese. Regardless of the movie's point of view--from the virulent anti-communism of The Green Berets, to the "My God we were screwed up" message of Platoon--the camera is always focused on Americans. Americans, as played by John Wayne and Willem Dafoe, fought the war. Americans argued over the right way to fight the war, or even to fight it at all. And, of course, whether we're talking about hapless hippies or sadistic sergeants, Americans screwed up the war.
Obviously, the Vietnamese themselves are missing from this picture. Therefore, we shouldn't be surprised at how little the average American knows about the anti-colonial movement that started before WWII, the Japanese occupation of Indochina during WWII, the First Indochina War, or what happened in the war between North and South Vietnam after the US withdrew its last combat forces. As far as American popular culture is concerned, the Vietnam War started with the first battles in the Ia Drang valley, and ended with a helicopter escaping the roof of the US embassy in Saigon.
And, even while the US was vigorously fighting the Vietnam War, the real story was America Agonistes. No Vietnamese are needed to tell that story, just the right cast of American characters.
So, my fellow Americans, let's not make this mistake all over again. As Edward Luttwak pointed out, war is not an engineering problem, in which the only thing that matters is the skill of the operators, and the amount of resources at their disposal. Not only is there an enemy (or enemies), but also, in counterinsurgency especially, a lot of people who are not fighting for any side, who nonetheless play a critical role in the story.
Treat with skepticism every book you read about Iraq that does not give the Iraqis a prominent part. Get irritated at journalists who tell us only about what the Americans are doing in Iraq. Demand from our newly-elected officials a definition of victory in terms that describe both Americans and Iraqis. We've hogged the camera long enough--let's share it with the Iraqis. And not just one stock character, who may happen to be a refugee, shopkeeper, sheik, or insurgent, who's somehow supposed to stand in for the mortifying complexity of an entire nation.