In recent weeks, with Barack Obama rethinking his Afghan policy, the Times has been bursting with Vietnam analogies. The “Afghanistan is Vietnam” stories all share a rather unconventional structure. First, the author tells you that his premise is wrong. “Such historical analogies are overly simplistic and fatally flawed,” acknowledged Peter Baker a few months back, in a story entitled “Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam?” (One can only imagine the conversation between Baker and his assignment editor. Baker: “I have this fatally flawed idea for a piece.” Editor: “Get us 1,100 words by Monday.”) Then, having taken confession, the writer proceeds to sin. Many parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam, Times columnist Frank Rich conceded late last month, “are wrong, inexact or speculative”—before calling the parallels “remarkable,” “eerie,” “indisputable,” and “uncannily” exact. Perhaps other pundits should put this kind of warning label on their commentary. Many analogies between Barack Obama and Adolph Hitler “are wrong, inexact and speculative,” Glenn Beck might concede. And then on with the show…

[I]n Vietnam, we tried. In 1968, the US had over half a million troops there, and was spending 2.3 percent of GDP. In Afghanistan, as a percentage of GDP, we’re spending less than one-seventh that, and only recently got much above 20,000 troops. When doves say that what America needs in Afghanistan is a smaller force that eschews nation building and focuses merely on killing terrorists, they are proposing the same minimalist strategy that Donald Rumsfeld pursued for almost five years.