Stop me if you've heard this: American soldiers didn't lose in Vietnam. In fact, our brave troopers had the commies whipped by the late '60s; that is, of course, before a conspiratorial cabal of cowardly hippies, anti-war protestors, and dovish liberals pulled the rug out from under an all-but-victorious U.S. military. It's quite a tale, replete with heroes, villains, and glib moral lessons. It is all wrong of course, faulty and fallacious.
Others—debunked historians and enthusiastic military officers among them—posit an altogether different, and even more insidious myth. The U.S. military could've won, almost did win; it's just that dusty old World War II vets like General Westmoreland remained fixated on conventional war when they should've applied counterinsurgency tactics. One young military officer you may have heard of—then Major David Petraeus—argued as much in his Princeton doctoral dissertation. Later, as General Petraeus sought to apply the lessons of Vietnam to Iraq, he spawned a generation of so-called soldier-scholar "COINdinistas"—young Iraq and Afghan vets keen to win hearts and minds throughout the Islamic East. Counterinsurgency could work, they vociferously asserted (perhaps the "lady doth protest too much?"). Their favorite case studies: Malaya and Vietnam.