So, all of these years, I've been obsessed by Vietnam. For many years, I taught it, and throughout all that time, I've never been able to come up with a single term to describe or define it.
I reject "failure" or "loss", or any term that puts the war in terms of victory or defeat, since we should never have been there in the first place!
I reject "tragedy", because tragedy is almost quaint when one might argue that it was leaning closer and closer to a genocide the longer we stayed, and the more bombs we dropped. And genocide is exactly what it helped create in neighboring Cambodia...and yet "genocide" is not accurate either.
"Mistake"? Ha! Can we make it sound more trivial?
How about: Abomination? or Atrocity?
I'm up for suggestions of a more succinct definition.