18 Dec. Boston Globe - Vietnam and Victory.

Some claim that the US strategy of ‘clear and hold’ had largely defeated the Viet Cong by 1971, and that the same tactics can work in Iraq. But that gets Vietnam wrong, say the war’s historians.

...''National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,'' unveiled Nov. 30...

The document envisions a three-pronged security strategy for fighting the Iraqi insurgency: ''Clear, Hold, and Build.'' It is no accident that this phrase evokes the ''clear and hold'' counterinsurgency strategy pursued by the American military in the final years of the Vietnam War. For months, as the Washington Post's David Ignatius and The New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan have reported, influential military strategists inside and outside the Pentagon have been pushing to resurrect ''clear and hold'' in Iraq, claiming that the US effort to suppress the Viet Cong was actually a success.

...the idea that the strategy that beat the Viet Cong could work in Iraq elides a fundamental question: Did ''clear and hold'' actually beat the Viet Cong? For most historians of the war, not to mention for those who fought on the winning side, the answer is no. And the lessons for Iraq are far from clear.

...In sum, where Sorley paints a picture of in-depth village-level deployments between cooperating American and Vietnamese units, combined with economic aid, building villagers' loyalty and sense of security, Elliott and Hien paint a picture of indiscriminate firepower driving villagers off of their land, creating an atomized and demoralized, but controllable, population. This, presumably, is not the new strategy the US envisions winning hearts and minds in Iraq.

...Ultimately, it's not necessary to make the claim of a squandered victory in Vietnam in order to argue that ''clear and hold'' was effective, or is the right strategy for Iraq. Even General Hien thinks ''clear and hold'' was superior to ''search and destroy.''

''I wouldn't say 'clear and hold' was a 'better' strategy,'' Hien says-since, obviously, he wanted the United States to lose. ''But it was a more appropriate strategy for the US.''