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Thread: Vietnam collection (lessons plus)

  1. #121
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Updates on Phoenix

    Just in case the subject re-appears: an article on SWJ Blog: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=7927 and from a Canadian journal 'The Theoretical Aspect of Targeted Killings: The Phoenix Program as a Case Study': http://digitization.ucalgary.ca/jmss...viewFile/57/67

    davidbfpo

  2. #122
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    Default CORDS-Phoenix - the South Vietnamese View

    The articles linked above are all worthwhile and deserve DLing for future reference. However, they look at CORDS-Phoenix from a non-Vietnamese viewpoint. For example, the 2009 Canadian article (cited by David) does not cite Tran's "Pacification".

    The story of the GVN's pacification programs (including CORDS-Phoenix) was told by Tran Dinh Tho, Pacification (1977; one of the Indochina Monographs - 7mb DL), who was a key player in the programs. All being said, "pacification" had to be laregly a South Vietnamese effort - the problem was their "insurgency" or "guerrilla war"; not ours. Tran tells the story of that effort - the good, the bad and the ugly.

    One can classify the "Viet Cong" activities in the South in more than one way, legally and militarily. The articles linked above call it an "insurgency" - as do many books written on Vietnam (those that elect not to treat it as a "conventional" war). The Vietnamese Communists looked at it differently.

    Their view was that the successful August 1945 Insurrection (ending their Revolutionary War) led to a unified Vietnam (as a nation-state), with Ho's government its recognized government (agreements with the French, 1945-1946). The French then reneged and attacked the Viet Minh (their view). The French and their Vietnamese puppets then occupied most of the country.

    Thus, the following First Indochina War was in Viet Minh terms a Resistence War (with their guerrilla forces, North and South, being akin to the French Resistence of WWII). DPB and the Geneva Accords gave validity to North Vietnam, but a unified Vietnam (not Two Vietnams) was the North's goal. The formation of the RVN under Diem, and growing US involvement, was simply regarded as the same thing as the French occupation under its puppets.

    The result by the early 1960s was a mixture of conventional and unconventional warfare (as defined in FM 31-21 from that time). Thus, from the first 2006 article linked above:

    In Vietnam, the U.S. military faced arguably the most complex, effective, lethal insurgency in history. The enemy was no rag-tag band lurking in the jungle, but rather a combination of guerrillas, political cadre, and modern main-force units capable of standing toe to toe with the U.S. military. Any one of these would have been significant, but in combination they presented a formidable threat.

    When U.S. ground forces intervened in South Vietnam in 1965, estimates of enemy guerrilla and Communist Party front strength stood at more than 300,000. In addition, Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese main forces numbered almost 230,000—and that number grew to 685,000 by the time of the Communist victory in 1975. These main forces were organized into regiments and divisions, and between 1965 and 1968 the enemy emphasized main-force war rather than insurgency.[1] During the war the Communists launched three conventional offensives: the 1968 Tet Offensive, the 1972 Easter Offensive, and the final offensive in 1975. All were major campaigns by any standard. Clearly, the insurgency and the enemy main forces had to be dealt with simultaneously.

    1. Thomas C. Thayer, How to Analyze a War Without Fronts: Vietnam, 1965-72 (Washington, DC: Defense Research Projects Agency, 1975), 788-89.
    The end result was a juncture of conventional and unconventional forces (made up of guerrilla and auxilliary forces and underground cadres) - as called for by our own doctrine in FM 31-21. Thus, the Vietnam War did not involve an insurgency (as opposed to the situations in Malaya and the Philippines, which were true insurgencies). Rather, Vietnam was more akin to Indonesia - also where a successful Revolutionary War ended in 1945, followed by a foreign occupation and Resistence War. Fortunately for us (the US), the Indonesia Revolution was largely bourgeois nationalistic (albeit anti-Western). That feature led to the eradication of Indonesian Communism in 1965-1966; and to formation of ASEAN, which changed the SE Asian picture by 1968.

    I'll take a better look at the Canadian article re: its Targeted Killings thesis - which issue, I believe, is covered in other threads.

  3. #123
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    Default Mike, VN was everything you

    said... but it was also an insurgency. The winners have their myth - based on their perception of truth - but it remains the victors myth. We have our own myths... As some of us quipped at the time, the VN war was not one war 12 years long but rather 12 wars, each one year long (for the US, that is). Actually, there is another set of dimensions that need to be considered. It was a different war in each of the 6 military regions, in the air, and at sea. At some point, however, adding dimensions simply become counterproductive. In the end, I would argue that what we look at should depend on the question we are asking, remembering the complexity all the while.

    Cheers

    JohnT

  4. #124
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    Default Hi John,

    I wouldn't disagree with you that US authors classify the Viet Cong as an "insurgency". That view is not new (soup was eaten off a knife long before Nagl) - because it fit the US political posture. That was that SVN was an independent nation state with legitimate governace over all of the population in SVN. Thus, any citizen of SVN who took up arms against the RVN was an "insurgent".

    E.g., a brief Wilfian definition of insurgency (here):

    They become an insurgency when they try to replace the existing government as that which exercises authority over them, and use violent means to secure that policy.
    There were at least two problems with the US-GVN approach. One (more minor) is that it gave credence to the NLF (National Liberation Front) as as a South Vietnamese group, independent of the DRV government and the Lao Dong (CP of Vietnam). We know that was nonsense, but it led to bi-furcated thinking - an "insurgency" threat in the South and a conventional threat from the North.

    The second was the VietComs did not look at the war in that manner. In their view, the "existing government" in the South (RVN) was not "that which exercised authority over them". "Them" being the Viet Cong. Their government was the government of Hanoi, ruling over a unified Vietnam (albeit half-occupied by the US and its SV puppets). In essence, their argument was the same as that of the French Resistence - their government was the Free French in exile; the Vichy government being a puppet of the Germans.

    What followed from these two very different positions was even more critical. The VietCom effort (a combined PAVN and NLF effort, which was FM 31-21 in effect) had Unity of Command - Hanoi's control over the NLF was exercised through COSVN. Our (US and RVN) efforts (counterinsurgency vs NLF; conventional vs PAVN/NVA; and bombing of NV) had no unity - in effect, three separate wars (further divided by your annual iterations - another of our defaults).

    Fortunately for us, the other events in SE Asia of the 60s and 70s turned out well for us (US) - so, we clearly won in SE Asia as a whole region. But, SVN was lost (I don't concede that was due to US failures alone - see this post) to what I perceive as being a superior concept of that armed conflict by the VietComs on a strategic level.

    Dwell on my iconoclastic suggestions for a bit. E.g., that we should have treated the NLF and Viet Cong as an unconventional force (it using concepts similar to FM 31-21), as opposed to treating it as an "insurgency".

    Best regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 08-14-2009 at 10:35 PM.

  5. #125
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    Default I don't disagree except

    to the extent that you argue for a totally unified effort by the DRV that included the NLF and VC as controlled agents. One problem that the Lao Dong party had was that its southern (and to a lesser degree central) VN affiliates - essentially the NLF - was too independent. This also held for the VC. Tet 68 had the positive effect for the DRV (and PAVN) of getting rid of a troublesome ally/agent that could not be completely trusted. The other part of the story is that when the PAVN seized all of SVN in 1975 one of the first acts of the new govt was to purge the NLF. At the same time, we should not make too much of the divisions w/in the VietComs...

    Ah, well, time for a beer...

    Cheers

    JohnT

  6. #126
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    Default Hey John,

    no real disagreement on several of your points.

    [1] One problem that the Lao Dong party had was that its southern (and to a lesser degree central) VN affiliates - essentially the NLF - was too independent. This also held for the VC. [2] Tet 68 had the positive effect for the DRV (and PAVN) of getting rid of a troublesome ally/agent that could not be completely trusted. [3] The other part of the story is that when the PAVN seized all of SVN in 1975 one of the first acts of the new govt was to purge the NLF.
    1. Agreed - the NLF included many Vietnamese nationalists (e.g., Al Santoli, To Bear Any Burden, 1985, had some of them tell their stories).

    2. Agreed - Tet 68 saved the LD hit squads a lot of future work.

    3. Agreed - The Victory Parade story (Santoli, pp.18-19) of Truong Nhu Tang (Minister of Justice, NLF 1960-1976) proves your point. He noticed no PRG or NLF flags or uniforms (2 weeks after Saigon's fall). In reply to Truong's question, GEN Van Tien Dung (CO of the NVA) replied coldly that "the armed forces are now unified". The parade was followed by people disappearing or forced into "re-education".

    Note that I said that Hanoi had Unity of Command over its conventional and unconventional forces. I did not say that the members of those forces were monoliths and unified on every point, especially political. As the Zhivago commisar said: "As the military struggle winds down, the political struggle intensifies."

    I also am not claiming some secret recipe which would have saved South Vietnam, had we looked at the conflict as involving a combined conventional and unconventional effort by Hanoi.

    Bob Jones has at times mentioned counter-unconventional warfare (or words to that effect). I don't know whether he (and the other SF folks here) see a substantial difference between counter-unconventional warfare and counter-insurgency.

    I do know that unconventional warfare has been very successful for the guerrillas (Spain 1808, Russia 1812, Russia & Yugoslavia in WWII; but, I suppose, those can be explained because of the successes of their allied conventional forces - as also Vietnam). There must be examples of successful counter-unconventional warfare - but not in my brain-dead state tonite.

    Any input on counter-unconventional warfare is welcome - I'm already out on a limb.

    Cheers with your beers - have a virtual one on me.

    Mike

    Addendum: One comment by COL Jones is here:

    One mission set that does not exist that I believe is helpful is that of "counter unconventional warfare." This would be the entire family of engagement that one would employ to stop an outside entitiy from waging UW in a given state/populace. It would include the full DIME, CT, etc. I beleive this is more helpful than just labeling a state as "rogue" or an organization as "terrorist" At the end of the day do we need to "defeat" AQ, or do we simply need to neutralize them? In fact there are many that think that AQ is fading due to its overreliance on violent ways, and failure to adapt more political wings like the IRA and Hezbollah. If this is true, I think instead of cheering the demise, we need to be very concerned about what replaces them. The conditions that gave rise to AQ still exist in spades. Here I agree with Gentile, there is no victory. By changing our campaign to a more holistic counterUW campaign aimed at neutralizing AQ by rendering them irrelevant to the populaces they seek to influence we have a better chance of not giving rise to a second, more sophisticated generation of non-state actor that comes in behind them to continue the mission. Counter UW works for states also. Clearly we do not want to "defeat" Iran to prevent them from waging UW in Iraq, or Lebannon, but we do need to devise a sophisticated, holistic scheme of engagement to counter this UW effort and it destabilizing effects that are counter to our national interests.
    He also has mentioned "counter-unconventional warfare" in connection with counter-irregular warfare, here.

    SOF could profit from developing "Counter unconventional warfare" as a tool in our kitbag
    Last edited by jmm99; 08-15-2009 at 02:25 AM.

  7. #127
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    Default Defense by Defoliation: The Necessity for Agent Orange in Vietnam

    Defense by Defoliation: The Necessity for Agent Orange in Vietnam

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    Defense by Defoliation: The Necessity for Agent Orange in Vietnam
    by Heather M. Brown

    Download the Full Article: Defense by Defoliation: The Necessity for Agent Orange in Vietnam

    In the mid-to-late 1960s, Americans became increasingly concerned with the strategic decision-making of U.S. leaders regarding the military’s presence in Vietnam. One of the most controversial decisions of the era was ratified on 7 January 1962, when the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army were given authorization under Operation RANCH HAND, to deploy the herbicides 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetate (2,4,5-T) and 2,4-dicholorophenoxyacetate (2,4-D), commonly known by its code name, Agent Orange, on South Vietnam. Operation RANCH HAND directed the herbicide spraying project from U.S. Air Force C-123 twin-engine aircraft, U.S. Army helicopters and infantry hand sprayers.

    Download the Full Article: Defense by Defoliation: The Necessity for Agent Orange in Vietnam

    Heather Marie Brown received her undergraduate degree from Texas State University-San Marcos in December 2010 as a double-major in History and Political Science.



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    Default Vietnam Postmortem: A Senseless Strategy

    Vietnam Postmortem: A Senseless Strategy

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    The latest posted issue of Parameters (Winter of 2010-2011) is probably well worth reading because we most likely have not learned well our lessons from the past (What did Cohen and Gooch say about military failures in their book Military Misfortune – all military failures can be attributed for failure to learn, failure to adapt, and failure to anticipate).

    Note the authors are a "who's who" of some of our great thinkers, generals, theorists, practitioners, and historians (well I guess Ambrose has had his issues!). Given the recent comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam I recommend one article in particular by the eminent strategist and mentor to so many of us, Colonel (Ret) John Collins' article from 1978 - Vietnam Postmortem: A Senseless Strategy. COL Collins' article should probably be mandatory reading for decision makers before we embark on any future Afghanistans or Iraqs so we do not have a failure to learn, failure to adapt, and failure to anticipate again (a dream of fantasy I know!).



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    Default The War Over the Vietnam War

    The War Over the Vietnam War

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    Default History: Vietnam in HD

    History: Vietnam in HD

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    Default New Hampshire and Vietnam

    New Hampshire and Vietnam

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    Default How Could Vietnam Happen?

    How Could Vietnam Happen?

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    Default Assessing Pacification in Vietnam: We Won the Counterinsurgency War!

    Assessing Pacification in Vietnam: We Won the Counterinsurgency War!

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    Default Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam

    Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam

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    Default Military Advisors Reflect on Vietnam War Experiences

    Military Advisors Reflect on Vietnam War Experiences

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    Default Viewpoint: Counterinsurgency Lessons From Vietnam

    Viewpoint: Counterinsurgency Lessons From Vietnam

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    Default Book Review: Marigold: The Last Chance for Peace in Vietnam

    Book Review: Marigold: The Last Chance for Peace in Vietnam

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    Default Why the U.S. Lost the Vietnam War

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    Default Village Stability Operations: An Historical Perspective from Vietnam to Afghanistan

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    Default Preventing the Barbarization of Warfare: The USMC CAP Program in Vietnam

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