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Thread: Vietnam War Collection: books plus

  1. #61
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    Thanks Shek!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cannoneer No. 4 View Post
    This discussion is not intended to ignore or discount the influence of
    detractors in the media—especially in the global media age—who willfully
    misreport with the intent of undermining war policy and sowing doubt in the
    domestic populace. Intuitively one recognizes in such media reports a corrosive
    effect on national morale and public support for a war that is difficult to
    measure or counter.

    Having spent 12 of 14 pages not discussing tthe influence of detractors in the media, Darley finally got to the point I want made.

    What hostile media gets out in print hours or days after the event becomes the narrative that stands for decades until disinterested, objective historians analyze declassified information and publish what really happened for the benefit of the small audience who still cares after such a long time.
    The problem is that your Vietnam reference is off the mark - research by a "disinterested, objective historian" employed by the Center of Military History has shown that the popular myth that the media was a major cause of our losing Vietnam doesn't hold much weight. Sure, there was negative press out there, but it wasn't leading opinion, just following it.

    However, I don't dispute that information has a much greater impact in the current conflicts, but you are drawing from a false reference and seeing only what you want to see. You saw 12 pages as wasted space because it didn't make the point you want made, despite the fact that it provides evidence that your historical reference is questionable and/or invalid.

    EDIT: One of the big points that Hammonds makes is that most people in Vietnam weren't influenced by the media anyways - they saw what they wanted to see for the most part. I think the same holds true today for the domestic audience by and large.
    Last edited by Shek; 12-17-2007 at 03:42 AM.

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    Thumbs up Hammond should be required reading at Service Schools

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Norfolk,

    Hammond's piece is up on JSTOR if you have access to it. In his piece, he specifically refers to this re:Vietnam, and cites Daniel Hallin's The Uncensored War, which states that post-Tet, coverage between for and against the war nearly balanced, with for the war maintaining a slim lead (prior to Tet, pro coverage dominated over coverage against the war 6:1). Of the coverage against the war, half of it came from government officials, while only 16% came from reporters or commentators themselves. Between this and some other evidence that he explores, his conclusion was not that the press was leading, but that it was following.
    Shek,

    I've just finished reading the Hammond piece from JSTOR, and I must say that I am rather surprised, but convincingly so, by what he had to report. I must admit quite a measure of ignorance on my part hitherto, but Hammond stripped away many layers of prejudice and obfuscation to lay bare how things really worked. Most interesting (and only now do I even clue into it) was that the shift in how the media reported upon the war resulted more from the changing views of the government officials that served as the media's sources than from any other factor. When the government officials began to have doubts or to change their mind about policy or strategy, that not surprisingly affected the reporters they were talking to. Well, talk about finally seeing something that's been staring you straight in the face. Superb piece.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default All that corroborates what I said, the media isn't

    (and wasn't) nearly as important as they think they are -- though they do influence political junkies and politicians to a slight extent.

    It also illustrates that the faint of heart or the opposed in an Administration can have a moderately significant adverse impact...

    Also note that the articles confirm my contention that the American public is not overly concerned with casualties; they (and apparently the Brits) want success, dilly dallying is rejected ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cannoneer No. 4 View Post
    [INDENT][I]....What hostile media gets out in print hours or days after the event becomes the narrative that stands for decades until disinterested, objective historians analyze declassified information and publish what really happened for the benefit of the small audience who still cares after such a long time.
    Agree with the responses to your post that Shek, Norfolk, Ken White, et al have made about the myth of the media loosing the Vietnam War. I think the Parmaters article already mentioned provides a pretty compelling case by a professional and relatively unbiased historian that the Media was not to blame.

    Moreover with regards to your point about today and the influence the media has on establishing the narrative i think you are correct in this statement. The media, especially print media when it comes to the later writing of history, are one of the first ones to "document" events which become the stuff of history and help build an early narrative of an issue.

    However, in the case of Iraq today, and this goes contrary to what the legions of neo-cons write, I think the print media has done a pretty good job at reporting the war in Iraq. Especially over the past few months major papers like the NY Times, WaPost, and others have really tried not to overly report the violence in place of good things happening there.

    What has been most interesting to me about reporting on the Iraq War is how pundits--like those happy travelers from AEI--have become almost like actual newspaper reporters. Other pundits like Trudy Rubin from the Philly Enquirer have also had their opeds started to be treated like traditional newspaper reporting. And in this regard the cumulative effect of traditional and pundit reporting has been a largely positive reporting of the war. In fact one can make the argument that the media has been glossing over some important factors that tend to look less positively on the lowered violence in Iraq and what brought it about.

    So if you are trying to build an early case for a blame-the-media argument for Iraq I do not think that you have history or contemporary reporting by the media on your side.

    gian

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    Default "Westmoreland was Right" in Vietnam

    This is the title for a new article on Westmoreland and Vietnam by Army Historian Dale Andrade in the just released issue of Small Wars and Insurgencies. Pasted below is the abstract to the article along with an additional paragraph. Andrade's bigger point is that if we as the United States Army aspire to be a learning organization, a good place to start is by understanding the past; specifically Vietnam and then move to a better understanding of the flawed lessons that we have dervived from that war along with myths in order to get at the truth.
    More than thirty years after the fall of Saigon, historians still argue about the lessons of the Vietnam War. Most fall into two schools of thought: those who believe that the United States failed to apply enough pressure - military and political - to the Communist government in Hanoi, and those who argue that the Americans failed to use an appropriate counterinsurgency strategy in South Vietnam. Both arguments have merit, but both ignore the Communist strategy, and the result is a skewed picture of what sort of enemy the United States actually faced in Vietnam. The reality is that the United States rarely held the initiative in Vietnam. Hanoi began a conventional troop build up in South Vietnam beginning in the early 1960s, and by the time of the US ground force intervention in 1965 the allies already faced a large and potent conventional Communist army in the South. Simply employing a 'classic' counterinsurgency strategy would have been fatal from the beginning. Despite this fact, the US military has tended to embrace flawed historical analysis to explain our failure, often concluding that there was a 'strategic choice' in Vietnam - a right way to fight and a wrong way. Most blame General William C. Westmoreland as choosing the wrong way and argue that if he had eschewed a big unit 'search and destroy' strategy, the war might have turned out differently. However, this article argues that this is untrue. Westmoreland could not have done much differently than he actually did given the realities on the ground. The flawed interpretations of the Vietnam War are not only bad history, but they also lead military and political policymakers to bad decisions in current counterinsurgency strategy. As the US military finds itself embroiled in unconventional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it needs clear lessons from America's longest counterinsurgency campaign - the Vietnam War.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 06-03-2008 at 10:49 PM. Reason: Changed link, edited content.

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    Tried to access it but got hit with a password request asking for my name and SSN to view.

    Not too hot giving out my SSN, even to USMA.
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    If...If...If...If !!!

    If the ports of Haiphong and Vinh Thinh had been closed by the U.S. Navy in 1965, and not left open until 1972....

    If the B-52s had leveled North Vietnam's Transportation and Power Distribution networks in 1965, and not limited to low risk missions over South Vietneam and Laos until after the election of 1972....

    If the U.S. Marines had been used as a mobile amphious force to interdict and destroy up and down the Vietnamese coastline, rather than to defend the DMZ....

    But most of all...

    If the Marxist-sympathizing and Democratically-controlled Congress had allocated just a fourth of the funds lavished on the Israelis in 1974 toward the South Vietnamese instead....

    South Vietnam would have become as great a testament to American resolve as South Korea. The military which fought in Vietnam was better-prepared, better-supported, and better-led than the one which fought in Korea.

    The Vietnamese War was not a "small war" either, although the typical battle was fought with company-sized units. At the Tet Offensive of 1968, General Weyand had 9 maneuver Divisions at his disposal. Colonel Rheault had almost 100,000 indigenous and Special Forces under his command. And the ARVN had over a million men.

    The mistakes which affected the outcome of the war were not made at Khe Sanh or at MAAC-V. They were not made at the War College and certainly not at the Infantry School! They were made in the Oval Office, on Capital Hill and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

  9. #69
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Already read the article. Once again it's a case of "either/or" thinking with no real attempt to find a good middle ground. Westmoreland was "right" in a sense, but he was also "wrong" in a sense. He was correct in that larger units were needed to break up the main force VC units and to keep them away from populated areas (although the only real way to do that would have been to physically cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail...an option that was never really on the table), but he was wrong in his lack of attention to population security (leaving that mostly for ARVN after the force had been configured by its advisors to fight a regular enemy...even though as I recall their own leadership had hoped for training oriented more toward dealing with insurgent forces). Westmoreland paid lip service to finding a balance, but in practice he failed to do so. Most people were looking at a Korea scenario and past what they were actually facing on the ground. That is the truth of that situation. Korea and the Chinese intervention colored the majority of policy thinking in the Johnson administration, and a lack of attention to anything other than conventional war colored the evaluation of many military thinkers, to include Westmoreland. Vietnam required a blended solution, and that's something that I'm not sure we could come up with even today.

    I also found Andrade's use of the communist histories interesting, as their current spin is to deemphasize the role of the VC in operations. This has more to do with the political and social split that existed between Northerners and Southerners at the time than actual objective history. It's easy to forget that they have an interest in presenting the history of the War of Liberation to fit their own domestic goals...not unlike the motives often attributed to Western commentators writing about the war.

    If there's a flaw, it's the same one that we seem to be incapable of escaping...the "either/or" mindset. Vietnam was a blended situation. We missed that then, and we seem to be missing that again.

    Cavguy...you should be able to log into the article through the library there without giving up any information. If not, PM me.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGBrina View Post
    If...If...If...If !!!

    If the ports of Haiphong and Vinh Thinh had been closed by the U.S. Navy in 1965, and not left open until 1972....

    If the B-52s had leveled North Vietnam's Transportation and Power Distribution networks in 1965, and not limited to low risk missions over South Vietneam and Laos until after the election of 1972....

    If the U.S. Marines had been used as a mobile amphious force to interdict and destroy up and down the Vietnamese coastline, rather than to defend the DMZ....
    Closing the ports that early wouldn't have made much difference, because the North wasn't engaged in a major conventional offensive (the rail routes from China were more significant during the early periods, as was the land route from Cambodian ports). Nor would bombing the transportation network, because there wasn't much of one to bomb and it wasn't being used heavily for the war effort at that time. It was different in 1972 because the North chose to launch a conventional offensive that required much more in the way of supplies than their earlier campaigns and thus exposed them to interdiction and airpower. Operations prior to the Easter Offensive used minimal supplies (an average of five truckloads per NVA DIVISION if memory serves), so there wasn't much to bomb.

    The Marines would have been better used in the IV Corps CTZ where they could have focused on population security (and training ARVN in similar techniques). It just so happened that they were the first large US force deployed and once they got in I Corps CTZ they were more or less stuck there.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post

    Cavguy...you should be able to log into the article through the library there without giving up any information. If not, PM me.
    COL Gentile and Shek both sent me copies - Share many of the same opinions of the article. There is some merit to the argument that development is impossible without baseline security, and security requires force. Therefore, the author's argument is that Westmorland was right to do 'search and destroy', and his 'search and destroy' ops enabled Abrams to focus on pacification.

    He gets to it in the last paragraphs when he states the main takeaway:

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrade
    Counterinsurgency is not only about good planning, it is also about numbers. Without sufficient forces to dominate the operational area on a constant basis, there is simply no way to disrupt the guerrillas and at the same time foster pacification programs. This is as true today as it was then.
    I disagree with his conclusion here. My personal experience in Ramadi and Tal Afar suggest that it is not sequential but somewhat parallel, or at least intersecting curves - you have to do both LOO's (security and development) simultaneously. You never get real security without development/pacification and you can never do effective development without a minimum level of security that interdicts enemy freedom of movement.

    What is the bio/background of the author?
    Last edited by Cavguy; 06-03-2008 at 06:18 PM.
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  12. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    COL Gentile and Shek both sent me copies - Share many of the same opinions of the article. There is some merit to the argument that development is impossible without baseline security, and security requires force. Therefore, Westmorland was right to do 'search and destroy', and his 'search and destroy' ops enabled Abrams to focus on pacification.
    Sure, but again I tend to think the discussion is another case of "either/or" thinking. Westmoreland was right to use 'search and destroy' to push main force units back from the population centers, but he was also remiss in not focusing some real priorities on population security or at the very least insuring that ARVN could do so (which its training effectively precluded since it was focused on main force combat).

    Andrade is one of the historians at the CMH and has written on both the Phoenix program and some aspects of SOG. He also wrote a good study of the Easter Offensive. Steve (Metz, that is) might be more familiar with him.
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  13. #73
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Very unpersuasive

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    This is the title for a new article on Westmoreland and Vietnam by Army Historian Dale Andrade ... Andrade's bigger point is that if we as the United States Army aspire to be a learning organization, a good place to start is by understanding the past; specifically Vietnam and then move to a better understanding of the flawed lessons that we have dervived from that war along with myths in order to get at the truth.
    Couldn't agree more with your premise. We certainly should eliminate the flawed lessons of Viet Nam -- however, we should also be very careful not to preselect the lessons we wish to learn -- or eliminate.

    My sensing tends to coincide more with Steve Blair than with Andrade. Westmoreland was right -- to an extent. He was also wrong to an extent. IMO, he was more wrong than right, Andrade can differ as can you but there is little denying three salient facts:


    - The primary Operational level of effort, COIN, was given only lip service from 1963 until late 1968.

    - There were a number of flawed decisions by MACV during that period that ranged from placing the Marines in the wrong CTZ (as Steve pointed out) and the Army having to develop a Riverine capability to operate in 4 CTZ on the fly; the infusion program and the force protection measures that insisted on large unit operations and constant US Artillery cover (two things the VC and NVA quickly learned to exploit). Most of these and more sprang from the NW Europe mentality of Westmoreland and the MACV Staff that could not wrap itself around the flexibility required to confront an agile enemy * .

    - The vast majority of contacts were initiated by the enemy, not by us and that is by any measure a significant operational and tactical failure. As that NVA Colonel told Harry Summers, not being whipped in battle was irrelevant.

    It did not need to be that way and Westmoreland was in command. So, no, he wasn't right...

    In any event, Afghanistan, Iraq and Viet Nam are three very different wars fought against three very different enemies in three very different sets of terrain in a different time and with different levels of troop training and capability. Few of the lessons of Viet Nam translate directly and we should be extremely careful of those we choose to adopt.

    * An example of that is the statement recently made in a war game prep at Knox to an acquaintance by a senior person regarding reconnaissance; "We (Americans) don't have the patience to sneak and peek, we just mount up and go out looking for trouble and you have to have Armor to do that." I submit that worked in NW Europe at the tail end of WW II; it took the Remagen Bridge, for example, good job. It may work today in a European or even in some Iraqi settings. It did not work in Viet Nam and it does not work in Afghanistan.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    * An example of that is the statement recently made in a war game prep at Knox to an acquaintance by a senior person regarding reconnaissance; "We (Americans) don't have the patience to sneak and peek, we just mount up and go out looking for trouble and you have to have Armor to do that." I submit that worked in NW Europe at the tail end of WW II; it took the Remagen Bridge, for example, good job. It may work today in a European or even in some Iraqi settings. It did not work in Viet Nam and it does not work in Afghanistan.
    This shows quite clearly in Westmoreland's lukewarm reception of intelligence provided by SOG teams working the Trail in Laos and (later) Cambodia. The same goes for at least parts of his staff as well. SOG had the potential to deliver incredible intelligence, but it was often wasted by people who didn't have a good understanding of what they had. Not to mention the constant denial on many levels that the North was taking an active role in the South until late 1966 or so.

    I think one of the most important takeaways from Vietnam is the lesson that each situation needs to be analyzed and appreciated on its own merits and realities, not warped by what happened before (Korea) or what we would like to see happen (tanks roaring across the plains of central Europe). We failed both tests in Vietnam.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default An opinionated No and Yes...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    ...Therefore, Westmorland was right to do 'search and destroy', and his 'search and destroy' ops enabled Abrams to focus on pacification.
    Not really; nor did Tet and the general VC (the very few left) and NVA (lots and lots of them replacing those killed) toll allow it as some postulate; Abrams simply changed the emphasis as Palmer had been urging all along. Westmoreland could have done it two years earlier; he chose not to do so.
    ...My personal experience in Ramadi and Tal Afar suggest that it is not sequential but somewhat parallel, or at least intersecting curves - you have to do both LOO's (security and development) simultaneously. You never get real security without development/pacification and you can never do effective development without a minimum level of security that interdicts enemy freedom of movement.
    Exactly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Sure, but again I tend to think the discussion is another case of "either/or" thinking. Westmoreland was right to use 'search and destroy' to push main force units back from the population centers, but he was also remiss in not focusing some real priorities on population security or at the very least insuring that ARVN could do so (which its training effectively precluded since it was focused on main force combat).

    Andrade is one of the historians at the CMH and has written on both the Phoenix program and some aspects of SOG. He also wrote a good study of the Easter Offensive. Steve (Metz, that is) might be more familiar with him.
    I think we're in violent agreement. I can't subscribe to his assertion that pacification and security must happen in parallel and not sequentially (though targeted and scaled).
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    Default Good post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    This shows quite clearly in Westmoreland's lukewarm reception of intelligence provided by SOG teams working the Trail in Laos and (later) Cambodia...
    I saw the process repeated in a number of units that got good intel from their Recon and LRRP Units and then blithefully ignored it and put more dependence on SPAR info. Dumbbbb...
    I think one of the most important takeaways from Vietnam is the lesson that each situation needs to be analyzed and appreciated on its own merits and realities, not warped by what happened before (Korea) or what we would like to see happen (tanks roaring across the plains of central Europe). We failed both tests in Vietnam.
    True; unfortunately we sort of fell into the same failure (the war we wanted...) post 1989...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    ...what we would like to see happen (tanks roaring across the plains of central Europe).
    Who would like to see that happen ? - At least nobody in Central Europe!

    Concerning the failure in South Vietnam it is quite fruitless IMO to discuss the value of "Search & Destroy" missions or reports of SOG troopers about what's happening on remote jungle trails, when you try to back an incapable dictatorship government in S-Vietnam and simultaneously drop bombs on innocent civilians in N-Vietnam.
    That's the wrong strategy and doomed to fail anyway.

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    Thumbs up hard won observation

    Cavguy said:
    My personal experience in Ramadi and Tal Afar suggest that it is not sequential but somewhat parallel, or at least intersecting curves - you have to do both LOO's (security and development) simultaneously. You never get real security without development/pacification and you can never do effective development without a minimum level of security that interdicts enemy freedom of movement.
    Ultimately the conditions will drive requirements, but I think Neil gets to the meat of it here, the two are dependent upon each other in ways that get beyond the number of attacks, and toward the rational for continued insurgency. It is a matter of art and decision. Figuring out what makes insurgency the most viable and attractive recourse in terms of what the real objectives are is key to sustainable security - but implementing it offers a different set of challenges.

    Having said that, I think if the conditions are such that all the counter insurgent's activities are absorbed in physical security, then allocating resources to development might not be possible - even if the commander knows that is the requirement to get to long term sustainable security. It is event driven to a degree.

    Each situation is likely to be different - Vietnam is not Iraq, nor are any two provinces or cities wholly alike. They are all driven by politics at a number of levels. While I do believe that History offers unique insights into the present and future, to get its full value we have to acknowledge its limitations. We can look back and recognize where there were seemingly non-linear outcomes, mistakes and vindications, but its hard to account for the number of potential outcomes that come through interaction as you look forward.

    The two are different. Using History to draw useful observations about a past event to think about the future is one thing. Drawing conclusions and absolutes about the future based on historical events that are by nature frozen in time and no longer interactive is dangerous business, and offers to great an opportunity to inject bias.

    Best, Rob

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    Andrade's analysis is on point if the threat to South Vietnam came from without. North Vietnam certainly had its own agenda regarding unification. However, those plans would have gone the way of North Korea's had South Vietnam not had its own very serious internal problems, had there not been a serious disconnect between the government and the governed. Whether American counterinsurgency efforts could have changed this is unknown. However, it does make clear that however successful the conventional war could have been, it would not have been enough to secure South Vietnam as a viable, independent entity.

    From this perspective, there is an interesting connection with Iraq -- there is often a temptation to conflate the foreign fighter problem with the bulk of the security issues in Iraq. But there are serious internal issues regarding relations between the localities and the central government. Even those Iraqis who are working to support the American effort are not entirely comfortable with the emerging model of a central government that controls more of daily life than has ever been the norm -- for example, even under Hussein Fallujah was pretty much left alone to run its own affairs. I would argue that this antipathy to the center is expressed in the black market activities in oil - while some amount of the theft is tied to supporting anti-government/American military activities, some is simply about building the strength of local actors. In any case, solving the foreign fighter problem is never going to pacify Iraq. The problems are within, and they are going to require a whole different set of answers - many of which exceed the capabilities of the military or the use of military force, either conventionally or in COIN.

    Steve's point re the use of North Vietnamese histories is a good one. They tend to downplay the role of the southern agents -- and their very different agendas, many of which did not include unification with the north.

    Jill

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