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Thread: A "Tet Offensive" in Iraq

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default A "Tet Offensive" in Iraq

    Read an interesting blurb, http://ace.mu.nu/archives/247147.php basically suggesting a Tet is on the way, just a matter of time. Further, with too many premature calls by U.S. commentators (blogs, media, etc.) of victory in Iraq, this will bring about disappointment among Americans, and would be a coup for AQI, with renewed calls in U.S. for withdrawal from Iraq.

    Comments?

    Salaam y'all,

    Shivan

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    Default Tet Offensive: A Prediction

    I think this is a great question. As others on here know better than I, there are a lot of differences between Vietnam and Iraq. In the Tet Offensive, there were a lot of traditional engagements between American and NVA forces, something the Iraqi insurgents cannot produce. On the otherhand, the VC filled their insurgent role during the operation, something the insurgents might be able to produce. As we all know, the major effect of Tet was a psychological and political defeat. In order to equal this kind of defeat in Iraq, there would have to be several attacks similar to the one on the Golden Mosque of Samarra within a relatively short period of time. Also, there would need to be a significant number of casualties. I suppose there could be these kinds of attacks, but I don't think it is likely. It seems that the insurgency there has lost a lot of steam. I read an article today in which the assertion was made that a lot of the money paid to past insurgents is no longer available. Furthermore, the ideology behind their tactics, as witnessed in al Anbar, has also diminished. If I had to make a prediction, I would say it is unlikely that a Tet Offensive type of opeation is not very likely. I am just glad that my predictions, unlike those of the real policymakers and troops on the ground, don't matter much!!!!

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    Council Member Stu-6's Avatar
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    Default Tet I&W

    I donít know if I would give much credence to this theory, but maybe we should be taking a look at what the missed indications and warning were of the Tet offensive. Obviously they wouldnít be exactly the same but there might be some similarities. Does anyone know of a good study regarding missed intelligence before Tet? I would hope someone had taken a look at the subject.

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    I think the significant others in this fight are waiting to see who wins the White House - better to rest a bit and regroup then make a Tet like display of will and potential, or, move on to a different theater if the hoped for future occupant doesn't materialize. There's always Lebanon and allinaces to be made there and plenty of work to be done in Pakistan/Afghanistan.

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    Council Member Stu-6's Avatar
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    While you maybe right abut the impact of US elections but I kind of doubt it. I think this view comes from the fact that we see others actions through our own perspective, i.e. the US elections are of major importance to us therefore we assume they are to others as well. However other actors have their own motivations and influences which are much more significant to them.

    Add to that the fact that the differences between any of the likely presidential nominees are pretty small.

    No doubt they watch the elections but I doubt it is a deciding factor.

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    Some of the recent Legislative attempts can give no other message but retreat to our foes and some from the Dem side have a platform built in part on this message. I for one am guilty of believing for far too long that our foes don't fully understand us. Iraq's economy is not robust, infrastructure growth is steady but on the slow side and the glue for political unity and a degree of solidarity is more akin to paper paste, far from substantial in its adhesion, England retains a toe hold at best andTurkey wants to come south to kill Kurds. I can't believe any senior commander in the camp of the enemy would be at this time launching any major offensives, not with just a year to a new American Administration and wounds to lick.

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    I would find this a lot more compelling if there was more than logical speculation about the current political moment. That said, the article does raise one important point: that the decline in attacks is a window that diplomatic efforst need to maximize upon. It seems to me that the surge performed and is preforming as well as anyone could have realistically hoped. This article is basically a warning that, if there isn't diplmatic improvement before another Iraq's Tet knocks out whatever wind is in Iraq gov's sails, its going to make it a lot harder, if not impossible, to open a window like this again.

    I think the most imporantant thing to remember about Tet is that was a military defeat for the VC but a socio-political victory. Everything I've read says the Phoenix Program worked as it was designed to in Tet and "neutralized" a lot of the otherwise clandestine political cadres that surfaced during the attacks. The Provinisional Reconnassaince Units especially peformed remarkably well and earned their (in)famous rep as the best irregular force/the coldest mercs on the US advised side. As far as I understand, Tet finally persauded Theiu to sign on to Phoenix in earnest and actually make the GVN's Phung Hong a parallel structure to the CIA/MACV's Phoenix Program.

    When the Tet attacks finally died down, there wasn't much VC activity becuase they rebuilding their ranks and structure that military defeat in Tet had decimated. In this climate, the GVN, through Phung Hong and especially the Special Branch Police, started, much to the displeasure of many US advisors, to target the loyal non-communist opposition, the Dai Viets, Viet Nam Dinh-Thu Duc, and the all rest. I think pursuing a dirty war against sects instead of reaching a political settlement prevented the emergence of a truly independent South Vietnam. Is this happening in Iraq?

    I've seen pundits, military academics, and civilian academics argue for CORDs and/or Phoenix type arrangement to be set up in Iraq on the premise that those institutional arranagements and policies won the "intelligence war" or the small war and it was the NVA that finally won the war, not the VC.

    Altogether, I think all this underscores the necessicity of a really concerted diplomatic effort in Iraq right now. Phoenix defeated the insurgency in Vietnam but couldn't win the socio-political war. I think the same goes holds true for the French in Algeria and if there isn't political progress in Iraq soon we might soon say the same about the US in Iraq.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu-6 View Post
    I donít know if I would give much credence to this theory, but maybe we should be taking a look at what the missed indications and warning were of the Tet offensive. Obviously they wouldnít be exactly the same but there might be some similarities. Does anyone know of a good study regarding missed intelligence before Tet? I would hope someone had taken a look at the subject.
    I think Robert "Blowtorch" Komer in Bureaucracy at War talks about this. Also the three books directly on Phoenix (Andrade's Ashes to Ashes, Moyar's Birds of Prey and Valetine's Phoenix Program) all take a position on the warnings or lack thereof preceding Tet.

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    Council Member Shivan's Avatar
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    Default more thoughts

    This article http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle2910440.ece indicates hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees are voting with their feet and coming home.

    My concern re a "Tet" in Iraq is the media impact of a widespread and spectacular bombing campaign. Yes, AQ et al may lose this offensive, as the VC did, but win in the media and with refugees reversing course.

    The AQ playbook understands well that the Western media and Congress are their best allies and best hope for a U.S. retreat, since they cannot quite win head to head with the Armed Forces, anymore than the VC did.

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    I agree that a Tet style offensive is unlikely. AQI just doesn't have the initiative or the resources right now. And AQ-proper is focusing on Pakistan, to great effect. The insurgency is too fractured to coordinate throughout the country.

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    Stu-6:

    There was intel and allied forces did act on it--which helped render Tet a tactical disaster for the enemy. Lots of material on this, but I liked Bergerud's Red Thunder,Tropic Lightning, which highlights role of CG Third Regional Assistance Command and former CO of 25th ID, Gen Fred Weyand, in responding to the intel...Echoed in Sorely's A Better War, as well...

    But more germane to COIN, for some time prior to the offensive, enemy logistical preparations involved putting in place men and materials in communities close to the urban targets, where they remained hidden with the collaboration of the populace...Must have been a matter of weeks. One such community which achieved notoriety as a "springboard" for the Tet assault--in this case on Bien Hoa--was nearby Ho Nai. Now, what is significant about Ho Nai is that this was virtually entirely a community composed of Roman Catholics of North Vietnamese refugee origin --a segment of society generally viewed as a bulwark against communism. In this tight-knit, tightly controlled, autocratically led (by the local Catholic hierarchy) community, these communist logistical preparations would have been impossible without the approval of the Bishop. Not a peep out of the populace, by the way, many of whom were USG employees at Bien Hoa Air Base and other installations...

    Which illustrates the point that the population will support the side they believe is winning (especially if this will keep them from getting killed)--even when their "hearts" might dictate otherwise. A classic COIN precept (and Rand's Cost-Benefit principle of insurgency and COIN, cited in a number of earlier threads by moderator Ted). n.b.: Zero US posted in the village to protect the people, and the GVN security personnel (who would, anyway, have been drawn from the same community) would have been easily intimidated into silence. Strikes me we've got far better tentacles into the relevant populated areas in Iraq now, rendering this sort of thing out of the question--But those who are there will know better if I'm just whistling Dixie.

    Cheers,
    Mike---and a Happy Thanksgiving to all!
    Last edited by Mike in Hilo; 11-22-2007 at 04:41 PM.

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    Strikes me we've got far better tentacles into the relevant populated areas in Iraq now, rendering this sort of thing out of the question--But those who are there will know better if I'm just whistling Dixie.
    I'd submit that our tentacles in Iraq are far less fearsome than the GVN and American forces in RVN - rather the enemy is far less capable, organized, and centrally directed than the NLF/NVA. Indeed, its major constituent blocs are engaged principally in fighting each other at the moment rather than engaging the U.S.

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    Tequila: Yeah, I need to remind myself of the incredible weight of the problem we faced in VN--numbers as well as quality. Terrific organization and leadership, unity of purpose, dedicated support of a nation-state....To the extent that comparisons of the two may be less than meaningful....

    Cheers,
    Mike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xenophon View Post
    I agree that a Tet style offensive is unlikely. AQI just doesn't have the initiative or the resources right now. And AQ-proper is focusing on Pakistan, to great effect. The insurgency is too fractured to coordinate throughout the country.
    Regardless, time and space heals all, and to my knowledge it's not clear at all that AQI and or any of the unreconstructed insurgent groups have entered a vicious cycle where they cannot regroup and launch a game changing counter-offensive. I'm also worried that the American electorate isn't been properly braced for the possibility.

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    Default Moot Point

    No offense and politics aside, but Tet was a part of a greater scheme for North Vietnam. Deliver a crushing attack against The South, get the population to rise up, and bring in conventional warfare to reunify Vietnam, which they eventually were able to accomplish much later due to a poor South Vietnamese President ordering South Vietnamese forces out of defensive position and out in the open to be decimated. What North Vietnam accomplished during Tet was a failure. The Viet Cong was decimated. From that point forward their ranks were filled to the brim with NVA cadre, which didn't contribute much in the form of the type of warfare that eventually crushed South Vietnam. Using the Tet Offensive as a model for success is ironic considering North Vietnam calculated it as a humiliating defeat that would take time and effort to recover from, which is exactly what unfolded as a result.

    AQI doesn't come close to the infrastructure of North Vietnam's ability to fight both as a guerrilla presence and a standing conventional force poised for the final conventional victory. A Tet action would result in a defeat for AQI. In fact, it would be a blessing in disguise for counterinsurgency if they would come out in the open to be decimated, which is what usually happens when they go on the offensive in large number. At least, numbers that "they" consider large. How many Viet Cong and NVA were wiped out by the end of Tet? How many Viet Cong and NVA were directly involved in the fighting during Tet? It would be almost an insult to the Vietnamese Communists to compare what they organized and orchestrated during Tet to the haphazardly organized AQI in comaprison. About all AQI can do is create instability in certain regions for a given amount of time. "Not losing" no longer applies just for the insurgents. It now also applies to the counterinsurgent as well.
    Last edited by Culpeper; 03-01-2008 at 07:14 AM.
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    Highly unlikely for any side to launch a Tet style attack.

    For the following reasons:

    1. All sides are to fractious to coordinate such an attack, not exactly a central command coordinating all insurgent groups not like the Vietcong and the NVA during the Vietnam war.

    2. No cooperation between the potential insurgents namely the Shias and the Sunnis. The Sunnis are now begging for U.S. help vs. Shia militias and death squads.

    3. If there were a Tet style attack, the Shias probably has the best(still remote chance) of doing it but it will be confined to Shia dominated areas such as Basra and parts of Baghdad. The Mahdi militia tried an uprising a few years back and got its ass kicked.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Culpeper View Post
    AQI doesn't come close to the infrastructure of North Vietnam's ability to fight both as a guerrilla presence and a standing conventional force poised for the final conventional victory. A Tet action would result in a defeat for AQI. In fact, it would be a blessing in disguise for counterinsurgency if they would come out in the open to be decimated, which is what usually happens when they go on the offensive in large number. At least, numbers that "they" consider large. How many Viet Cong and NVA were wiped out by the end of Tet? How many Viet Cong and NVA were directly involved in the fighting during Tet? It would be almost an insult to the Vietnamese Communists to compare what they organized and orchestrated during Tet to the haphazardly organized AQI in comaprison. About all AQI can do is create instability in certain regions for a given amount of time. "Not losing" no longer applies just for the insurgents. It now also applies to the counterinsurgent as well.

    Exactly. AQI tried a "Mini-Tet" in July 2004. (ref'd in my book The Terrorist of Iraq: pg 325 "Black Thursday - the one day Salafist Mini Jihad" )

    That was the first and last time Zarqawi attempted to seize several cities in the north and west simultaneously using all of his resources and allies. It almost went un-noticed, because they came out, hit lots of checkpoints with SVBIEDs, went to city halls, made a few public announcements and hauled ass off before US foces could completely decimate them. Killed over 92 people. AQI has no depth and or capacity except to continue the small scale actions and SVBIED attcks or (PLEASE!) attack us everywhere all at once with all of their Jihadis ... if they did, it would be most satisfying.
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Default Iraq..The "Tet" question

    The one gross similiarity with RVN and Iraq is the fact the adjacent countries harbored the "bad guys". While no real TET offensive of the magnitude seen in February of 1968 s expected, cross border "bad guys" will move into Iraq and continue to tie down and "bleed" American troops. That said, Iran and our other implied adversaries (Russia & China) are making themselves stronger both in military and political terms.

    But, for the ordinary Iraqi, TET is sometimes a daily event. Because of the elections and other international headlines of late, the average Iraqi continues to suffer...for him or her, TET is an everyday instance.

    The US mil is now dependent of Iraqi sources for "news" and civilian KIA's. The Iraqi's know that "bad news" is likey to quicken the the withdrawl of American troops. That said, the Iraqi's with US oversight are restricting what "news" of local KIA's are validated and provided international media.

    The Iraqi's are bleeding the United States..both in military terms and expense now estimated to be in the multi-billions, yet the Iraqi government has some 70 billion in US banks. IS THERE SOMETHING WROING WITH THIS FACT..?

    Keeping US troops in Iraq deminishes our ability to respond to other confrontrations..Iran, China and Russia know this and therefore, as mentioned, will do all they can both individually and collective to keep America tied down in Iraq.

    And, let us not forget about our "democratic" Arab friends in Saudi Arabia and Jordan...not to mention Baathist Syria. These countries benefit from our presence in Iraq for many reasons..the most being to offset Shia influence in the region.

    The Saudi's..another beacon of democracy in the Middle East would rather have American blood in the Iraqi sand than Saudi blood.

    In short, a political mess!

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Anything new to report?

    Quote Originally Posted by negotiator6 View Post
    ...That said, Iran and our other implied adversaries (Russia & China) are making themselves stronger both in military and political terms.
    Implied is a good word. Unfriendly is another -- but that word would apply to most nations of the world and has since before WW II.
    ...The US mil is now dependent of Iraqi sources for "news" and civilian KIA's. The Iraqi's know that "bad news" is likey to quicken the the withdrawl of American troops. That said, the Iraqi's with US oversight are restricting what "news" of local KIA's are validated and provided international media.
    Just curious. You have any proof of that; the 'US oversight, I mean?
    The Iraqi's are bleeding the United States..both in military terms and expense now estimated to be in the multi-billions, yet the Iraqi government has some 70 billion in US banks. IS THERE SOMETHING WROING WITH THIS FACT..?
    Other than the misspelling and the amount which probably varies daily, no. Why do you ask?
    Keeping US troops in Iraq deminishes our ability to respond to other confrontrations..Iran, China and Russia know this and therefore, as mentioned, will do all they can both individually and collective to keep America tied down in Iraq.
    A great number of people enjoy seeing us tied down in Iraq. Most know that diminished US capability is far from being no US capability.
    The Saudi's..another beacon of democracy in the Middle East would rather have American blood in the Iraqi sand than Saudi blood.
    We have shed a lot of blood a lot of places for a number of beacons of democracy. I doubt the future will offer much change in that.
    In short, a political mess!
    That's the American way...

    As an aside, this is not a site for political commentary except as it pertains to fighting wars. Thanks.

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Default Has there been a failed Tet?

    Hypothetically, had the insurgents read about Tet, but not read the fine print that it was a tactical disaster for the insurgents, they might try to emulate it. Do you think that was the insurgent 'surge' in attacks on the Green Zone about 2-3 weeks ago? On the one hand, it was a surge, and it looked liked it was more drama than effect (not to denigrate the people hurt and killed). Like they were trying to generate media effects (like Tet).

    On the other hand, that implies a higher degree of cooperation that the insurgents seem willing to go along with. The insurgency seems more viral, with only general directions to the various groups, than coordinated. It seems to me that each Arab man sees himself as an emir or maneuvering to become one, and cooperation is low in their priorities unless directly threatened or there is a clear path to advancement involved.

    The most important piece is that Tet wasn't a turning point until some know-nothing talking-head on the news said 'quagmire'. It drives home the importance of getting our message out accurately, and early.

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