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Old 12-22-2005   #1
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Default Vietnam collection (lessons plus)

18 Dec. Boston Globe - Vietnam and Victory.

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Some claim that the US strategy of Ďclear and holdí had largely defeated the Viet Cong by 1971, and that the same tactics can work in Iraq. But that gets Vietnam wrong, say the warís 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.''
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Old 12-23-2005   #2
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Default Kit Carson Scouts

The Small Wars Journal / Small Wars Council has been given permission to republish several articles from the archives of the Marine Corps Gazette (1916 Ė 2005).

We have been researching COIN related articles from the Vietnam War era and there is an outstanding selection to choose from. The linked article is the second posted here and on the SWJ Library page.

We enjoin you to post Vietnam-related topics that you would like posted and we will see what we can come up with through a data-base search...

Kit Carson Scouts by Captain William Cowan, USMC. Marine Corps Gazette, October 1969.

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Immediately west of the main Citadel in Quang Tri City, capital of South Vietnam's northernmost province, lies a small but strongly fortified compound. Built with Marine Corps money and materials, it is defended only by former North Vietnamese regulars and former Viet Cong. Though few Marines know of its whereabouts or purpose, the products of that compound represent a potent asset to the small unit leader operating against Communist forces in the Republic of Vietnam.

It is the 3rd Marine Division's Kit Carson Scout School, staffed by Marines and dedicated to the task of training former enemy to work with units of the 3rd Marine Division. The Kit Carson Scout program was originated and implemented by Marines. It started when the 1st Marine Division decided to use defectors to locate enemy weapons caches and booby traps.

Though they were mostly untrained, their exceptional performance with Marine units was noted in Saigon, and Gen Westmoreland issued a message in September, 1967, directing all infantry divisions in Vietnam, both Marine and Army, to begin using Kit Carson Scouts in conjunction with friendly operations.

In addition, Gen Westmoreland directed that a minimum of 100 scouts per division was necessary to insure effectiveness. The 3rd Marine Division was the first unit in Vietnam to reach that level when the fourth Kit Carson Scout class graduated from the school in Quang Tri City in December, 1967.

The Scouts are known as Hoi Chanhs (generally translated in Vietnamese as "one who has returned"), and their reasons for defection from the VC or NVA differ. Although many are disillusioned with communism or unfulfilled Communist promises of land, money or battlefield glory, most of them return to the Government of South Viet Nam (GVN) control because they are tired of the constant pressure of allied operations and honestly believe they are on the losing sideÖ
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Old 12-29-2005   #3
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Default Three Lessons From Vietnam

29 Dec. Washington Post Op-Ed - Three Lessons From Vietnam by Dale Andrade.

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It's not uncommon these days to hear talk of "lessons" learned in Vietnam and their application to current U.S. conflicts. Unfortunately, most observers have ignored the uniqueness of the Vietnam War, picking and choosing the lessons learned there with little regard for their application to the present.

This is particularly true with the current buzz over the "clear and hold" concept...

Stripped to essentials, there are three basic lessons from the war. All must be employed by any counterinsurgency effort, no matter what shape it takes.

First, there must be a unified structure that combines military and civilian pacification efforts. In Vietnam that organization was called CORDS, for Civil Operations and Rural Development Support...

The second lesson involves attacking the enemy's center of gravity. An insurgency thrives only if it can maintain a permanent presence among the population, which in Vietnam was called the Viet Cong infrastructure, or VCI. This covert presence used carrot and stick -- promises of reform and threats of violence -- to take control of large chunks of the countryside...

Finally, it is crucial to form militias in order to raise the staff necessary to maintain a permanent government presence in dangerous areas. This is the only way "clear and hold" has any hope of working....

In the end America failed in Vietnam, and it is difficult to convince the public or policymakers that there is anything to learn from a losing effort. But the U.S. military did make important headway in pacification, and it would be foolish to let that experience slip away....
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Old 12-29-2005   #4
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Default Aren't we....?

"Finally, it is crucial to form militias in order to raise the staff necessary to maintain a permanent government presence in dangerous areas. This is the only way "clear and hold" has any hope of working...."

Good article. Points out some of the blaring gaps we have had in our game plan that have been discussed in several of the threads.

In regards to the use of militias, haven't we replaced that strategy in Iraqi by finally placing Iraqi units to hold areas we've cleared? I know we haven't got enough of them trained to hold every place, but isn't that the path we're on instead of militias?
Seems to me that there are enough divisions within Iraq and a tendency to want to stay with them (religious, secular, tribal, etc) that militias might just make a road block that would need cleared later......
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Old 12-29-2005   #5
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Default Militias and the nominal Iraqi Military

http://ebird.afis.mil/ebfiles/e20051228409203.html

Quote:
Miami Herald
December 28, 2005
Pg. 1

Kurds Preparing Takeover; U.S. Exit Strategy At Risk

The U.S. plan for leaving Iraq is in trouble, with more than 10,000 Kurds in the Iraqi army prepared to seize control of northern Iraq for an independent state.

By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder News Service
KIRKUK, Iraq - Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.
This article points out the dangers inherent with militias--some of which are very much still in place.

Best
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Old 12-30-2005   #6
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Default illogical arguments

Mr Andradeís article, unlike his book, is full of the same errors he accuses others of; that of picking and choosing lessons from Vietnam with little regard to their application to the present.

How he only came up with three basic lessons Iíll never know, but the ones he identifies are not necessarily relevant to OIF and OEF-A as he claims. Additionally his attempts of identifying overarching lessons that must be employed are in fact simply a series of techniques, tactics, and procedures that worked to some degree in Vietnam instead of counterinsurgency principles.

First he calls for a unified (military and civilian) pacification effort. No one will argue that, and of course that is what weíre attempting to get to, but his explanation of CORDS was a poor example. First off he confuses the terms streamlining and inflation when the military takes the program over from the CIA. He also failed to mention that the problem with GEN Westmorelandís version of CORDS is that he undermined the program (unintentionally) by employing these home village defense force as an offensive force, in effect a back door draft. There is big difference between signing up to protect your family and leaving your family to fight a war that you donít really understand.

The authorís second lesson is that an insurgency thrives only if it can maintain a permanent presence among the population, so we need to have a Phoenix Program to root it out. First off in all insurgencies we have attempted to identify and neutralize insurgent infrastructure, and granted the Phoenix Program was effective, but then again Iraq and Afghanistan arenít Vietnam. Phoenix was effective in Vietnam for a number of reasons, but the situations were dealing with in the Middle East are entirely different. First the degree of hostility to Westerners is greater than it was in Vietnam. In Vietnam they embraced a political ideology in hopes of building a more equitable economic system, and that logic could be countered with effective economic carrots and basic security. In the Middle East much of the population hates what we represent and donít trust our motives. Economic carrots alone may buy some cooperation, but in the end they want us out. Furthermore the insurgents (plural in every sense of the word) donít have a single unified infrastructure or ideology that we can target, so centers of gravity are numerous and of less value than they were in Vietnam. The bottom line is weíre already going after the insurgent infrastructure.

His final argument is the least logical, and that is stating that the formation of militias is ďnecessaryĒ to win. I canít think of any militia groups that have been necessary to defeat an insurgency, nor can I think of any militia groups that have been effectively reintegrated into society after the war, so in effect this option produces armed criminal gangs, some quite dangerous and effective ranging from the drug lords of Burma to the warlords of Afghanistan. If our definition of victory is a united Iraq, Iím not sure how forming militias will get us there?

I like the authorís book, but think he missed the boat with this article.
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Old 01-04-2006   #7
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Default Vietnam Lessons That Really Apply in Iraq

4 Jan. Washington Post Letters to the Editor in response to the Three Lessons from Vietnam Op-Ed piece.
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Old 01-04-2006   #8
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Default Reasons for war in Vietnam and Iraq broader than critics arguments

One of the letter writers uses the Bush and Johnson lied us in to war argument. This is really weak. The progress toward war in Vietnam was much broader than events in the Tonkin Gulf that may or may not have happened. If the Johnson administration was looking for a causus belli, it did not have to wait for action on the high seas. The North Vietnamese were already in clear violation of the Geneva Accords which prohibited all parties from military activities in Laos. The reason Johnson did not use this as his reason for going to war was his reluctance to engage in Laos where the violation was taking place. Shutting down the Ho Chi Minh Trail would have defeated the communist, according to their own historians, but Johnson and McNamara were not willing to use overt force in Laos. By restricting the US to transitory force, i.e. raids by special forces and raids by air craft, and refusing to use a blocking force, they committed the US to a much more difficult war in South Vietnam.

They further complicated the war within South Vietnam by restricting the number of troops below that needed to control the space. Unlike Iraq where the commanders have gotten all the troops they requested, in Vietnam troops provided were always significantly below the amount requested. ( I know about Shinseki's observation of troops needed in post war Iraq, but he was never a commander of operations in Iraq and his statement was made in the context of a wag (wild ass guess) in a congressional hearing and not as a result of analysis by staffers working the problem. The facts are that Gen. Franks and Gen Abizaid got the troops they requested.

The WMD "lied us into war meme" is also weak. First those making it also believed Saddam had WMD, they just were not willing to go to war to remove the threat. Second there were several reasons beyond that for going to war and one of the most important was Saddam's failure to account for his WMD as required by his cease fire agreement in 1991 and by numerous UN resolutions. His failure to account was reason enough to believe he posed a threat. Even after all the work by the Iraqi survey group, much of his WMD is still unaccounted for. Saddam's failure to account put the US in the position of taking the word of a madman or going to war. Apparently the crits would have preferred to take the word of a despotic psychopath.
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Old 01-04-2006   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merv Benson
They further complicated the war within South Vietnam by restricting the number of troops below that needed to control the space. Unlike Iraq where the commanders have gotten all the troops they requested, in Vietnam troops provided were always significantly below the amount requested. ( I know about Shinseki's observation of troops needed in post war Iraq, but he was never a commander of operations in Iraq and his statement was made in the context of a wag (wild ass guess) in a congressional hearing and not as a result of analysis by staffers working the problem. The facts are that Gen. Franks and Gen Abizaid got the troops they requested.
I wonder if this is because they really donít see a need for more troops or because they feel pressured not to use more troops. If so they wouldnít be the first senior officers to tailor their assessment to please political bosses. The fact of the matter is that the number of troops in Iraq has always been unusually small for that type of mission (historical speaking). Also while Shinseki was never a commander there I donít think his assessment can be dismissed as a guess, the man has vast experience in these types of affairs. For the senior political leadership to dismiss out of hand the recommendations of the Army Chief of Staff shows that their minds were made up about the war and how they would deal with Iraq, decisions which seem to have come back to haunt us all.
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Old 01-05-2006   #10
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Default Troop numbers in Iraq

Both the Secretary of Defense and the President have said repeatedly that if the commanders want more troops all they have to do is ask for them, That does not sound like they are being pressured not to ask for them. The commanders have also repeatedly testified before the congress that they did not need more troops. I get the impression that they felt like the smaller foot print to maintain the situation until the Iraqis could take over was their plan all along. They all have been recommending Laurences Seven Pillars which says you need to get the Arabs involved. At this point I do not see any reason not to take the commanders at their word.
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Old 01-05-2006   #11
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I disagree, after what happened with Shinseki it would have been obvious to anyone what answer the administration wanted to hear with regards to troops levels. That is very obvious pressure to not ask for more troops. Also Laurence is good reading but he was trying start a guerrilla war not end one, just something to think about.
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Old 01-06-2006   #12
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Default Troop requests

Stu-6,

The position you are suggesting is that the President, the Secretary of Defense, Gen. Abizid, Gen. Franks and Gen. Casey are not telling the truth. Do you really believe that?
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Old 01-06-2006   #13
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Default It's more complicated

Our President is definitely a leader, and while he may or may not harbor private doubts, he can’t afford to air them in public. Can you imagine the impact on our revolution if George Washington aired his serious doubts about our Army’s chances of winning to the common soldier at Valley Forge? Our current national leaders understand the concepts of leadership and loyalty, and obviously have the best interests of our nation foremost in mind when they make decisions, but there is a dangerous flip side to this also that can lead to poor decision making despite everyone’s best intentions.

I’m not pretending to be a sociologist or a psychologist, and definitely welcome the opinions of those who are better versed in these fields than I am, but as a long time observer of human behavior (like the rest of us) I think there are factors that weigh on our decision making and perceptions that prevent us from being as objective as we would like, and these are very prevalent in the military service. Two relevant factors I think are relevant are Group Think and loyalty.

Group think is when a group shares a certain view of the world, and if you don’t share it you may very well find yourself outside the group, such as GEN Shinseki did. GEN Shinseki’s analysis about several things ranging from the Stryker Bde concept to the amount of forces needed in Iraq to conduct stability operations were correct based on his well reasoned assumptions (his estimate was not a WAG as stated earlier). However, if you assumed like many in the administration that the Iraqis would embrace us and that mankind naturally embraces democracy then GEN Shinseki’s estimates would seem absurd. Can there be two truths? Within the Army there are different positions (or opposing Group Think positions) on this, so we are far from a consensus. Several senior officers state off the record that they think we need more troops, but out of “loyalty” to their chain of command feel morally constrained from going public with their opinions, then there is another Group of officers that sincerely think we need to downsize our forces in OIF, because they believe our presence is the catalyst that drives the insurgency. Both sides can make logical supporting arguments for their cases, but Group Think generally prevents us from honestly considering a view of the world that is counter to our Group. Groups tend to cherry pick intelligence, history, and daily incidents to support their Group’s view. Objective thinking is hard work, because it requires subordinating the ego to logic, and it can be especially hard if you reach conclusions that are counter to your Group’s commonly held perceptions (paradigm shifts).

So we have a combination of loyalty and Group Think that tends to make the truth far from perfect, but that isn’t necessarily the act of lying. In short, I don’t agree with Stu’s statement that our senior officers are under no pressure not to ask for more troops. Group Think and loyalty provide that pressure, and would have a big impact on me if I was in their shoes, because I would think that if I asked for more troops that I would be hurting our President, so I would be very hesitant to do so, even if I really thought that the right answer based on my assessments. The President is not pressuring them, but the influence of Group Think and loyalty is because that is what we perceive as the President’s intent. This is a global phenomenon, not something uniquely American. The old saying about the emperor not wearing any clothes obviously has it roots in long established truths about the way people interact with their leaders. The emperor longs for the truth, but the emperor’s subjects tell the emperor what “they” think he wants to hear.

Another old saying that should be considered is that truth is the first casualty of war. Probably all of our nation’s leaders throughout history had to painfully decide when to lie to the American people for national security purposes. It is a challenging ethical question for a democracy and a nation that is built on its values more than anything else. There is a big difference about lying about having sex with that woman and lying about what the NSA is doing. One is self serving and the other serves to protect the nation, or so we think, but in so doing are we threatening the constitution we swore to defend? No easy answers that I can see, so Charlie Mike (or continue mission)

Last edited by Bill Moore; 01-06-2006 at 05:41 AM.
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Old 01-06-2006   #14
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Default Group think and force to space

Bill raises some interesting points about group think. It is interesting that when Schartzkoph was asked if he had all he needed he had no difficulty in asking for more. It is not really a question of whether Shinseki or Franks and Abizaid were right on the number of troops needed, it is really a question of what is the best way to get to that number. For reasons that appear sound to me, Abizaid and Casey thought that the best way to get to the force to space ration needed was through training Iraqis and making them responsible. This was a decision that obviously lengthened the time it took to suppress the enemy in western Anbar where US forces were frustrated by having to buy the same ground more than once. I think they were concerned that if the US supplied that force it would result in two problems. The first is greater resistance to US occupation than Iraqi occupation. The second is the Laurence point, if you do not get the Iraqis involved in their own defense, they would have been content to let us do it for a longer time. I think there is a third element also working based on advice from Israel and that relates to the matter of intelligence. Initially when the more troops issue was raised the command's response was that they did not need more troops, they needed better intelligence. It appears that they wound up getting better intelligence when they got more Iraqi troops involved.
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Old 01-06-2006   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merv Benson
Stu-6,

The position you are suggesting is that the President, the Secretary of Defense, Gen. Abizid, Gen. Franks and Gen. Casey are not telling the truth. Do you really believe that?
That is not even close to what I am suggestion. What I am saying is that there is obvious pressure on those involved not to ask for more troops and that may be influencing their actions. In fact I think that is a very high probability, but I have not accused anyone of not telling the truth as they see it . . . yet.
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Old 01-10-2006   #16
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I dont think anyone here is suggesting that our leadership has been dishonest; however, it is difficult to understand how every after-action report you read written from someone other than a general officer or think-tank states that we lack the appropriate numbers of infantry. While the number of troops necessary in Iraq may in fact only be 150,000; it needs to be 150,000 ground combat forces, and not 35,000 infantry or provisional infantry and 115,000 support personnel to include all members of the National Guard. If New York City maintains a police force of nearly 30,000, then surely a congruent amount of infantry is needed in Iraq. It is all about expectations. If you cannot secure your own border at home, should anyone expect that we can do it in Iraq? If you cannot stop drugs and other contraband from freely flowing around the US, can we expect to stop the flow of bombs and weapons around Iraq?
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Old 01-29-2006   #17
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Default Vietnam...

US Army Center of Military History - Reorganizing for Pacification Support - study by Thomas Scoville.

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This study describes the background and implementation of President Lyndon Johnson's decision in May 1967 to create a civil/military organization, Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development; Support--CORDS, to manage US advice and support to the South Vietnamese government's pacification program. It focuses on the years 1966*68 when the organization was conceived and established, and it relates events both from the perspective of government leadership in Washington and the US mission in Saigon. Over these years, the organization changed three times, culminating in CORDS. Each change is examined with special emphasis on the role of important officials, such as General Westmoreland, Ambassador Komer, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and President Johnson.
Parameters - Blowtorch: Robert Komer and the Making of Vietnam Pacification Policy - article by Frank Jones.

Quote:
From Komerís arrival in Vietnam in May 1967 through the end of the pacification program in February 1973, two leading authorities on this subject, Richard Hunt and Thomas Scoville, credit Komer, who left Vietnam in November 1968, and his successor, William Colby, later Director of Central Intelligence, with making CORDS largely successful on several levels.

First, Komer integrated the organization effectively into the US Mission and Westmorelandís headquarters, thereby promoting healthy working relationships with Bunker and Westmoreland and helping CORDS not only survive later changes in military and political leadership but improving, as was necessary, US military-civilian coordination and programs under a single manager. Although the US military contributed the bulk of the personnel, funding, and resources, civilians held numerous policymaking positions as well as serving as field advisers, thereby improving cooperation between military and civilians...
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Old 02-01-2006   #18
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Default Final fate of Father Hoa of Vietnam?

In another group I mentioned Father Hoa in Vietnam. Somebody asked if I knew of his final fate - I do not. And, I haven't found anything on the web that might indicate what happened to him or the other "fighting fathers" after the fall of Saigon.

Does anybody here know any details on this subject?
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Old 04-11-2006   #19
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Default Vietnam's Forgotten Lessons

11 April Washington Post commentary - Vietnam's Forgotten Lessons by Richard Cohen.

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...We all know the cliche about generals fighting the last war, but in Iraq it is not the tactics that were duplicated -- certainly not compared to the Persian Gulf War -- but the tendency of the military to do what it was told and keep its mouth shut. Shelton, who retired in 2001, cannot be blamed for this and maybe no one but Donald Rumsfeld can, but the fact remains that the United States fought a war many of its military leaders thought was unnecessary, unwise, predicated on false assumptions and incompetently managed. Still, no one really spoke up.

Now, some have -- although from retirement. In recent days, three former senior officers have called for Rumsfeld to be sacked. The most recent is Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who does not stop at faulting Rumsfeld but blames himself as well. "I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat -- al-Qaeda," he writes in a Time magazine article this month. He joins Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, who commanded the training of Iraqi security forces and who has also called on President Bush to fire Rumsfeld. "President Bush should accept the offer to resign that Mr. Rumsfeld says he has tendered more than once," Eaton wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece.

The third retired general is Anthony Zinni, a four-star Marine with vast experience in the Middle East. (He was Bush's Israeli-Palestinian negotiator for a while.) He goes further than (merely) recommending Rumsfeld's political defenestration. He also strongly suggests that something is broken in the American military, that its priories are misplaced. Too many senior officers put their careers first and candor or honesty second. One who did not, the then-Army chief of staff, Eric K. Shinseki, was rebuked by Rumsfeld and his career essentially ended. After that, the brass knew that the path to promotion was to get with the program. They saluted Rumsfeld and implemented a plan many of them thought was just plain irresponsible...
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Old 04-11-2006   #20
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Default Recycling myths

Cohen recycles the Shinseki myth. The General served his full term before retiring.

Cohen also tries to make a comparison between McNamara and Rumsfeld which fails when faced with the facts. McNamara turned down requests for troops and Rumsfeld did not. Rumsfeld has said tht he was prepared to provide 400,000 or more troops for the Iraqi operation, but that General Franks and General Abizaid told him they did not need that many.

I am not being critical of that judgement on their part, but if you are going to criticize the decision on the number of troops, it should be focused on the General's decisions and their rational and not on some mythical restrictions by the President and Secretary of Defense who have consistently said that the troops levels are a decision made by the commanders. If you have any doubt on this, just read the Prolog to Tommy Franks' book American Soldier.

I think guys like Cohen know they could not win a debate with the generals so they keep hacking away at a strawman argument.

Having former generals second guessing those who succeeded them is nothing new. Many have made a career of it on TV. Cohen just likes Zinni et.al. because they reinforce his prejudice. There are a lot of former generals out there who probably support the decisions of Franks and Abizaid, but because of that fact their opinions are not news.

In case you are not aware of the arguments for the smaller number of troops, there are several including an offensive based on a rapid advance that disorients and overwhelms the enemy. More troops would have made this much more difficult because of the logistical support train needed for the additional troops. Winning in three weeks pretty well confirms Franks' judgement on that point. In terms of troops needed after major combat operations, Abizaid wanted to have the Iraqis take over the combat space as soon as possible. When the Iraqi Army disintegrated during the war, rebuilding became a major task, with several blips along the way. However, the new Iraqi Army is taking shape and taking over much of the battle space and is giving the force to space ratio needed to make the insurgency less effective.

There is obviously more to it than I can summarize in this space, but if you read Franks book you will not regret it.
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