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  • Archive for the 'Vietnam' Category

    Two COINs for a Sunday Night

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 29th March 2010 (All posts by )



    Rufus Phillips

    Rufus Phillips:

    In 1954, as a young Army officer detailed to the CIA with little experience, Rufus Phillips became a member of what was then called the Saigon Military Mission – several years before America’s military involvement in Vietnam became a matter of public record. He worked directly under Col. Edward Lansdale, the Air Force officer working for the CIA who was responsible for managing the U.S. presence and advising the nascent South Vietnamese government of President Ngo Dinh Diem – trying, for example, to convince Diem to post realistic-looking election results. As the war progressed and America’s involvement deepened, Phillips led counterinsurgency efforts and won the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit for his work; later, he became a consultant for the State Department and served as an adviser to Vice President Hubert Humphrey until the 1968 election.

    Phillips wrote a book Why Vietnam Matters and gave a lecture and Q&A session on it at the Pritzker Military Library on 11.22.2008. Phillips was concerned with outlining the lessons he learned in Vietnam and how they applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. One interesting observation Phillips made is on the domino theory in response to an audience question. He argued that the domino theory was very much in play in the mid-1950s in Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam. There was no organized native government at all so a few Commie insurgents showing up with a rifle was enough to constitute a government. This was less true in later years when those nations had developed some institutional strength, though it’s interesting that Laos and Cambodia followed South Vietnam in succumbing to Communist rule rather quickly…almost like dominoes.

    There is a video of the lecture here and an MP3 here.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq, Middle East, Vietnam, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    You Really Want to Remind Us of That, John Kerry?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 27th October 2009 (All posts by )

    In an Afghanistan policy speech, [h/t Instapundit] John Kerry evokes a famous phrase from his infamous testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971.

    David Sanger mentioned that in 1971 I asked the Foreign Relations Committee “how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

    I think it relevant to the contemporary debate to recall what else he said in that testimony:

    I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

    It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.
    They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.[emp added]

    Just to be clear, the Winter Soldier “investigation” was shortly proven to be wholly fraudulent.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anti-Americanism, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Vietnam | 7 Comments »

    Terrorism’s Heart of Darkness

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 14th September 2009 (All posts by )

    This post, entitled Assessing Counter-Terror Since 9/11 is worth reading. But one line jumped out at me.

    Successful terror attacks require real skills at surveillance, security, and usually explosives manufacture. None of these skills are easy to acquire. Most successful attacks have involved someone with real training, usually acquired in Pakistan. By monitoring movements to and from Pakistan (and other areas that could be training centers) and extensive sharing between national intelligence agencies suspect activity can be identified and monitored.

    (emphasis added) It is axiomatic that terrorism usually requires state sponsorship to be effective, and this post makes a strong case that this axiom has ongoing validity — and that the worst state sponsor is Pakistan. (This is consistent with other things I have read.) In fact, according to this post, it is so bad that you can monitor terrorists generally by monitoring who comes and goes from Pakistan. That, if true, is intolerable.

    I had a good visit this weekend with our colleague Zenpundit. One of the things we talked about was the seeming lack of strategy underlying American policy. It has been spasmodic and reactive. We contrasted the current “three wars” — The Global War on Terror, the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, none of which have a goal or an articulated means to reach that goal (i.e. a strategy) which is worthy of the name.

    Contrast this with two very successful strategies. In World War II our strategy was “Germany First”. Two words, and all else flowed from it. In the Cold War our strategy was “Containment” or “Containing Communism”. This over-arching aim held through thick and thin and we eventually succeeded in our aim of containment.

    In the current conflict we seem to be floundering around. The goal in both Iraq and Afghanistan is to arrange things so we can leave. In other words, we are admitting that we should not have invaded either place and that we cannot accomplish much of anything of value by being there. We just don’t want to make things worse by the way we leave. This reminds me of the sort of prestige-based decision-making that kept us in Vietnam. The current vision of population-centric COIN appears to be way too expensive and time consuming to be worth doing on a big scale in Afghanistan. Gen. Krulak’s recent letter to George Will is one example of a proposed different course. As Afghanistan becomes “Obama’s War” I hope we will see some creative thinking.

    In the meantime, I am thinking more and more that the focus should be on state sponsors of terrorism. The main sponsor of terrorism is Pakistan. Of course, there is no “Pakistan” but rather factions within Pakistan. Nonetheless, if we are going to focus our military and political energy anywhere, it should be on ending Pakistan as a source of terrorism.

    I am not yet committed to the idea, but I suggest “Pakistan First” as our strategy. I do not mean conquer and occupy Pakistan. I mean compel the government there, but whatever combination of carrots and sticks, to stop supporting terrorism and to actively work to stop terrorism originating within its borders.

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, Politics, Terrorism, Vietnam | 28 Comments »

    Accidental Wars

    Posted by Shannon Love on 3rd September 2009 (All posts by )

    In this Reason Hit&Run post, the vile Patrick Buchanan takes a well deserved beating for his bizarre and ahistorical defense of Adolf Hitler in WWII. However, as loathsome, racist and stupid as he is, Buchanan is correct about one thing: Hitler did not intend to start a second world war that would drag in every industrialized country and leave 3/4 of the industrialized world in ruins.

    Instead, Hitler planned on fighting a short, sharp war in Poland. Based on his experience at Munich, he expected that France and Britain would either merely raise a token protest or that they would would fight briefly, realize that they couldn’t recover Poland and then negotiate a peace. He never envisioned that he would fight a gotterdammerung war of global destruction.

    Hitler miscalculated. In this he was far from alone. In the 20th Century every war that involved a liberal democracy resulted from the miscalculation of an autocratic leadership.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Korea, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, Terrorism, United Nations, Vietnam, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Well, the anti-war folks are always fighting the last anti-war.

    Rand Simberg

    Posted in National Security, Politics, Quotations, Vietnam, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    A Reflection on Watching Krauthammer

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th August 2007 (All posts by )

    The USA sent Canada its draft dodgers. In exchange, Canada sends us physicians, successful entrepreneurs and other highly productive people. I’d say we have gotten the better of this exchange.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Entrepreneurship, Immigration, Leftism, North America, Political Philosophy, Society, USA, Vietnam | 16 Comments »

    The Vietnam War (eventually) resulted in an American victory

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 2nd June 2007 (All posts by )

    There is a pretty heated discussion about the war in Vietnam, among other things, in the comments of this post by Ginny, so these observations by Jerry Pournelle should contribute some useful context:

    Viet Nam was a US success because a great part of Soviet transport production including trucks and such was built in the USSR, transported at great expense to Viet Nam and destroyed by USAF. When North Viet Nam invaded the South in 1975 they had more armor than the Wehrmacht had at Kursk, and more trucks than Patton ever had in the Red Ball Express. This was all replacements for similar amounts of materiel destroyed in 1973 when the US at a cost of 663 US casualties aided ARVN in repulsing a 150,000 troop invasion — fewer than 40,000 ever got back home — bringing with it more tanks than the Wehrmacht had at Kursk and more trucks than Patton ever had — none of which ever got home.
    Viet Nam helped convert the USSR into Bulgaria with missiles. They neglected their own infrastructure to send materiel to Viet Nam for us to destroy.

    As Pournelle also writes in his post, Afghanistan was yet another war of attrition that finished them off. One important reason why the Soviets didn’t realize all that in time was that they lied to each other. If displeasing your superiors with reports about problems is risky, you simply report successes all the time. The West in turn didn’t notice what happened because our spies didn’t get to hear anything but the misinformation Soviet officials were feeding each other. That’s also why the victory in Vietnam didn’t feel like one for decades. While Iraq isn’t Vietnam (it can’t be repeated frequently enough), the example of the long-term success that the Vietnam turned out to be should serve to demonstrate the virtue of patience. Iraq will only turn into a defeat (in the long as well as the short run) in case of a premature troop withdrawal (but that is an issue for another post).

    Posted in History, National Security, Vietnam, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    War Movies IV

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 29th April 2004 (All posts by )

    I finally saw Mel Gibson’s We Were Soldiers (2002). My sister got me the DVD, and I watched it on the laptop. Small screen indeed. I thought it was a solid effort. Gibson is a competent but not brilliant film-maker, who knows his limits and operates within them. He reminds me of something George Thorogood (I think) once said — I only know three chords, but I know ’em cold. Gibson, similarly, knows how to do war and violence and mourning and survivor?s guilt, stoicism and family life all in a very plain and unironic style. Gibson also uses stock characters — the tough commander with a heart of gold, the hard-ass top sergeant, the handsome and idealistic officer doomed to die, etc. This all works decently well in Gibson’s hands, though it is a set of artistic blunt instruments he is wielding. Gibson tells a linear story — a war is underway, troops assemble, a leader (Lt. Col. Hal Moore, played by Gibson) appears, Moore trains them, he leads them into battle, many die, there is mourning over the dead. The parallel plot about the wives at home receiving death notices allows a counterpoint to the din of gunfire, explosions and screaming, wounded men. Moore’s wife is played in a convincing and dignified way by Madeleine Stowe. She is a good actress, with striking looks, who seems to have spent almost her entire career being squandered in sub-par movies. A third somewhat muted parallel plot has unidentified men in Saigon trying to figure out how to “sell” the story of what is happening back home. This allows the suffering and courageous soldiers to be contrasted with a cynical leadership which cares nothing for their lives and which has, in effect, betrayed them before it even committed them to battle. This seems true to historical fact, alas. It is also a theme which has deep roots in American war cinema, including the similar scenes in Pork Chop Hill (discussed here). Some scenes shown from the point of view of the NVA commander and his men are done well, and the NVA soldiers are depicted without rancor or ideology.

    The battle scenes are graphic in the contemporary post-Private Ryan style. However, it seemed to me that both the Air Cav troopers and the NVA regulars all fought too bunched up. There were repeated charges, by both sides, with men standing only a few feet away from each other, against an opponent with automatic weapons. That struck me as wrong. This led to a video-game-like destruction of many NVA troops by the Americans. I suspect they did not die quite so easy. Also, an American counter-attack at the end led to a very “Hollywood” moment which did not strike me as plausible. But, I haven’t read here).

    The fact that the critics hated this movie on ideological grounds was strong and accurate reassurance that I would like it. One film reviewer I read (can’t find a link; it was a long time ago) went on about how it was mawkish, corny and unbelievable to see Lt. Col. Moore, saying prayers with his children at bedtime. Since I and millions of other parents do the exact same thing, this scene in the movie struck me as perfectly normal. Apparently this particular film reviewer has never met anyone in person who prays with his children. A classic contrast between red state and blue state America right there.

    All in all, We Were Soldiers is a good movie. Better than The Patriot, not as good as Braveheart. Worth seeing. Three stars.

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, Vietnam, War and Peace | 5 Comments »