“Deja Vu all over again?”

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I was sent this pair of "Army Times" articles by a friend now serving in the military advisory effort in Iraq.  These stories give a good picture of what is happening on the ground country wide.  I have advocated this kind of approach for several years and so am happy to see it progressing.

I do have a few comments on the "understanding" expressed in the stories of what the analogous situation was like in South Viet Nam.

It will be interesting to see if the country (Iraq) can pull itself together enough to sustain what they are building. I would say that the outcome in that area is still in doubt.

As for VN, Anthony Cordesmann (a brilliant scholar) doesn’t really know anything about the war there except what he has read, which is a lot. In fact, the early advisory efforts in that country failed because the communist army (NVA) that had defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu, was brought to the South to deal with increasing SVN capability. This was in 1964. All of a sudden in that year, Special Forces (SF) led irregulars and the half trained Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) found themselves facing regimental sized units of highly skilled regulars under the command of men who had defeated a major European army ten years before. Before that happened they had been fighting the guerrillas of the local Viet Cong.

Incidentally, the ARVN was never trained by SF. There was a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in country from start to finish who did that. The unit advisers with ARVN units all belonged to the MAAG.

SF trained tribals and villagers in the boondocks to try to organize what amounted to counter-guerrillas at the village level. This also failed because the camps that were the bases for that activity were under continual pressure and frequent assault by the NVA. The villages could not be organized because the SF and their men were engaged in Ranger type light infantry operations rather than in doing counterinsurgency work among the people of the countryside. SF led Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) troops were, in effect, a separate army which fought the NVA in the vast woods and mountains of Indochina.

US Maneuver units attempted to destroy the NVA in the major battles of 1965-1967. This produced a lot of big fights but not much movement because the enemy always brought forward more men from North Vietnam to make up their losses.

A reversion to counterinsurgency occurred in 1967 with the creation of CORDS.

The MAAG continued to supply all the advisers to the very end.  It was claimed there (in Vietnam), as well, that service as an adviser counted as much in one’s career as service in a US unit. This proved not to be true.

Pat Lang

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One Response to “Deja Vu all over again?”

  1. angela says:

    Certainly there has been and is a fair amount of pressure for this kind of approach. Civilian teams working among the people is also a nice, if perhaps unsafe idea.
    I think whether or not it’s career building will depend on a lot of things including success, from what I can make out tensions still remain between old guard army and various counter insurgency approaches.
    Of course if things go bad and the Shiite rise against us them hundreds of small teams dispersed among them make us vulnerable. Another reason why we have to go delicately with Iran.

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