Not like Vietnam?

Coverb_med1 People want to say that Iraq is not Vietnam.  I guess that is understandable.  We lost in Vietnam, not on the battlefield, not there, but as the NVA colonel said, that was irrelevant.  The politicians don’t want to say the two wars are similar.  That would make them losers.  Today’s soldiers don’t want to say the two wars are alike for the same reason.  Actually, most people today have no idea what Vietnam was like.  No idea.

I think there are a lot of similarities.  These two articles make those similarities eerily clear to one who served in that other lost struggle.

Stu Herrington is a friend.  I talked to him a few days ago.  His opinions, quoted in the Kaplan piece are something that should be listened to…

For me, the two big differences in these wars, are;

1- The absence of unity among our adversaries in Iraq.  In Vietnam the communists ran everything on the other side.  There was no doubt whatever in what you were facing.  Their chain of command ran downhill in a straight line from Hanoi to some little village militia unit in the Mekong Delta with whom you might be contesting control of the local population.

2-  There is no real army on the other side in the Iraq War.  So far, there are no regiments and divisions equipped with solid equipment (sometimes tanks and artillery) There is nothing like the 308th NVA Division.  I remember talking to captured members of that division.  Some of the "old timers" had fought the French at Dien Bien Phu.  So far we have not seen the kind of fighting in which whole US rifle companies disappeared in a day of fighting, melted like snow, melted away while attacking. 

What is overwhelmingly the same is the war against the guerrillas.  That is the war that Petraeus intends to prosecute to the end.

Lurking in the background is the ineptitude of the Bush Administration and America as a whole in trying to cope with the reality of the foreignness of Iraq.  We were better at this 30 years ago, some of us.  Imagine the foolishness of having a group of American policy wonks and wonkettes with no knowledge of the Middle East draft a constitution for a place as foreign as Iraq.  That is what Bremer’s "government" did.  Read it and weep.  pl

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116 Responses to Not like Vietnam?

  1. Peter Principle says:

    The best way to put it, I think, is that Iraq IS like Vietnam — but almost all the similarities are on OUR side.
    Except, as Col. Lang points out, the “best and the brightest” are even dumber and dimmer than they were back then.

  2. Duncan Kinder says:

    What is overwhelmingly the same is the war against the guerrillas. That is the war that Petraeus intends to prosecute to the end.
    What proponents of the Iraq War ( as well as proponents of the Vietnam War, for that matter ) tend to miss or to deny is that for nearly a century now guerrilla armies have repeatedly fared well or prevailed in diverse circumstances against conventional armies – Yugoslavia, China, Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc.
    The point is that conventional armies depend upon an industrialized society to back them up. You, Col. Lang, have often written about the importance of logistics. That, in turn, gives rise to the question of where do these logistics come from. This includes factories, managers, Rosie-the-Riviters, scientists, and all of the other paraphernalia of a modern industrialized society.
    Guerilla armies, in contrast, are backed up by different social systems, which do not have all this industrial paraphernalia and which are comprised of individuals who largely do not want or are not able to become part of such paraphernalia.
    That is what guerrilla / conventional warfare really is all about – what sort of social structure will prevail.
    Therefore, debates over whether Vietnam was “won” ” over there” or “over here” miss the point. The point is that the body politic of Vietnam, at that time, rejected the Western social structure much as a heart transplant patient’s immune system might reject a transplanted heart. Apparently, Iraq today likewise is rejecting the proposed transplant of democracy.

  3. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Per comparisons: Recently, I had the opportunity of an excellent briefing from the Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) per Iraq situation.
    Two factors interested me: 1) the skillful use of the Internet by the “bad guys” (BG?).
    2) changing technical environment linked to consumer electronics industry that BG take advantage of and incorporate into ieds.
    The budget for this DOD org is over $4 billion annually.
    After the briefing, I indicated in discussion that what I saw presented per shaped charges against “icon vehicles” in Iraq reminded me of what I saw in Southern Africa in the late 1970s.
    Are the Israeli weapons systems, such as the Marine Corps recent Golan vehicle purchase, the US is using in Iraq negative locally from a public relations standpoint?

  4. Nancy Kimberlin says:

    The main similarity between Vietnam and Iraq is the US should not have entered into either of these wars.

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Your remarks reflect the “received wisdom” of the defense academics about this kind of thing.
    1- In Vietnam the enemy relied on exactly the same kind of logistics as any other army. Their forces were resupplied continuously and in volume by a highly organised set of supply lines that ran through Laos and Cambodia from the north before turning east into VN. Goods moved over those purpose built roads by truck convoy, elephant and other beasts of burden, by bicycle with side panniers. Weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, food (rice in mountains) etc. Both the NVA and the main forces of the VC were supplied that way. They could never, ever have supplied their forces by living off the peasants.
    In the parts of the country along the borders to the west that they controlled as redoubt areas, they established factories for making uniforms and for maintenance purposes. Sometimes, these were underground, sometimes they were not. They established food growing areas in some areas that were completely under their control. These were run by units of the NVA. All these “industrial” areas were in parts of the country nearly uninhabited by town dwelling vietnamese.
    2- In Iraq, the insurgents have been “living” in part off the mountain of ordnance that the previous government left scattered all over the country, but for key components of their “infernal machines” they rely on imported electronic parts ordered either as specific parts or as components of consumer electronics. These boards and other components are ordered over the internet and delivered into the country by the package delivery services operating there. The inablility of the Iraqi insurgents to establish more robust external lines of supply is what keeps them from growing larger forces, that and the lack of unity that I mentioned.
    3- You mistake the ideology of the Viet Minh/ VC / NVA. It sounds quite romantic the way you put it, like something from Fanon, but in fact the enemy we faced in SE Asia was a product of French education and European thinking on nationalism and marxism. Remember that Ho Chi Minh was a founding member of the French Communist Party, and that Giap was educated at a good lycee and normal school and was a teacher in the French colonial school system. That enemy was very tightly organiaed along lines that mirrored ours. It was the Vietnamese that we sided with who represented traditional Confucianist society. Most of them never really got their minds around the idea that country was more important than family. The enemy side understood that clearly.
    Lastly, as is mentioned in the Kaplan article, the guerrillas had pretty much been defeated in VN by 1972. pl

  6. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am posting this twice for educational purposes.
    Today (20-th of March) is the New Year according to the Persian Solar Calendar; No-Ruz (New Day in Persian) is being celebrated from Syria all the way to the Chinese border.
    The festivities will be on-going for the next few days; in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey ( by the Kurds), in Iran, Azerbaijan Republic, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and parts of Pakistan.
    This is the biggest holiday of the year – and the year is 1386.

  7. Matthew says:

    Clearly, training Georgians to replace Iraqi employees in Iraq makes perfect sense….no wonder it’s a disaster.

  8. JfM says:

    We are an impatient people and have been all of our existence as a nation. It is simultaneously one of strongest attributes while also one of our most debilitating strategic weaknesses. As much as any other national characteristic, it was impatience that made us the world’s center of economic and technological innovation and growth. Generally under the right circumstances, national impatience can be a force for good. In the realm of foreign policy with o0ther and strange international cadences involved, impatience can be a spoiler.
    Our failure with the inaccurately labeled, “Palestinian Question” is largely attributable to our impatience. Trying to serve as a self-described “honest broker” has largely accomplished little and cost us much in terms of our own treasure and regional standing. First, our insistence of “honest broker” is a sham, a fig leaf far too small to cover our real disposition. And our predictable impatience which finds us wanting some peace construct between the sides more than the side wants resolution dooms us from the git-go.
    Sometimes, even in the foreign policy world, our impatience can work to an overall advantage with better outcomes than actions pursued at the half step. But when coupled with stunning arrogance and breathtaking ignorance, impatience in necessary groundwork to leverage later successes simply puts the bus in the ditch much faster. We may have learned the lessons of Vietnam but in the intervening years we seem to have forgotten them. Maybe this time, but I doubt it. We are an impatient people to our core.

  9. rjh says:

    I am always reminded of a discussion I had with a construction manager shortly before the final fall in Vietnam. He was full of confidence and ready to go out and rebuild bridges as soon as the NVA were pushed back away from Hue. This pessimism at home was completely unjustified. “You should see the great things we are building.” I didn’t witness, but did read, the equally delusional reports of the French regarding control of Delta territory just one year before Dien Bien Phu. Again, the optimism was overwhelming.
    The biggest difference is that then we were proud that we could rebuild bridges that had been blown. Now we seem to settle for painting schools.

  10. Chris Marlowe says:

    I frequently wonder if there is any floor to American arrogance, ignorance and stupidity? Is there a point where I can say to myself, my family and my friends “We have reached bottom, it can only get better from here. Be sad for now, but cheer up, the future will be better.”
    I have come to the sad conclusion that in America, there is no bottom. It’s just a free-fall.
    The only upside to all this is that George W. Bush has made it apparent to the whole world. When South Vietnam fell, Gerald Ford exhibited some decency in his treatment of the Vietnamese refugees. Not so with George W. Bush, who is too busy leading his crusade against Islamofascism.
    As for Petraeus, I would venture to say that Bush is the only person in Washington who is delusional enough to think that there can be victory in Iraq, and still say so publicly with a straight face.
    For everyone else, the best Petraeus can offer is a decent interval before the inevitable end comes.

  11. arbogast says:

    There is a very great difference between military tactics/winning the war and debating what purpose the war is supposed to serve.
    Suppose we had won in Vietnam? I take it that would have meant today there would be a divided Vietnam, the South an ally of Western Democracies and the North an ally of China.
    Except that what has happened in reality is that Vietnam has become another manufacturing powerhouse like its neighbors and has embraced the same kind of capitalism that China has.
    A great many shoes sold in the United States are made in gigantic shoe-making “cities” in Vietnam. The Vietnamese workers are paid pennies a day. This occurs because American companies finance it and promote it. Is this what “American influence” means? Is this “the American Dream”?
    The war in Iraq is a colonial war. If Americans want to win a colonial war, they have the opportunity to do so right now. Colonies are tricky things, but here’s our chance.

  12. VietnamVet says:

    Yes, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA has not faced a main force Army that could battle it to a stalemate like in Korea or Vietnam. In East Asia, states arose led by the Communist Party after centuries of subservience that could fight Western invaders; States that downplayed religion but built upon their nationalist, cultural and historical unity against foreigners.
    In the Middle East the anti-colonial fight against the USA has not progressed to main force battles yet; mainly, because the states have been bribed into subservience by oil money. Iran is the exception. Its oil money built a religious militia that battled the Israeli Army last summer to a standstill. Like East Asia, Western hegemony in the Middle East is ending. The means and knowledge to drive out foreign armies is available, all it awaits is unification of a Muslim religious super state as the counter force to Christian and Jewish extremism.
    Western leaders who believe that Walter Cronkite and Jane Fonda lost the Vietnam War have no concept of the strength of mankind’s resolve to free itself of foreign invaders. 97% of Sunni Arabs oppose the presence of the USA in Iraq.
    Iran and genocide is next, rather than admit the inevitable failure of the American occupation; a forced withdrawal and economic Malaise.

  13. anna missed says:

    RE P.L.’s point#1,
    Over half of the Iraqi population (cutting across all ethnic/religious sects) agree that attacks on U.S. forces are to be condoned. While not exactly a “unity”, as expressed by a clearly defined political ideology and linier chain of command — it is still an amazing statistic. One that presumably, can account for the capacity of “spontanious generation” of seperate and diverse forms of insurgent groups, guided nonetheless by a shared mission. Perhaps it’s an anti-colonial gene born of historical grind, or perhaps, its the Koran itself. But, at any rate, what has been birthed by the American occupation is the ultimate COIN rubics cube insurgency, that seems all to willing to poison its host population in order to drivwe out the intruder.
    Oh, How they would love a distinct supply line, or a known chain of command — anything, that would fit into their “metric” world.

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “that could battle it to a stalemate like in Korea or Vietnam.”
    I do not think it is accurate to say that the NVA “battled (us) to a standstill.”
    And when we were mostly gone in ’72 their offensives in the north and at An Loc did not fare all that well. The combination of the ARVN and RVN and US air defeated them.
    Their village agitprop efforts had not done well by then and the massive bombing of North Vietnam after the temporary collapse of the peace talks caused them to back away.
    It was only after the de-funding of assistance to the RVN that Hanoi went over to the offensive in1975. The forces that then over-ran the country were their CONVENTIONAL forces. Remember the pictures of NVA riding tanks into Saigon. Those were not captured tanks. They were Soviet made and organic to those units. pl

  15. Duncan Kinder says:

    It is not a contraction to note that guerrilla forces often rely upon external sources of supply. Mao, for example, in his On the Protracted War, cited the existence of the Soviet Union as a vital factor.
    Nor is the Westernized background of guerrillas a necessary contradiction. Chou En-lai, for example, was educated in the West. Indeed, the cliche’ “familiarity breeds contempt” explains how Westernized Orientals can be distinctly anti-Western.
    Actually, Russian history contains some of the best discussions of this tension. Although, since Peter the Great, Russia did succeed in industrializing, it was difficult. This produced an anti-Western backlash. The writings of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky explore the psychological dynamics of this.
    Guerilla warfare, essentially, is a continuation of this same dynamic in which non-Western countries, unlike Russia, abandon entirely efforts to industrialize and adopt instead nonstandard tactics to repel what is to them an alien infection.

  16. Charles says:

    Pat, what I take from your comments above and on Late Edition, is that it might actually be possible to “win” in Iraq against the “Insurgency” with enough patient resolve, and this fate would be a kinder one than leaving them to the “hell on earth” of settling things amongst themselves.
    So now I could be talked into supporting a well prosecuted war to the end, knowing there’s not enough patient resolve to do so, thus defeating the purpose, delaying the inevitable “hell on earth”, and leaving me with my original Lennist conundrum.
    What Is To Be Done? given the respective Iraqui and American realities? What is the most realistic possible optimal course of American action for the best outcome for the Iraqui people and state?
    I think I have a handle on the best course for the American people and state – get the hell out now. And then watch the Afghan mission fail while Pakistan falls apart because of the original complete uninterrupted clusterf**k from the contracting out of the scouring of Tora Bora for Bin Laden to the present corruption of the the Karzai government and the completely bone-headed war on drugs thingy.
    I’m a work in progress too. For a good long stretch, my natural cynicism was constantly being attenuated by happy small-scale human realities, but now I’m just minded to hark back to General sir John Hackett’s old book, the Third World War – which, if you’re an optimist, you’d have to support.
    You well informed, realistic types have made me so confused. Thank you God, for letting me be so here rather than there.

  17. VietnamVet says:

    The US Army couldn’t defeat the NVA. The possible nuclear war precluded invasion of the North Vietnam. The NVA couldn’t defeat American Troops but preserved their supply lines and forward bases in Laos and extracted a terrible tool of Americans fighting for numbered hills that were abandoned afterwards. Every battle was fought at Vietnamese instigation.
    Years later reading “A Bright Shinning Lie”, I learned that the valley I spent a year was overrun in the 1972 Offensive. Once American troops left, the Vietnamese Communists retook control. The Americans sooner or later would have left South Vietnam. To stay meant a never ending war. That is a stalemate.
    The same for the Middle East as long as the USA occupies by force Iraq and Afghanistan. An invasion of Iran is impossible without the draft and gas rationing and could ultimately lead to a nuclear exchange. Yet, with so many squeals to Vietnam in play, a decision to take on Iran does not seem that impossible for the current President who doesn’t understand the strategy employed by the Vietnamese to unify their nation or the Sunni Arabs to rid their land of the hated infidels.

  18. walrus says:

    Excellent points Col. Lang and I agree with you.
    For me, the question is, “why weren’t the lessons of Vietnam applied in Iraq?”
    Surely, I thought, there must be one or two old foxes left who will indoctrinate the command about the likely risks after invasion and how to do the “risk management” to counter these risks?
    Unfortunately this was not the case.
    Before the war, I listened to the “shock and awe, net-centric fourth generation warfare” mantra of the Rumsfeldians and my skeptic meter pointer crept off zero.
    After the invasion, I was pleased to note the British in Basra blowing up Baath party offices and patrolling the streets in soft headgear on foot.
    Then I found out that in Baghdad we had not blown up Saadams palaces – instead we moved into them. My skeptic meter went into the red zone. What “messaeg” does this send the locals?
    Then I read over a year ago, an account of an IED attack on a convoy. The writer, some sort of Sergeant, explained “we live in a FOB, every two days we have to run this food and fuel convoy”.
    “Every two days????” What sort of dumbass training are you giving your officers? I bet the insurgents probably used an alarm clock to set off the IED. My skeptic meter peaked.
    Then last year I learned that with great fanfare the U.S. Army was rewriting its 25 year old manual on counterinsurgency. The skeptic meter went off the scale and bent the pointer!
    To put it politely, “Don’t these dumbasses ever learn?”
    Apparently not, for I was yesterday at an aerospace/defence exhibition, complete with U.S. Ambassador no less, and mockups of shiny new weapons.
    And proudly displayed in all this was an armoured personnel carrier with the “latest” modular cage to defeat RPG-7’s. There it sat, with photographs of troops sitting proudly inside their “cage”, staring out at Iraqis who were staring back. It made me want to cry, because it showed that exactly nothing has been learned.

  19. Sandy says:
    March 16, 2007
    Government Without Restraint
    The Last Days of Constitutional Rule
    The Bush administration’s greatest success is its ability to escape accountability for its numerous impeachable offenses.
    The administration’s offenses against US law, the US Constitution, civil liberties, human rights, and the Geneva Conventions, its lies to Congress and the American people, its vote-rigging scandals, its sweetheart no-bid contracts to favored firms, its political firing of Republican US Attorneys, its practice of kidnapping and torturing people in foreign hellholes, and its persecution of whistle blowers are altogether so vast that it is a major undertaking just to list them all.
    Bush admits that he violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and spied on US citizens without warrants, a felony under the Act. Bush has shown total disrespect for civil liberty and the Constitution and has suffered rebukes from the Supreme Count. The evidence is overwhelming that the Bush administration manufactured false “intelligence” to justify military aggression against Iraq. The Halliburton contract scandals are notorious, as is the use of electronic voting machines programmed to miscount the actual vote.
    The chief-of-staff to Vice President Cheney has been convicted for obstructing justice in the outing of a covert CIA officer. Proof of torture is overwhelming, and the Bush administration has even had the temerity to have permissive legislation passed after the fact that permits it to continue to torture “detainees.” The Sibel Edmonds and other whistle blower cases are well known. The Senate Judiciary Committee has just issued subpoenas to Justice (sic) Dept. officials involved in the scandalous removal of US Attorneys who refused to be politicized.
    Yet the Democrats have taken impeachment “off the table.” Many Democrats and Republicans and a great many Christians can contemplate illegal military aggression against Iran, but not the impeachment of the greatest criminal administration in US history. Far from being scandalized by what the entire world views as an unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US, leading Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination rushed to inform the Israel Lobby, AIPAC, that they, if elected, will keep US troops in Iraq.
    The previous occupant of the White House could not escape being impeached by the House of Representatives for lying about a consensual Oval Office sexual affair. President Nixon and his vice president, a saintly pair compared to Bush-Cheney, were both driven from office for offenses that are inconsequential by comparison.
    Liberals branded Ronald Reagan the “Teflon President,” but the neoconservatives’ Iran-Contra scandal was a mere dress rehearsal for their machinations in the Bush regime.
    What explains Bush-Cheney invulnerability to accountability?
    Perhaps the answer is that Bush has desensitized us. Like kids desensitized to violence by violent video games and movies and pornography addicts desensitized to sex, we have become desensitized by the avalanche of Bush-Cheney crimes, lies, and disdain for Congress, courts, and public opinion.
    Our elected representatives, if not the American people, now regard as normal such heinous actions as war crimes, the rape of the Constitution, self-serving use of government office, and the constant stream of lies and propaganda from the highest offices of the executive branch.
    Perhaps that is what disillusioned foreigners, who once looked with hope to America, mean when they say that America does not exist anymore.
    If the notion has departed that the highest political offices in the land are supposed to be occupied by people who are honest and faithful to their oath to the Constitution, then we are far advanced on the road to tyranny.
    In future history books, will Bush-Cheney mark the transition of the United States from constitutional rule to the unaccountable rule of the unitary executive who cancels out Congress with signing statements and silences critics with the police state means that are now part of the US legal code?
    Paul Craig Roberts held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University and was Senior Research Fellow in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

  20. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I will say it again. The NVA were in no sense guerrillas and their army functioned like any other army.
    You understand that I differentiate between them and the VC guerrillas?
    Your point seems to be that the NVA had “the initiative” throughout. There is merit to that argument in the “big picture” although we often had it in smaller engagements, and I don’t think the Ia Drang fighting in 1965 could be described that way.
    In a “perfect world” that would be true. This is far from a perfect world. If we had started to employ counterinsurgency doctrine with enough men four years ago we might be in a very different situation but that was then and this is now. pl

  21. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Per external supply lines:
    1. I return to the Southern African examples. Take the war in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia (ZR) that I saw some of. External support was organized roughly as follows: 1) ZR was divided into operational sectors. 2) each sector had a corresponding zone in an adjacent country for support. IE, from Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia. 3) Soviet advisors assisted the process of aid and support of the “guerilla” movements (“national liberation movements”) operating against the then government of ZR. 4) the operational sectors inside ZR were tribally based territories 5) Mugabe and Nkomo’s support bases were mobilized by tribe. Despite the “Communist” gloss, it was a tribal war I thought at the time: about 20,000 some dead of which only about 3,000 were white locals; rest were black Africans killed-butchered by black Africans.
    2. The use of IED’s in Southern African wars at the time was a salient feature. Usually either land mines (like in Afghanistan today) or arrangements of dynamite plentiful in the region owing to mining operations or both or other combinations to “boost” the effect. They were so problematic that the South Africans designed special vehicles to resist-deflect bottom blast, sort of v-hull things. It is logical, given the old Israeli connections in South Africa, that some of their vehicle sales to the US military reflect past South African innovations. I understand we are also using South African technology in Iraq.
    3. When later in Central America in the early 80s for the banana wars there (gratis Fidel and Moscow) I had an interesting experience. Debriefing a Sandinista officer, the topic turned to IEDs. He explained various techniques and so I said, “What you just said reminds me of what I saw in Southern Africa recently.” Said he, “Well I was trained by Africans (Angolans) at the Island of Pines, Cuba.” He had moved up the ladder from training camps on the Costa Rican border, to being selected for advanced training on the Island of Coiba off Panama, to a final selection for training in Cuba.
    Same old, same old and it is not rocket science.

  22. Grimgrin says:

    This reminds me of something Gwynne Dyer pointed out in his book “War”. If you go over the list of cases where guerrilla armies won, China and Cuba are the only cases where they managed to unseat a local government. If you look at South America or the Middle East, guerrillas and insurgents have fared badly against governments drawn from the same national/ethnic/religious group. In Colombia for example, where guerrilla movements enjoy the best possible terrain and ample funding from narcotics the guerrillas haven’t been able to do more than fight the government and paramilitaries to a stalemate.
    I think guerrillas get overrated. They don’t defeat conventional armies very often. What they do is make it so costly to keep an army in a country that their opponent gives up and leaves. After which you usually get a civil war or dictatorship depending on the strength and unity of the guerrillas.
    All this actually suggests another difference between Iraq and Vietnam. In Vietnam it seems like there was a concerted effort made to make America and it’s allies less foreign to the Vietnamese. In Iraq it doesn’t seem like the people running the war are even aware that that’s an issue.

  23. Cugel says:

    You do realize that the “NVA Colonel” who supposedly said in reply to an American officer who claimed we never lost a battle, “that is true, but it is also irrelevant” is TOTALLY a made up right-wing urban myth!
    I think Col. David Hackworth was right when he claimed in About Face that no knowledgeable NVA officer would ever have said that statement because it’s FLAT NOT TRUE. Gen. Giap’s memoirs are on point for that.
    We were defeated in a classic military sense in that the enemy was able to sustain their war, and we were not. Given the disparity in firepower, no major U.S. units like divisions were overrun, but that’s hardly the measure of success.
    And having “more resolve” and staying for another 10 years wouldn’t have changed the outcome one iota.
    We lost. Period. And that includes the political as well as the military sense of the word. Just like we’re losing in Iraq. And it doesn’t matter a hill of beans whether a brigade is able to seize some piece of ground if all pieces of ground are an endless battlefield where we suffer casualties without being able to effectively end the conflict.
    Iraq is exactly and completely Vietnam on methamphetamine. It’s all happening in warp-speed, right up through the escalation, the inevitable de-escalation after 2008 and all the rest of the sorry ugly failure of “Iraqization.”

  24. Sgt.York says:

    W. Patrick Lang wrote: “The forces that then over-ran the country were their CONVENTIONAL forces. Remember the pictures of NVA riding tanks into Saigon.”
    I don’t think you can argue that conventional forces are required to oust a foreign occupation or standing government simply because General Giap’s overall strategy planned for the use of conventional forces (see below). I would assert that the fight against the “occuping infidel Crusaders” is closer to a popular uprising or peasant revolt against foreign overlords or despotic rulers. Also, with the current level of US airpower I don’t believe Giap’s strategy is feasable.
    The current clear-hold-build doctrine assumes US Forces clearing (chasing Che Guevara and his bandit buddies from the village and back into the mountains). When the ‘bad guys’ are born and raised in the town you are clearing and consist of all the adult males you have a problem. You end up with Colonel Steele giving orders to “kill all military-age men” in Samarra or flattening Fallujah like the Russians flattened Grozny. The ‘hold’ in CHB also assumes that local forces take control the area and provide security. The Kurdish Pershmega and Badr-infiltrated ING/IP aren’t viewed by the residents of Anbar province as local forces and are thus ineffective in performing ‘hold’ duties. Because of this, US Forces are attempting to undertake ‘hold’ duties which is akin to guys in T72 tanks who speak Ukrainian quelling the gang wars in LA between the Crips and the Bloods.
    Phase I: Conduct guerrilla and terrorist operations to control as much of the population as possible. Phase II: Guerrilla forces consolidate into regular units to attack isolated government outposts. Phase III, Large units form to establish full military control over an area.

  25. Chris Marlowe says:

    Col. Lang mentioned that the US had largely fought the conventional Communist forces in south Vietnam to a standstill in 1972. The thing is, as far as Americans were concerned, the war had been lost in their living rooms, and that was what counted.
    I would venture to say that the US situation both domestically, and on the battlefield in Iraq, is a replay of 1974.
    After seeing Bush’s very defiant attack of Congress’ right to subpoena his unelected and very powerful political advisors such as Rove, he is looking more and more like Nixon in the runup to Watergate. This is no coincidence, Rove was a very dedicated Nixon supporter, who loves “dirty tricks” in fighting his political opponents. (BTW, Rove is a master at anonymous direct-mail dirty tricks campaigns.)
    At the same time, Bush’s influence, even with Republican supporters in Congress is quickly eroding as 2008 looms closer. This reality fits in with Bush’s own delusional mindset; his own isolation reinforces his belief that he is right. Unlike most more normal people, he does not believe in referencing other peoples’ opinions to establish if he is making the right decisions.
    The Republicans in COngress need to distance themselves from the Bush White House in order to save themselves. The easiest way for Republicans to do this is to “suddenly” remember that the US has a Constitution, even though they conveniently forgot this over the past six years when they had a majority. (Bush/Cheney’s interpretation of the limitations on the power of the executive lies somewhere between Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il.)
    Watergate ended when Goldwater went to see Nixon in the White House to tell him that he no longer had the support of Congressional Republicans. The question now is, “Who’s going to play Goldwater’s role?”
    Meanwhile in Vietnam, er Iraq, Petraeus is buying time for the US. The Shi’ites, Sunnis and al-Qaeda are all watching, figuring out when to make a move, and how to position themselves after the US occupation ends. All of Iraq’s neighbors are doing exactly the same, since the tribal alliances do not break cleanly along national borders.
    Of course, for intelligent Americans, this is like a replay of Groundhog Day, except this has played out on a thirty-year cycle, and not on a daily cycle.
    But this is a decision most Americans have decided to make, secure in their own arrogance, ignorance and stupidity. Hey, what’s a few hundred billion dollars and a few thousand lives?
    “Don’t interrupt me, I gotta watch American Idol.”

  26. chimneyswift says:

    The similarities seem to be in the broad rather than the particular. Also they seem to be very much in regard to America herself.
    I think that the American public began to doubt during Vietnam. Also today, people are beginning to doubt.
    The reasons for both wars remain muddy. Very few people can tell you why we were in VN, and people question today why we are in Iraq.
    Both wars beg the larger question of American hegemony, and both wars pit our comfort and prosperity against uncomfortable and unacknowledged truths about the role our nation plays in the world (although this last is more in regards to Iraq; VN I think was just our comfort and prosperity vs will to continue).
    If, Col, your larger point is that in both wars victory is/was possible, but may require a greater commitment than the public is willing to grant, well, that sounds about right.
    Unfortunately that leaves us poised for a very unfortunate hangover, redux.

  27. W. Patrick Lang says:

    It is sad that all you have to do is touch the “3rd rail” of VN for the level of vitriol and hatefulness to escalate rapidly. I wonder how many of those who claim to be my old comrades really are such.
    “external supply lines?” That is “guerilla speak.” The national liberation movements that you mention from your Africa days were guerilla movements. Yes. Yes. I know about that.
    The North Vietnamese Army was the national army of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam. I say again. THEY WERE NOT GUERILLAS!!! Their formations were first trained by the Chinese in the early ’50s and were a real, conventional army. Their lines of communication ran from the RVN to the DRVN through Cambodia and Laos for up to a thousand miles but they were in no way different than the American lines of communications which stretched back to the United States.
    Sgt. York
    I never argued that. Do not put words in my mouth. Nevertheless, that is what happened, not some hypothetical romance about how guerilla warfare should work. No amount of the VC guerrllas who no longer existed could have won the war for Giap. Who is Steele?
    “You do realize that the “NVA Colonel” who supposedly said in reply to an American officer who claimed we never lost a battle, “that is true, but it is also irrelevant” is TOTALLY a made up right-wing urban myth!”
    Unlike you, I knew the late Colonel Harry Summers who is quoted there. You are just wrong. What kind of propagandist are you? What are your credentials?
    “China and Cuba are the only cases where they managed to unseat a local government”
    China? Do you seriously claim that the Chinese communist armies who defeated the nationalists were “guerrillas?”

  28. Ken Larson says:

    I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.
    Politicians make no difference.
    We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read how this happens please see:
    Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.
    There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.
    The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.
    So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.
    This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.
    The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.
    For more details see:

  29. Chris Marlowe says:

    I wonder if there is going to be this degree of vitriol about Iraq in coming years?
    Just to clear up a few things:
    –There were more than 300K Chinese combat engineers in NV during the war. Their job was to repair damage from US raids, and to free up NV to fight in the NVA. The Chinese freely admit this. There were also North Koreans flying in the NV air force. If you visit Vietnam, you can visit their war cemeteries near Hanoi. Of course, the Americans couldn’t tell the difference, they were all gooks as far as the Americans was concerned. (What can you say for a country which uses Georgians in Iraq?)
    –The NVA was the national army, and the Viet Cong (the successor of the Viet Minh who had earlier fought the French) were the guerrilla force. At the time, the general perception by the Americans was that the NVA was more pro-Soviet, while the Viet Cong were more pro-Chinese.
    –In addition to being fluent in French, Ho Chi Minh was fluent in Mandarin Chinese (written and spoken). Deng Xiaoping had also been to France, and had become a Marxist there, so he shared a French connection with Ho Chi Minh.
    –The Vietnamese Communists had safe harbor in the 50s in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan while they were fighting the French, across the border from Vietnam.
    –The NVA used the decent interval (1972-75) to build up their supplies and men to prepare for a final ground offensive to overthrow the South Vietnam regime. You can read about this in the book Decent Interval.
    –There were numerous violations of the Paris peace accord during 1972-75, but since Hungary and Poland were the two pro-Soviet observers in the field, they were overlooked and left unreported by the commission.
    –The ground offensive started in the Central Highlands with the capture of Banh Mi Thuot in Jan. 1975, and the NV admitted that they thought the ground offensive would last two years before the SV regime would collapse. Instead it took only about three months.
    –In the final ground offensive, the guerrillas (Viet Cong) only played a minor role. This was a conventional ground offensive. After victory, VN quickly became a pro-Soviet ally, and fought and invaded the pro-Chinese Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Because of this, China-Vietnamese relations soured, and they fought a border war in 1979, with a short Chinese occupation of several Vietnamese provinces bordering Yunnan.
    –During the final phase of the Chinese civil war from 1946-1950, the Communists fought a conventional ground offensive. This ground offensive was led by Deng Xiaoping and his field commanders. In the Huaihai battle, the Nationalists lost 55 divisions who went over to the Communists.
    –The guerrilla phase of the Chinese civil war lasted from 1927-46, with a respite for the Communists from the Japanese invasion from 1937-45. The communists used this opportunity to wait out the war, letting the Nationalists fight out the war and lose men and equipment. The Nationalists, under Chiang Kai-shek, wanted to use as few forces as possible, preferring to let the Americans fight it out with Japan in the Pacific Theater, because Chiang and Mao knew that they would have to fight a final war for the control of China after the defeat of Japan. Eventually when Japanese premier Kakuei Tanaka visited Beijing and Mao in 1972 and apologized for the invasion, Mao replied: “That’s OK, if you had not invaded, we would not have been able to come to power in 1949.” (!!!)
    –To be clear, Mao stated that the first phase of resistance is guerrilla warfare, then as the resistance builds, it switches to conventional warfare. This is because you need conventional forces to hold and occupy a country; guerrilla forces cannot do this. They are spread too thin and do not have the manpower, as well as the bureaucratic skills to run a new regime.
    You can read more about guerrilla warfare here:
    I did not fight in VN so I am not as qualified to talk about the ground facts.

  30. michael savoca says:

    Colonel Lang, Thank you for directing us to the article in the New Yorker. After reading “betrayed, the Iraqis who trusted America the most”, I had to go for a walk…enraged and saddened by our arrogance and our ignorance.
    I have two thoughts.
    First, my God what have we done.
    Second, Vice pres. Cheney was half right when he said if we leave over there they will follow us back here. But he was talking about the terrorists especially al qaeda.
    Forget that. We have ignited and fueled enough hate among Iraqis that they may eclipse bin laden and his followers in their desire to strike back against America.

  31. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    PL, Pat I take your point on The Nam. What I was trying to compare various guerilla mvts to, but didn’t express it very well was, the Iraq multi-“guerilla” (and resistance movements?) situation rather than Vietnam.
    Another thing that struck me in South America was the “religion” angle. But this was the Roman Catholic’s “Liberation Theology” stuff which I later found first developed in certain Spanish Jesuit seminaries (usually among Basques) in the late 1940s, after the Jesuits got a new head, Dutch I think he was. I noted leadership elements of the macho BadGuyz I was concerned with had a profile of coming from middle,upper middle,and upper “class” backgrounds. The grunts were the peasants. It is interesting how some of these “guerilla” leaders were developed in various stages of their education by certain clergy.
    Profiles of Usama etal. (the Salafist elements) resemble similar leadership patterns involving “religiously” indoctrinated middle and upper class persons turned militant and violent. But an interesting thing in both the South American case and in the Middle Eastern case is a certain underlying marxism-leninism adopted by these “religious intellectuals”, hence stress on violent revolution led by vanguards, dressed up to be sure. In the Muslim case I would think this to come from Maududi to Qutb to Zawahiri and so on..the “vanguard” of the umma (proletariat)concept. In this sense, of an underlying marxism-leninism one could perhaps make some comparisons to ideological influences on SE Asian guerilla movements.

  32. Art says:

    Col Lang;
    I appreciate your sage comments. Recently, however, I have begun to think that the Administration is ignoring advice from the highest levels intentionally. In other words, there may be some motive to “break” the U.S. Military in a “death spiral.”
    Trying to come up with a motive, I have speculated that the new Army for Hire, Blackwater Corporation, may be the intended beneficiary, and, dare I think, replacement for the US Armed Forces. They are not under civilian control. For the Administration, that is the gold standard for policy. No civilian control, no harping senators, no nagging legal questions, no complex public debates.
    Although this is completely speculative on my part, I shudder to think it may be possible, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that a broken military, with a demoralized officer corps, unfilled NCO ranks, and the anger of the rank and file is exactly what is intended to move the US to a completely Mercenary Force, which the President referenced in his last State of the Union address, as a Civilian Reserve Force.
    Col Lang, and your posters and readers, please reassure me that democracy is not at an end in the United States.

  33. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “the Americans couldn’t tell the difference, they were all gooks as far as the Americans was concerned”
    I think that is really unfair. We had a very clear idea about the Chinese in North Vietnam and as I have said before I don’t remember anyone calling them “gooks.”
    Maybe that is a civilian term. pl

  34. Sgt.York says:

    Sorry, that should have read, “I don’t think ONE can argue that…”
    Who is Steele?
    Col. Michael Steele, Commander 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne.

  35. anna missed says:

    I think the sarge is referring to Col. James Steele. Who trained questionable military units i.e. death squads, in El Salvador then worked in Iraq training similar at the Interior ministry.

  36. Chris Marlowe says:

    Col. Lang–
    I did not mean to be unfair. As I said, I did not fight in VN so I do not know the ground facts.
    I’m sure that US intelligence would have known about the presence of Chinese, North Vietnamese, East Germans and others in NVN during the war. For obvious reasons, this was not widely reported in the US media at the time. When I am talking about widespread ignorance, I’m talking about people who did not work in analysis, which includes large parts of the US government. The Bush administration, especially Defense under Rumsfeld, have deliberately chosen to ignore their sage advice re Iraq, preferring instead to take a more ideological stand from people who know nothing about the region.
    This is the kind of general ignorance found and mentioned in the New Yorker article about Iraq.
    As for the term “gooks”, that is a term I have heard from some Vietnam vets. It is not widely used, I’m glad to say.
    I used it not to cause any offense to Vietnamese, Vietnamese Americans and their supporters and patrons, but to highlight the ignorance of some Americans, and the general ignorance which racial stereotyping leads to. The less frequent it is, the better.
    I think it would be dangerous though to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
    Most Americans are smart enough to avoid using these terms. Often though, there is a general lumping together of all non-Americans into a big basket without calling them names. Is this some kind of less obvious latent racism? I don’t know.
    The number of Americans who do not come from recent immigrant families and are able to converse with Iraqis, Chinese, etc. in their own languages are sadly, very few. These people are able to get past the stereotypes and know people as individuals.
    The US needs more of these kinds of people, and needs to listen to their points of view.
    Unfortunately, I see no signs of that happening.

  37. michael savoca says:

    Art, I would like to reassure you but I can’t. Your concerns are well founded. Recall testimony, late eighties, by Major General Richard Secord during Iran-Contra congressional hearings that the DIA, Casey wanted him and Admiral Poindexter to develop an “Enterprise” that was “off the shelf” (i.e. not part of the regular US Armed Forces ) which could undertake covert military operations without congressional accountability. Admiral Poindexter of course recently resurfaced courtesy of the Bush 43 administration with his plan for “total information awareness”…data mining and death to the 4th amendment. I worry for our children.

  38. Happy Jack says:

    I thought the point of the Packer article was for a comparison of the moral duty towards the terps to what we did for the Montangards.
    Or maybe the Col. just enjoys sitting in a Vietnamese history class. 🙂

  39. TR Stone says:

    Watching the POTUS bleat the Nixonian speech about “partisan witch hunts” and seeing the Dem’s failure to have any real conviction, other than getting re-elected, I have to grudgingly admit that my grandchildren will not live in a country that lives up to the visions of the founding fathers!

  40. myth says:

    Re Col Lang “I think that is really unfair. We had a very clear about the Chinese in North Vietnam and as I have said before I don’t remember anyone calling them “gooks.”
    I agree with Col Lang. As a Vietnamese, during the war I’ve never heard of that, … until I arrived here in 78.
    BTW, I’ve been a reader of this blog for about a year, and every thing Col Lang has said about VN was true. Pat, thank you for your service.

  41. wisedup says:

    for Art: that Bush wants to break the army morally and physically is the only logical reading of their actions to date.
    Another equally worrying trend is the increased use of UAV platforms — these completely depersonalize the killing while ratcheting up the efficiency. Why take years to train F-22 pilots when any teenager with computer game experience is already proficient. With the remote control capabilities the jocks would be very effective in suppressing civil disobedience anywhere in the country.

  42. johnf says:

    This thread reveals what an explosive and divisive a subject Vietnam was and is, 30 years on.
    Perhaps its best to concentrate our efforts on solving the incredible problems over Iraq and the Middle East before they become even more divisive.

  43. arbogast says:

    Who speaks for the dead?
    Who speaks for the soldiers and civilians on both sides killed in Vietnam and Iraq?
    If they could speak, would they advocate more war, more killing? More “surging”?
    In theory, any military strategy is correct. But in the service of what political purpose?
    What is our political purpose in Iraq? Does it justify the death of a single American or Iraqi?
    We are long, long past the point where we can say that Iraq is a better place for our having invaded it. More people have been killed, kidnapped, and tortured in Iraq since we got there than were under Hussein. The civilian infrastructure has been destroyed. Healthcare, which was very good under Hussein (a friend of mine is a physician who visited Iraq), is now nonexistent.
    Was this worth the life of a single American soldier?
    And now? Colonization of Iraq? Because that is what the latest tactic is all about.
    Trust George Bush is be so intellectually incompetent that he destroys an entire country, and alienates an entire culture. But do not trust him to speak for the dead.

  44. Don Schmeling says:

    Col. Lang,
    Another huge difference; No American POWs in this war.

  45. John Howley says:

    Col. Lang said: “It was only after the de-funding of assistance to the RVN that Hanoi went over to the offensive in1975.”
    It is my understanding that one factor in the Congressional de-funding (aside from the obvious anti-war sentiment) was the huge jump in required subsidies. We had transplanted our petroleum-intensive style of warfare to the ARVN which successfully held off the NVA…so long as we paid for the fuel.
    The 1974 Arab Oil Embargo caused the bill for these fuel subsidies to more than double which, in turn fueled Congressional opposition.
    If true, this suggests a direct connection between events in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

  46. Got A Watch says:

    Another salient post Col., but what does this sad circumstance portend for the future?
    The ending of the Iraq adventure looks likely to be the same as Vietnam – the last chopper out will lift off from the “Green Zone” in ’08 under fire from advancing insurgents.
    It is pathetic how little has been learned from past failures over the last 30 years – the American “victory” culture seemingly prevents taking any lessons learned in defeat to heart. Likely because no wants to to be reminded of past embarassment, a common human failing – but one that has had disastrous effects for the nation and world at large.
    The entire sorry saga could have been avoided by some form of responsible leadership. Instead, the same tired failed policies and attitudes remain in place, merely marking time until the next disaster can be initiated under false pretenses.
    When you begin aggressive wars for all the wrong reasons and with no understanding of local conditions and people, defeat will usuallly follow. This plain truth seems to have totally eluded most media talking heads, who are now engaged in ideological revisonism in advance of the historians who will create the records read by future generations, without examining the unpleasant facts beneath the spin.
    It seems without a fundamental change in national mindset, America is bound for an uncertain and likely unwelcome future of declining real power, moral authority and ability to influence events except with the blunt hammer of military involvement. Ironically, this is the exact opposite of what the neo-cons/PNAC/AIPAC thought the outcome would be.

  47. Mo says:

    How is Iraq like Vietnam? Iraq, like any Imperial adventure not based on real dangers but fantasist imaginings of those that wish to rule and profit through the death and destruction of the innocent, through fear and intimidation, is simply a case of occupation and foreign rule (pericieved or not). Occupation and foreign rule lead to resistance. Resistance leads to oppression; Oppression leads to acts of desperation, described as “terrorism” which leads to acts of punishment described as “counter-terrorism”. Both sides quickly become the killers and the killed. Unless the occupier is willing to bring the occupied to the edge of extinction through wholesale acts of mass murder, whereby the occupied becomes willing to sign any “agreement”, then the occupier will always lose. Why? Because the occupied has no where else to go. The occupied’s back is against the wall. The occupied is fighting for his Mother, his daughter. Every death of the occupier is a step forward, a victory and boost to his moral.
    Further to your points Colonel; An intelligent administration would use the absence of unity to its advantage; It would talk to the groups that have a legitimate grievance and give them a voice. In Iraq, an intelligent administration would talk to those that consider themselves the resistance as opposed to those that consider themselves jihadists. An intelligent administration would see that this would alienate the jihadists (especially as so many of them are not locals) and there would be less people to fight. Of course this is anything but an intelligent administration. This one sees the lack of unity as a weakness; The fact is as long as the disparate groups are not in a fully fledged civil war, they are unified in their most popular choice of target, the coalition.
    There is no army to take out entire rifle companies. I think the White House wishes that were. That is the kind of fight the US likes and the administration can sell. The slow drip drip of American bodies acts as a form of torture on the psyche of any nation. Lives lost for what seems a lost cause.
    The way out of Iraq is not as complicated if your intentions are honourable.
    Bush, Cheney et all have intentions that are anything but honourable. They are trying to salvage their aspirations.

  48. Charles says:

    Just as an aside, George Packer’s book “The Assassin’s Gate’ is one of the Iraq books one should read IMHO

  49. mike says:

    Chris – As a young boot in 1960, long before I served my first tour in Vietnam, I was told by a Korean War vet that gook was an anglicized version of the Korean word for any foreigner, but was more specifically the word used by South Korean interpreters attached to American units for the Red Chinese as opposed the the North Koreans. I cannot vouch for that fact, but I have heard the term used in 1950s era cadence songs – I wish I could remember the words.
    I never heard that word applied to Vietnamese, but there were several other pejoratives used by a few that were as bad. I may have used one of those terms myself in a moment of annoyance – my apologies. Then again, as an American who spent a lot of time overseas, I have been called a lot worse.

  50. Grimgrin says:

    Col. Lang: Point well taken. A better phrasing on my part would have been “Where guerrillas defeated or evolved into forces capable of defeating conventional armies”.
    And I think that the vitriol on Vietnam comes at least in part from the fact that even today, statements about the Vietnam war are often taken as political statements. Even statements of fact are seen as political.
    Add to that the extent to which the politics of Vietnam have influenced the modern day discussion, and you have a recipe for heated arguments.

  51. Leigh says:

    my creds on this subject: I have two nephews who were in Vietnam, and, surprisingly to me, they seemed to enjoy it. Of course, they were quite young.
    I do not remember anyone spitting on a Vietnam Vet…or treating them as anything but the heroes they were. I think that is a figment of a Rove-like imagination.
    As for Iraq, we won’t leave. Not until the oil law is passed giving foreign oil companies (mostly ours) a large percentage of the profits from the oil. My guess is that those large permanent bases are situated nicely to protect oil fields. Also guess an army of some size will have to be kept there to protect those companies (Blackwater is too expensive).
    What really scares me is that Bush will find some excuse to declare martial law and, as commander-in-chief, figure out a way to crown himself both figuratively and literally speaking.

  52. art says:

    I am taking the silence of the readers posters here, excepting two, on my last request for reassurance in one of three ways:
    a) it is correct, and fearsome.
    b) it is incorrect, and disregarded.
    c) it is not the topic of the blog and
    therefore disregarded.
    If a) I am a slow learner; everyone already knows this, and I must learn to keep my mouth shut.
    If b) I am a slow learner and should keep my mouth shut
    If c) I have learned that categories on the blogosphere are sacred and not to be trifled with.
    I am praying for b) and c).

  53. Kevin says:

    “The absence of unity among our adversaries in Iraq.”
    This is a HUGE difference; the Iraqi insurgency is a decentralized autonoma of tribalism and ethnoreligious conflict.

  54. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I was spit on in uniform at San Francisco International Airport in May of 1968 whilst en route to VN.
    Will provide details of you want them. pl

  55. Kevin says:

    “I was spit on in uniform”
    When on leave from Iraq, I was given the heil hitler hand signal from a motorist behind me(I had military bumper stickers). Little did that dumb hippy know that I had a loaded 1911 under my seat(CHG permit-legally carrying); he was just five foot pounds away from being room temprature. I just smiled and waived.

  56. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Well, I have one thing to add about the term “gook”: in Korean, U.S. is called “Migook,” which can be mistaken, I imagine, as “me, gook” to an English speaking listener. Used to be a running joke among Korean American kids when I was young. Obviously, I can’t vouch for its historical origins, though.

  57. TR Stone says:

    The debacle of VN was a result of a constricted foriegn policy vision (along with a non-understanding of non-American cultures).
    I cannot imagine what the excuse for today’s foriegn policy disasters (see the above). Obviously, America’s leadership elite learned nothing from the past.
    I wish that Barbara Tuchman was alive today to add an addendum to her “The March of Folly”. It would describe the most egregious example of the stupidity of leadership in history to date!

  58. myth says:

    Like Vietnam? You bet. Atrocities committed by both sides.
    Not like Vietnam? POTUS then was not an incompetent and delusional idiot. And that pretty much describes our current POTUS.

  59. JC says:

    Re the PAVN colonel story: It is almost certainly accurate. I know the person whom I think was the interpreter on that flight, and he interprets Vietnamese both accurately and with nuance. The PAVN colonel (whose name, alas, I can no longer remember) has repudiated the story, but that repudiation was to protect himself. It is impolitic, at best, for any senior Vietnamese official (or those aspiring to become senior) to admit that any battle was ever lost, any strategy was ever wrong, or any senior person was ever anything less than a hero. It’s part of the current national myth and an essential part of the fundamental strategy of the current holders of power in that country.

  60. James Pratt says:

    I can think of two similarities. The wars were both based on misrepresented threats to America and a deceived Congress. The other similarity is that both countries were on the periphery of the Mongol Empire and among the first areas to be abandoned by their armies.
    They both have long traditions of resistance at great cost to themselves and the occupiers.

  61. jonst says:

    Perhaps the question could be shifted to is this (the firing of the US attorneys)like Watergate? I would say it is in that what we are seeing is , like Watergate, a battle between various groups in the intel community.
    As to the welcome home VN Vets got….I will repeat what I have written here before….if people want to beleive that a majority, or anything like a majority, or even anything more than a tiny, tiny minority, of the American people suddenly went nuts and began turning their backs on their sons, husbands, brothers, nephews, neighbors, best friends, boyfriend, cousins, and such, coming back from war, go ahead and believe it. It (what I term Reagan’s myth) is strongly counter-intuitive in any society, at any time, in any place. And so it is here as well. Col Lang was spit on. I have no doubts whatsoever regards that story. My brother Mike, then CWO2, was welcomed home by two anti-war hippies, two females, who promptly went to bed with him. Individuals stories abound. Me personally? I was welcomed home by fairly benign indifference, a bit of curiosity. The bulk of people’s attention went to the racial riots going on in my area that summer.

  62. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The only reason I repeated the “A Mama Cass type spat on me” story was the assertion by someone that such things did not happen. Sorry, but they did. I had other things like that happen to me, but, what would be the point?
    I don’t understand your point about differences of opinion in the intelligence community. pl

  63. Will says:

    The great lesson of Vietnam was supposed to be embodied in the Powell Doctrine. Never again would be sucked into quagmires.
    “Powell Doctrine
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search
    The Powell Doctrine, also known as the Powell Doctrine of Overwhelming Force, was elaborated by General Colin Powell in the run up to the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It is based in large part on the Weinberger Doctrine, devised by Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense and Powell’s former boss.
    The questions posed by the Powell Doctrine, which should be answered affirmatively before military action, are:
    1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
    2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
    3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
    4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
    5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
    6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
    7. Is the action supported by the American people?
    8. Do we have genuine broad international support?
    The fifth point of the Doctrine is normally interpreted to mean that the U.S. should not get involved in peacekeeping or nation-building exercises. Powell expanded upon the Doctrine, asserting that when a nation is engaging in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve overwhelming force against the enemy, minimizing US casualties and ending the conflict quickly by forcing the weaker force to capitulate. This is well in line with Western military strategy dating at least from Carl von Clausewitz’s On War. However, in the context of the Just War theory, the doctrine of overwhelming force may violate the principle of proportionality. ”
    Indeedy, Powell helped “Sonny” get elected POTUS. But Sonny decided not to go home with the guy that took him to the dance and got in bed with the “Shooter” and the “NeoKons.”
    They marginalized Powell and his doctrine and used him worse than a cheap “whore.”

  64. jonst says:

    I think your story is important because any piece (read: historical truth) of a puzzle is important. And relevant. I spent a mere two years active service. I spent well over 15 years working with Vets at the VA. My wife, over 15 years exclusively with Vets and PTSD, and still to this day, occasionally seeing Vets. My brother, the CWO2, worked, in civilian life on the bio-chemical underpinnings of PTSD. We think a lot about these issues which is not to say we ‘get it right’ all the time.
    As to my intel theory. Painting with a very, very, broad brush…and with nothing more than what I read and occasionally hear, I think something like the following scenario occurred, and is occuring:
    Cheney and cabal at OSP put pressure on intel community to come up with ‘findings’ that the professionals thought were unsupported or, in many cases, outright bullshit. They pushed back against Cheney in the tried and true DC way. See Wilson et al leaks. Battles ensued. See Novak et al leaks. One of the battles in this war was the insistence by the CIA IG that Plame was a ‘covert agent’ as the statute was defined, and that a Special Prosecutor was called for. It was Fitzgerald. This particular selection was noted, feared, and loathed at the WH. Thank you Mr.Comey!
    This is not forgotten by the Cheney Group. They get their revenge, among other ways, by appointing old boy Porter Goss to go over and clean house. Goss does. Sorta. Many good professionals quit/pressured out. Goss’ enemies push back. Information starts, suddenly, getting leaked regards the Dukester, Brent Wilkes, et al. Enter Carol Lam, USDA from the San Diego district, into the picture.
    Leads to the Kyle “Dusty” Foggo raid. Goss’ hand picked guy is brought down. Emails go out the next day at DOJ/WH indicating ‘we got a problem in San Diego with Lam’. In the dust up with Dusty Goss is shown the door. The old guard is back. Sorta. Maybe not. That is less clear to me who is charge over there.
    That’s where this present scandal started. It was Lam they had to take down. There was no way, no way, they were going to let her take down Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter and the boys on the House Def Appropriations Committee without a fight. The trail of money runs from Wilkes to Cheney’s office back to Wilkes and ends up with the Dukester in both the literal and figurative sense. So, what choice did they have? But, better to take her down with others. Less noticeable and besides, you kill a bunch of birds at the same time.
    It is never a good idea to create a rival intel/ops group. See Plumbers Group in Watergate. Your rivals always have such good access to info when they want to take you out. See Deep throat
    I’m positive I am off a bit here and there. But I will bet you a box of Maine Lobsters that when all is said and done I am not that far off.
    Post script that really baffles me. That I have no clue about…why did Negroponte leave. Not even a guess on my part.

  65. JfM says:

    As to the reception afforded returning servicemen from RVN, may I add my experience which tends to dovetail with jonst’s observation. First there are some marked differences from the way troops returned then and now. I admit having tears in my eyes watching periodic media coverage of troops coming home today, and the entirely appropriate, well-earned warm reception afforded them as they proudly walk in their battle uniform en masse as a unit thru of cordon of welcoming citizens waving little flags at the nearby Baltimore International. What a stark contrast from way back then! Going to RVN and coming home was routinely done as individual movement vice unit move. Virtually every returning RVN troop came home in disheveled khakis knowing no-one aboard the freedom bird. I recall landing at Travis around midnight and pairing up with another junior officer I’d just met to share a shuttle ride to the San Francisco airport some sixty miles away.
    After a 16 hr plus flight to get state-side and still in our perma-wrinkle uniforms, we both looked like hell. And maybe because we looked like hell, we two lean, sunburned, rompin-stompin LT’s of infantry were greeted with but silent glances by the first civilians encountered on our trips home. No, I wasn’t confronted by protestors or given overt hostility in my return but I do recall sensing the pervasive apathy of everyone around me as I struggled to adjust to the last couple days. After Vietnam because I felt more comfortable in the company of my Army than in my country out of the wire, I stayed in boots for 26 years. This country should remain ashamed of its shoddy treatment to its returning young men long ago. Again, thank God today’s conflict see most detesting the war but now honoring and appreciating the soldier. Maybe we have progressed in that regard.

  66. W. Patrick Lang says:

    But how was Watergate about a difference of opinion in the intelligence community?
    Ah. You are into the PTSD thing. Well,I wouldn’t want you to think that that fat chick spitting on me scarred me deeply. I had a lot more to worry about that that within a few days after the event.

  67. anna missed says:

    I’m going to go ahead and provide this LINK (warning graphic content). Because it was filmed by Marines, and provides a window into what may be the typical mindset of the troops in Iraq — relevant to the current discussion. Interesting that these Marines feel contempt for their peers back home for their support, judging them disingenuous and in the same boat with the anti-war crowd, politicians, and cultural icons. Troop alienation of a different sort. There are 4 additional “clips” worth watching, especially #5.

  68. ckid says:

    RE: the VN colonel story. I’ve always been curious about how that story got out and wondered if anyone knew more.
    It’s not surprising to me that this story always comes up in a discussion of Vietnam. I’m not a military person, but a communications consultant. Laying aside history for a moment, to me the reason the story is so enduring is that it scratches an itch for nearly every side of the Vietnam and Iraq debate. I was intrigued to see someone saying that it was a myth and “right wing propaganda.” Although Colonel Lang retorted that the story was definitely true, I would point out that IN GENERAL stories with its structure are myths, and one of the reasons is that they are useful for propaganda on ALL sides of a debate.
    On the one hand, the story is a vindication of American fighting prowess. In the way that Americans measure success in war, i.e. by fighting battles, it says we always won. In that sense, it can contribute to the notion that we could have “won” Vietnam if we’d persevered. Bush seems to buy this argument and apply it to Iraq. And so, he often uses the word “resolve.” We could “win” Iraq if we only don’t give up. It’s clear from reading this blog that not many of you buy this argument, but it is an argument that’s being made.
    But the story can also be read as a critique of the way we measure success in war. Americans tend, as a general rule, to like decisive action. The American in the story tells the Vietnamese colonel that by our yardstick, we never really lost. And the reply he gets is that our yardstick is the wrong way measure success. From the perspective of the Vietnamese colonel, we did, in fact, leave and that’s all that really matters. By his measure, we lost and emphatically. If you’re an antiwar type today, the story points out that battles and resolve are worthless without strategy, and perhaps effective diplomacy. As a result, it can serve as the springboard for a number of arguments against our current strategy.
    The story is also pregnant for many historical debates. There is, for example, a certain strain of armchair military historians who deride George Washington as a military leader because he was a lousy battlefield general. Of course, this ignores the fact that Washington knew that all he had to do was survive until eventually a perfect storm of circumstances resulted in a British disaster, which happened at Yorktown. Washington was a bad general in the way that the American in the story measures good generalship, i.e. winning battles, but the Vietnamese colonel might have considered Washington a great general because he played his hand well, and the British eventually left.
    And so, the story—purely from a communications perspective—plays to many different sides. It can support right wing positions because it speaks to American military prowess and the importance of resolve, and it can also be used to support number of positions that are unflattering to the Bush administration. I have a feeling that this story will endure and come up in debate for a long time to come in many different contexts.
    I’d be really curious to know if anyone has first-hand, horse’s mouth evidence of the story. Col. Lang seemed to indicate that he does from the American involved. It would be interesting to know what he (the American) thought of the story. It’s not flattering to him, of course. And the Vietnamese colonel has apparently repudiated the story, which isn’t exactly flattering to his side either. So why tell it in the first place? It may be a very interesting case where a story with a mythic structure is actually true. But true or not, it functions in our debates as a myth

  69. jonst says:

    Was into it, PL. Moved on in life. For the most part anyway. But seeing the inevitable headlines in the local newspaper makes me want to shout and say “we have learned nothing.” I will tell you this…from what I saw in my time, and what I hear now we had it a lot better in terms of VA services. Today’s military may have all the parades and endless, i repeat, endless, stories on TV that ask the people in involved to sum up their experiences in 30 seconds or less. But we had better care. The VA is a shell today of what it was then.
    As to Watergate and the intel….there was no difference of opinion in the intel community that I know of. What there was was a scaled down version of the OSP today. In the Watergate case it was the Plumbers. And they were a rival…or seen that way, of the FBI. So the OSP was set up to bypass professional intel types. THe plumbers were set up to bypass the Bureau. In both cases it meant that the nascent agency had enemies that felt threatened by it and took their revenge accordingly. And I can only hope that in both cases it will lead to the impeachment of a President. Though I see no Sam Ervin or Howard Baker at present.

  70. W. Patrick Lang says:

    What debate?
    “true or not, it functions in our debates as a myth.”
    What is the matter with you? Harry Summers told me this himself. He was the American in the story. Someone else has written to say that he was on the airplane. Do you think we are all lying or hallucinating or that we enjoyed losing the war and so tell stories that demonstrate the futility of what so many of us strove for?
    Is this political? pl

  71. Will says:

    Very good John Howley. Operation Nickel Grass is what saved Israel when it was on the ropes in the 73 War. Only Portugal granted overflight rights. It was a war waged as a last resort when Israel had rebuffed each and every Egyptian Peace offer.
    Moshe Dayan’s famous phrase was “Better Sharm el Sheikh w/o Peace than peace w/o Sharm el Sheikh.”
    Sharm el Sheikh being part of the Egyptian Sinai. Gen George S. Brown Chairman of JCS got in hot water complaining that the resupply shortchanged South East Asia.
    The oil shock was more than the fragile South Vietnamese economy could absorb.
    Another sacrifice for Greater Israel.

  72. michael savoca says:

    Colonel Lang,
    The author of the new yorker magazine article “betrayed”, George Packer was interviewed today on NPR “fresh air with Terry Gross. the url is:
    the interview, like the article was excellent.

  73. Chatham says:

    It also seems that in this war the U.S. is not viewed as the main enemy, so there’s little incentive for them to waste much resources fighting against the US army. I think that the various factions realize that the US won’t be able to last for the long grind, so they’d rather prepare for the battle over who’s going to run the place after the US pulls out.
    The US political ambitions for Iraq are no more, so our military has become rudderless (see: Clausewitz). As such, we are left in the position of being a temporary tool for whatever various faction looks best at the moment (SCIRI, the Peshmerga in their efforts to take Kirkuk).

  74. Don Schmeling says:

    Col Lang,
    The sentiment, “we won every battle, but lost the war” is timeless and universal. It would be said a thousand times by soldiers before Harry Summers and would be said a thousand times again by people discussing the war years later. My guess is that even IF this conversation had not happened, it would be made up at some point as a parable to describe the Vietnam war.
    In some ways the South must have felt the same way about the North in the American Civil war.

  75. W. Patrick Lang says:

    That’s pretty much it I think. The various adversaries are going to watch us give it one last big try while they gather their strength for the coming battle for Iraq.
    This seems to be a bit like the Irish thing in that there was
    First- The Irish War of Independence -1916-1921 (?)
    Second- The Irish Civil War 1922-1924 (?) pl

  76. W. Patrick Lang says:

    This a little different in that what is questioned in this story is the utility if battles themselves.
    Also, the South lost many battles in the last half of the War. pl

  77. ckid says:

    Col Lang,
    Though I get the impression many people were hallucinating during the Vietnam era, I doubt you were one.
    Sorry if I’ve upset you. I shouldn’t have used the word “myth,” as it usually indicates falsehood. I was using the word in the sense of a story that boils down a lot of features of a complex situation in a very short space. Such stories do have a point, but they can also serve as springboards for a lot of different topics. Since my post, you and Don have noted two. My rambling post has more.
    And no, the post certainly wasn’t politically motivated–it was showing how the story could be used (or misused) in political contexts.
    I think your concern was that if we were somehow able to establish that the story was factually inaccurate then it would lose its power. I don’t know about that. To take a safe example: Everyone knows that Columbus did not have to confront people who thought the earth was flat. That’s a story made up hundreds of years later by Washington Irving. Still, we all know it, and it somehow speaks powerfully about the audacity of his voyage. We continue to tell it.
    The NVA colonel story is similar (but true, I admit!). It seems to get told every time people start arguing about Vietnam. That was all I was getting at.

  78. VietnamVet says:

    Corporate Media and the Army Brass seem to be giving pacification of Bagdad one last chance. Yesterdays Washington Post article In Baghdad, a Flimsy Outpost brought it back all over again.
    My company was bivouacked for a long time at an abandoned rural landowner’s home that was lined with tile like the picture on the front page. In 1969 only about 1/4 of the valley still produced rice. The Vietnamese were all concentrated into the central core of the valley. The company every night set up ambushes to stop infiltration. No soldier survived a year in field. They were either medivacted or ended up in the rear. This pacification is touted as a great success! American troops conquered and fought in Bong Song Valley from 1965 to 1971. The valley returned Communist control in 1972. Veterans report that today there are no signs that American troops ever occupied the valley.
    An Arab city is not the same as a rural Vietnamese valley. But, Human Beings are the same. Although religions and cultures are different, we all will fight foreign invaders. The foreigners may be so powerful that they cannot be fought directly but attacked indirectly by conserving resources and taking as long as necessary until they finally leave.
    America will leave Iraq and Afghanistan, the only question is when and how. The only alternative is the Draft and Genocide. The longer the USA continues fighting the Middle East Wars on the cheap the more lives and treasure that are wasted for nothing.

  79. Walrus says:

    The Col. is right, Iraq is a replay of Vietnam, and the outcome is going to be the same…or worse.
    What some of these comments indicate is that those who think that Vietnam was “divisive” and that we could have won but for lack of support from the folks back home, or were ‘stabbed in the back” have either not studied the subject, or have failed to come to terms with what they have learned.
    Let me say that I too believed that we were stabbed in the back, could have won if restrictive rules of engagement were removed, if we had nuked North Vietnam, etc. etc. I was young at the time. I was one year from going to Vietnam, but I spent a lot of years in Officer training and luckily for me only caught social ostracisation and a few fist fights for having the temerity to wear uniform, have short haircuts and think that Vietnam was a good idea.
    The unfortunate reality is that we lost in Vietnam, not in the sense that we couldn’t defeat the NVA militarily when attacked, as well as attack ourselves, but that the cost of doing so was simply too high in terms of the number of American lives.
    By “too high”, I mean in terms od dead kids, broken families, grieving parents and enraged voters who were watching their kids being sent in harms way to prop up a corrupt and spineless South Vietnamese Government that was never going to amount to anything – Oh Yes, and the term “Nation building” (trying to insert a spine in a jellyfish) was applied to South Vietnam as well.
    The fact of the matter was that we had already suffered 50,000 deaths and it became starckly clear that even if we suffered another 50,000 deaths we would have been no closer to winning, and even if we had continued, that the “prize” was not worth winning anyway.
    That is the starck and simple truth, no matter how anyone tries to dress it up to attack their political foes or salve their vanity.
    Congress, by withdrawing aid, simply confirmed that not only was the Government of South Vietnam not worth anymore American lives, it wasn’t worth anymore treasure either.
    In other words, we were fighting a war of attrition with North Vietnam and of course, since it was their homeland that was involved, they were prepared to pay a higher price for it than we were.
    I suggest to you the discovery of the same brutal truth by the British led to Britain leaving America.
    The “Geostrategic” arguments currently used to justify the Iraq war bear as much relevence as did the “domino theory” applied to Vietnam – which is zero.
    So absent our thirst for oil, what is our rationale for being in Iraq? The answer is zilch, and when enough people realise it, we will leave.

  80. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I’m not so sure Iraq–at least the way it has evolved to the present is like Vietnam. As has been repeatedly pointed out, South Vietname was our ally whose very survival depended on the maintenance of the alliance; North Vietnam was our adversary who were totally united in their effort to drive us out. Far more eerily similar, it seems to me, is the Chinese Civil War (and Col. Lang already noted the similiarity to the Irish Civil War). The present propaganda notwithstanding, neither Chiang Kai Shek nor Mao Tse Tung saw the Japanese as their main adversary. Neither put serious effort at fighting the Japanese since they wanted to conserve strength for the “real” fight against each other. At any rate, other than occasional bombing raids, the Japanese forces could do little against either, notwithstanding vast technical superiority, since most of their troops were tied down holding cities–only air raids against poorly defended cities and brief raids and offensives made possible mainly by pulling troops from other sectors. Of course, there seem to be strange similarities between the high politics in Tokyo, ca 1941, and present day Washington too: even though the campaign in China sucked in vast majority of Japanese Army resources, Japan’s top leaders were eager to expand the war so that they can better pursue the China War–either striking against Russia, who were not only infidel Bolsheviks but also were supplying much arms to both Chinese factions or attacking the Western powers for both to “liberate” their colonies (more propaganda than real–but a number of Japanese really did take it seriously) and to take over oil (the more important reason.) These designs seem to mirror the attitudes of some Washington hotheads wanting to intervene in Iran, Syria, or wherever so that the Iraq problem would be better resolved…

  81. Larry Mitchell says:

    “we won every battle…”
    According to this document, COL Summers made a slightly similar comment in his book, “On Strategy”:
    Perhaps this is the where the urban legend was born.
    In ’67 & ’68 men I knew in the 25th Div around Cu Chi & Tay Ninh always used the term “gook”. Most of the other slang terms that I’ve seen in print were never ones that I heard.
    I’m always amazed at the different wars soldiers serving in different parts of the country and at different times, remember later on. I remember reading someone’s comment, “Want to get an argument started? Get 3 VN vets together.”
    Larry Mitchell

  82. Walrus says:

    With the greatest of respect, Vietnam Vet,
    “My company was bivouacked for a long time at an abandoned rural landowner’s home that was lined with tile like the picture on the front page. In 1969 only about 1/4 of the valley still produced rice. The Vietnamese were all concentrated into the central core of the valley.”
    Perhaps Sir, if all over South Vietnam, you were part of the village instead of living in the Colonial landowners house, there might have been a different result?
    This is the same trouble I have with us moving into Saadams palaces and establishing the “green Zone”. We label ourselves as just another set of occupiers.

  83. arbogast says:

    People on this blog are looking at half the elephant. I respect, deeply respect, every single commenter on this blog, and, of course, I have the greatest admiration for Colonel Lang.
    Iraq is half the story.
    The other half is just as treasonous as the behavior of those in the United States who have put what they think (incorrectly) is the interest of Israel ahead of the interest of the United States.
    Japan and China are engaged in economic warfare against the United States. Their weapon is the manipulation of their respective currencies: keeping the “value” of those currencies artificially low in relation to the dollar in order to permit them to destroy our industrial base.
    Fine. War is war. But the Japanese and the Chinese are being aided and abetted in this war by a clique in the United States who are profiting beyond the dreams of Croesus from the artificially low value of the yen (which is both an independent currency and a surrogate for the yuan).
    The so-called “yen carry trade” is flooding the United States with cheap money, all the while enriching a tiny cadre of collaborators with the Japanese and Chinese. This flood of cheap money is about to bring down the housing industry in the United States. It will bring down the stock market. It has already destroyed our industrial base.
    It is the United States’ unfortunate fate that the same clique who profit from the carry trade are controlling the foreign policy of the United States.
    It’s the same people and they’re guilty of treason.
    You may say, “No harm, no foul.” There has been harm. The country is being destroyed.

  84. arbogast says:

    I am against long quotes in the comments for practical reasons, and this quote is from another blog, but I believe it illustrates the precise process I have just referred to. And its subject is a Saint of the Left. I think Colonel Lang has pointed out that the Left (where I abide) is as much to be feared as the right.
    I don’t know if Bill Clinton quite understands that much of the hostility the Clintons generate is the result of his trashing of Ned Lamont on Larry King. Nobody really doubts that he saved Lieberman in order to protect Hillary’s war voting record and keep the heat off of her. Perhaps he doesn’t even care. But the fact is that Hillary has yet to take a real leadership position in challenging this president — has she ever really challenged this administration on its abuse of power in a meaningful way? We saw how pissy the Boy King became today when Nancy Pelosi got under his skin. He clearly doesn’t like it when women publicly spank him. If Hillary ever chose to do likewise, I’m sure we’d hear about it.
    In additon, Hillary’s continued statements about “maintaining a military presence” in Iraq, or showing up at an AIPAC luncheon to say things like this …
    “U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. In dealing with this threat … no option can be taken off the table.”
    …make people who don’t like the prospect of war with Iran feel really, really worried.
    But it does raise the question — who exactly is Bill trying to cozy up to with these comments? Was this some kind of dog whistle signal to specific donors before the filing deadline to help his boy Terry McCaulliff rake in some key sector of cash?
    Enquiring minds, Bubba. Enquiring minds.

    The question that must be answered is, “Where did the ‘key sector’ get the cash?”
    Aiding and abetting an enemy engaged in an economic war with the United States?
    Prove it wrong.

  85. Got A Watch says:

    The date for withdrawal hs now been set – Sept/08. Of course, GWB will veto if the Senate doesn’t vote down the measure, but the die has been cast.
    Once this idea gets out to the population at large, I think they will get behind it, making it politically dangerous for opponents. Republicans staring at general defeat in the next election will no doubt warm to the idea as election day approaches. The Dems will be able to shrug and say “well, we tried, it’s those obstinate Republicans holding back the will of the electorate” or words to that effect. This narrative will sell with the 65-70% of Americans who want the troops out now, never mind Sept. of next year IMHO.
    So the question arises – what’s next? What do you think? Care to speculate on your most likely outcome? Least likely?
    The waters are muddy, I am still contemplating my most likely set of outcomes. There are many wild cards – the Iran situation, Sunni support from outside of Iraq for the Sunni insurgents in Iraq (new weapons systems on the way?), Shiites attempting to retain power and shut out the Sunnis, increasing instability in Pakistan, will the new Iraq Oil Law be passed (I am dubious), for a few examples. The Iranian seizure of the British sailors will certainly ratchet up tensions.
    Thanks to the Col. for inspiring so many perceptive comments. There is much to disagree about, but all sides have brought valuable insights – now please get out the foggy crystal ball and make your best call on the future.

  86. VietnamVet says:

    When you are dropped into a war zone, you accept it as it is.
    Decades later, watching last night’s NewsHour broadcast an INT report “On the Frontlines” you flash back. It is the same but so different.
    The 1st Cav has set up a Combat Outpost to pacify a Sunni neighborhood; taking over several homes kicking out a family and surrounding it with concrete blast walls and Abrams tanks. Night recons, kicking in doors, searching homes, finding nothing.
    I listened once to General Westmoreland boast that every square inch of South Vietnam was covered by artillery fire. In 1969 the Vietnamese were all living in the “Ville”. You only saw Vietnamese on the main road, in the town, by the river or if you went through the wire at night. Everywhere else was depopulated and a free fire zone. This is touted as the great success of pacification. It failed.
    In Vietnam US controlled the day, Charlie the night. In Iraq the Sunni Arabs control the day.
    The only outcome of the Surge will be ethnic cleansing and the destruction of Baghdad neighborhoods. On the Internet and infrequent PBS reports over the summer we can watch the destruction of a city all for the ego of one man.

  87. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “and a free fire zone. This is touted as the great success of pacification. It failed.” vv
    I would be curious to know what your job was. Were you in a US TO&E unit, in CORDS or what.
    I had occasion the first year I was there to interact with the advisory/CORDS setup every day and I never saw that it was a “free fire zone.” Unless you had “troops in contact” who required immediate fire support, the RVN authorities had to agree to fire missions usually through the joint US/RVN tactical operations centers at province and above.
    As to the success of the pacification effort you are mistaken in saying that it was a failure. South Vietnam fell to the forces of the north because of a massive offensive of PAVN conventional forces. pl

  88. VietnamVet says:

    I was a leg REMF (76Y40) with Charlie Company 2/503 173rd Airborne Brigade at LZ English. A supply job no doubt privatized now. At the end of the war, they put the bodies anywhere they wanted. My observations are colored by being forced into the Army from Graduate School and leaving as a Spec 5 two years and 9 months later; a real Loser to my contemporaries.
    I was there. My conclusion after I returned in the 70’s was that the only way the Vietnam War could have been won was to make it the 51st State. Since that was impossible, it was all a big waste. I was incredibly lucky but I’ve never appreciated my great fortune.
    I thought the Iraq Invasion was crazy. The Iraq War has reinforced my belief that there is no way to defeat a people’s liberation movement once it starts fighting a foreign invader without genocide.

  89. ali says:

    “The best way to put it, I think, is that Iraq IS like Vietnam — but almost all the similarities are on OUR side.”
    I’d agree and add it’s specifically within domestic US politics that Iraq IS a delusional replay of Vietnam.
    The American polity has a very unfortunate tendency to to see the Iraq war in terms of two 20th century wars. For the neocons it’s began as WWII like enterprise with the startling difference that they they actually decided to start this war rather than prudently waiting till the last minute to charge in to the rescue.
    For American liberals Iraq has been a chance to relive the heady years of Vietnam, without even the modest rioting of the late 60s but with a great deal of pious “not in our name” outrage. A war, thanks to a series of victimhood obsessed Hollywood movies, now imagined as an American Calvary rather than a misconceived Cold War effort to contain China.
    With defeat looming in Iraq even the neocons are now mentally back in the South Asian quagmire. They are preparing a last ditch dolchstoßlegende defense; running amok in the Persian Gulf would have been just dandy if the left hadn’t betrayed us.
    Vietnam has been described as a classic Civil War with American participation. A long essentially nationalist struggle in which Hanoi by dogged persistence eventually won dominance over Saigon and re-unified the country.
    Iraq is a civil war of sorts but it simply does not have the organized principles of Vietnam. It is certainly does not fit into the Maoist Peoples War model. It lacks the bidirectional maneuver warfare of Vietnam. The battlefields that matter in Iraq are largely urban; particularly the great sprawl of Baghdad.
    Iraq’s an internecine Hobbesian struggle for dominance more resembling Lebanon in the 80s, Turkey in the late 70s or even Congo recently. It’s essentially sectarian politics lacks even the cohesive blocks of The Troubles era in N.I having an additional tribal dimension and it shows signs of nascent warlordism.
    This is all greatly complicated by Iraq’s wealth of energy resources and proximity to yet more. Ample reasons for Iraqis to kill each other and for other powers to intervene. Unlike Vietnam Iraq is a very well baited trap circled patiently by large predators. A much more complex and dangerous war in the making.
    The other way Iraq is very different from Vietnam is in that war from the beginning the US had a strong COIN element in it’s strategy not just big search and destroy missions. The US seems to have spent the first couple of years in denial about the existence of a native Iraq insurgency. With “the surge” the US military has begun to seriously employ COIN techniques far to late to have much chance of success. The unchecked Sunni insurgents have ramped up the violence to the point that the Shi’a are enraged beyond passivity; we now have a civil war on our hands.
    Realizing early that in this respect Vietnam provided valuable lessons that should be urgently applied to stem the rising did not happen. This is simply not something the US military appeared willing to accept. They’ve spent a long time polishing their heavy equipment and trying to forget the dirty low rent Greenie business Vietnam entangled them in.
    “The US military has had a host of successful experiences in counter-guerrilla war, including some distinct successes with certain aspects of the Vietnam War. However, the paradox stemming from America’s unsuccessful crusade in the jungles of Vietnam is this because the experience was perceived as anathema to the mainstream American military, hard lessons learned there about fighting guerrillas were neither embedded nor preserved in the US Army’s institutional memory. ”

  90. ali says:

    “This seems to be a bit like the Irish thing”
    The Irish War of Independence dates 1919-1921 usually. About 1,500 died in this war.
    The Civil War 1922-1923 killed ~4,000. The issue that divided the Dáil was partition. There was numerous incidents of sectarian ethnic cleansing.
    I’d not compare the Civil War with Iraq. The politics were highly colored by religion but far more coherent; competing nationalisms of varying fanaticism. The usual blood letting that follows most revolutions really. The hard working teatotal Iraqis also generate far higher body counts than my whisky sodden countrymen.
    Pádraig Pearse’s blood sacrifice obsessed Easter Rising (~500 killed) in 1916 was a precursor for the War Of Independence. It’s what happened in the lull that leads to the anointing of leaders of The Rising as martyrs by the Church and the fall of Dublin Castle.
    In 1916 most Irishmen were already busy dying for their conflicting ideas of Ireland in the mud of France. The slaughter of the first day of the Somme rather puts this in perspective:
    “Three 2nd RDF companies participated in the second wave of the attack, going to battle with 23 officers and 480 other ranks: 14 officers and 311 other ranks were casualties. British casualties for the first day, reached 60,695 – 19,240 were dead. After two days, 5,500 Ulstermen were dead, wounded or missing and the 36th (Ulster) was practically wiped out. The 47th Irish Brigade taking Guillemont was described as, ‘one of the most astonishing feats of the war.’ The Dublins were involved at Ginchy in September and the following month, the 2nd Dubs fought hand-to-hand in German trenches to win their objective. Hamel saw the last major engagement of this phase of the Somme battles, with the 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers attached to the 2nd Royal Marines, suffering 51% losses.”
    By 1918 revolution was in the air all over Europe and London foolishly started to talk about a draft in Ireland; that brought the Southern population out in revolt.
    About 50,000 Irish volunteers died in WWI, not far short of the Americans killed. Perhaps most were Irish Catholic Remondites fighting for Home Rule. They sailed off with their nation cheering behind them and many that returned were greeted by a population that had turned to the Republican cause rather than risk their own necks. Spat on (at least not by hippies) called “shilling takers”, a fair few of them got shot for sport by the IRA in the Civil war. It must have been heartbreaking. It’s only in the last few years that the 26 Counties has begun to honor them.
    My grandfather was with 36th at the Schwaben Redoubt, wounded several times, he never fully recovered his wits. The Somme remains an unhealthy Ulster Protestant obsession.
    I’d recommend ‘Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion’ by Charles Townshend.

  91. Dragon says:

    We were beating the tar out of N Vietnam. Funny so few people realize this. Not only that, but S Vietnam didn’t fall until two years after we left. There are many inaccurate ideas of what happened, there.

  92. Eric Dönges says:

    you may have beaten the tar out of the North Vietnamese – but not in any way that mattered. Wars are not won by having the better kill ratio (by that metric, Germany should have won WWII) – they are won by achieving your political objectives, and denying your enemy his. By this standard, the U.S. was soundly defeated.
    The U.S. could have attempted to knock North Vietnam right out of the war by carpet bombing the whole country into oblivion or conducting a ground invasion, but that would have risked getting the Chinese directly involved, which would have raised the war to a whole new level.

  93. fasteddiez says:

    Hey Anna Missed!
    And your point on the Jarhead videos is? These are Grunts, from my remembrances, save for the more modernist dialogue, the protagonists are identical in outlook to the people I was with “in country” during 66-67. I wish I had possessed that mini-cam technology then, instead of my brownie fiesta, because if I did, I would have filmed (for your critical edification) a platoon cheering when being read the news story of ex Jughead Charlie J. Whitman shooting all those people from the U of Texas tower in Austin…it validated their sharpshooting. They did not give a damn about the targets, nor did I, at the time. Upon hearing that Pogues/REMFs were rocketed in the rear, we cheered, because at last they got to earn their combat pay. All of these latter day Iraq weepy ceremonies for the fallen (replete with rifles, boots, dog tags, and such)….no time back then for such maudlin street theater, too few people, too much time in the field. Our field grade officers were veterans of WWII and Korea, so sentimentalism was lost on them. When someone dies, you rifle through their gear to get all the field stuff…Ammo first.
    Heads, ears, other appendages, timeless show and tell opportunities, for the troopies, memorialized forever with “Happy Snaps” and today with “Happy Flicks.” Even some of our sainted “greatest generation” forebears, as biographies confirm, were avid teeth and skull collectors.
    If you want to take a built up area, methinks these are the types of people you should call on . They want, nor need succor from Americans; they need MRE’s, water, Corpsmen, plenty of ammo, and the occasional shuteye.
    Was it Billy T. Sherman who said that war was cruelty, and there was no sense in trying to refine it. Small wonder he did not want political office after the war…he probably could not stand to be in the same room with those kinds of people.
    The most insidious things post Vietnam from a human relations standpoint were 1- the pity, mostly institutional…which translates to I’m OK and you’re not. Number 2 is the feeling among the elites, that the people who went to Vietnam for whatever reason were suckers, because they were too stupid to game the system.
    I think these two themes will probably return in some fashion. As for PTSD, I think it’s probably best not to go there, if it can at all be helped. TBI, (traumatic brain injury) cused by EFP/IEDs will be a biggie, and will overwhelm the VA system. So in closing, I think the video is both timeless and righteous. May the next war conjured up by draft-dodging scumbags feature such grunts again.

  94. Cold War Zoomie says:

    We didn’t lose the war. Vietnam was one battle, a battle that we lost. We recovered and moved on. Nobody invaded. Nobody occupied us. Our Constitution survived.
    That does not mean Vietnam was a good idea in the first place, nor that we don’t have residual problems.
    People talk about how we didn’t learn any lessons. Actually, Cheney and his crew learned one valuable lesson in their eyes: don’t allow an anti-war movement to develop. So, no draft, no general sacrifices, no uncontrolled press, no higher taxes. If there is no anti-war movement, then Congress can be nuetralized and the president is allowed to execute his war the way he sees fit.
    They were wrong.

  95. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Dear Pat,
    While one may somehow compare Iran to North Vietnam in terms of support for the Mahdi Army et al, it is not coming even close to the support the Viet Kong received. Is that correct? This may explain why US casualties in that front are very limited. Syria to al-Qaida more effective, but still limited.
    Here also comes into play what you pointed out regarding the lack of unity within the Iraqi insurgency-Sunni and Shi’i alike. As an unintended consequence of the US “order” under Bremmer, what you have there now is a de-facto situation of Devide and Rule. Politically speaking it complicates your position there to no end, but it helps you militarily. Sort of silver lining. It will no longer help when Muqtada will find the way to join hands with Sunni fundamentalists against you. He is working on it.

  96. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"Lurking in the background is the ineptitude of the Bush Administration and America as a whole in trying to cope with the reality of the foreignness of Iraq.">
    The disconnect between the White House and Congress and two centuries of American military, missionary, and academic experience in the Middle East — with roots four centuries ago — needs explanation.
    We can’t understand foreign cultures in the Middle East? Precisely why not?
    Americans have been out in Persia and Mesopotamia since the 1830s. Horatio Southgate, of Portland, Maine was out there in the 1830s and wrote a travel book entitled “Narrative of a Tour through Armenia, Kurdistan, Persia and Mesopotamia” published in 1840. There was a significant travel literature of this sort current at the time both American and British.
    Said Southgate in 1840 of his own education through on the ground operational experience, “After three months [in Constantinople], I began to perceive the fallacy of most of my conclusions…I found I knew next to nothing about the object of my study…I saw that my first judgments had been inaccurate, because they had been formed from a false position. I had begun to study the East with a Western mind…”
    Do Americans have a problem with Semitic languages? Well Judah Monis (1683-1764) was the first instructor of Hebrew at Harvard who taught nothing but the language. It had been taught since the founding of the college. Stephen Sewell (1734-1804) was the first Hancock Professor (est. 1764) of Hebrew and other Oriental languages. “A good classicist he knew besides Hebrew Arabic, Syriac, Samaritan; he even studied Ethiopic and Persian” according to Robert H. Pfeiffer, “The Teaching of Hebrew in Colonial America,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser., Vol. 45, No. 4, Tercentenary Issue. (Apr., 1955), pp. 363-373.

  97. frank durkee says:

    Let me simply add to Prof. Kiracofe’s list that as an undergraduate at Princeton in the early ’50’s half of my major in history was in Islamic Studies, In addition to courses in history, culture and modern developments there was a full language component, if one chose to major in the Oriental Languages Department. Not a lot of us took advantage of the possibility , but some did. Simply the oppertunities have been there , if pople wanted to take advantage of them. Even with that limited background it wa clear that we were making real misjudgements in the run up to the war and in the early occupation period.
    In the simplest human terms our elites to a significant extent do not understand what it means to be a people with a proud history who are now on the ‘short end of the stick.’ Reistance of some form, not necessarily violent is the norm. We need more adults around.

  98. David W says:

    While from a military and ‘national psyche’ standpoint, the US lost the Viet Nam War, there is one group who has emerged as the ‘winners’–the MNCs whose sweatshops have bloomed there. Of course, a job working for pennies a day seems like a great thing…if your country is blown apart.Is this a tactic?
    Dr. Kiracofe, it is interesting to hear your views comparing Liberation Theology to Marxism/Leninism; this wasn’t the view I had received while studying in Mexico during the mid 80s–instead, I interpreted it as a social justice movement whose salient feature was autonomy from the Church–which was why JPII and the Vatican stomped on it so hard.

  99. Babak Makkinejad says:

    frank durkee & Clifford Kiracofe:
    I do not think that there has ever been an absence of sound knowledge of foreign people in the United States since at least 1900s.
    The ineptitude that Col. Lang is referring to is caused by the deliberate and persistent disregard of that knowledge.
    It is like this: you apply for a managerial job selling widgets in China and the interviewer declines to offer you the job you since you know Chinese.

  100. canuck says:

    Several similiarities, but the major difference was Viet Nam was fought with drafted personnel, and Iraq is volunteer.
    I don’t see well-attended dissidents marching in the streets by returning vets and the public, nor are troops being spit upon by the public and there aren’t draft dodgers that escaped to northern borders. (Thank goodness for that small blessing!) Body bags aren’t photographed because that helped to turn the tide against fighting in Viet Nam.
    The population in the United States aren’t as affected by military losses because the fighting in Iraq is done by volunteers and paid third parties.

  101. T-Bone says:

    You wrote: The 1st Cav has set up a Combat Outpost to pacify a Sunni neighborhood; taking over several homes kicking out a family and surrounding it with concrete blast walls and Abrams tanks. Night recons, kicking in doors, searching homes, finding nothing.
    1st Cav has actually set up dozens of Comabt Outposts (COPs) and Joint Security Stations (JSSs) across Baghdad since this winter, as have almost all other units through Iraq. One I visited recently was the abandoned house of a former Iraqi army officer. The U.S. brigade tracked down the former officer in Jordan, received his permission to base their forces out of the house, and now pay him rent every month. I am unaware of any families being displaced by the establishment of COPs or JSSs. I do not believe that commanders would condone such actions, and can only imagine the public relations disaster that would result from verifiable stories along those lines. If I’m wrong, please tell me.
    I have personally seen many of these type of facilities, and have heard first-hand the officers and staff NCOs discuss the tremendous gains they’ve seen in human intelligence and local cooperation. To say that there is a long way to go is an understatement, but these measures have not destroyed neighborhoods-in some cases, they are the only thing that has saved them.

  102. XER says:

    “The U.S. brigade tracked down the former officer in Jordan, received his permission to base their forces out of the house, and now pay him rent every month.”
    Can you prove this? It itis true, what choices did they give him. There are many sides to this story. Does he plan on returning soon? Where is his family? I’m sure this will not make him very popular. If he comes back, he will probably be killed for collaberating with the enemy.

  103. Montag says:

    Babak Makkinejad,
    Actually, it’s worse than that. You apply for a managerial job selling widgets in China and the first question your interviewer asks you is, “What’s your position on abortion?” If your answer isn’t entirely kosher you’re shown the door. Only then does the interviewer make sure you DON’T speak Chinese. That was actually a question asked people applying for positions in Iraq!
    If I recall correctly, Napoleon would ask of a general up for promotion, “Is he lucky?” Not, “Is he pro-life?” That would probably have shortened his career somewhat.

  104. Moralist says:

    Once you went into Iraq you weren’t coming out anytime soon. That was apparent even in 1991.
    What impresses is the long-term nature of your destruction of Iraq. Very thorough job.
    America is now in a “praetorian guard” situation, isn’t it? I mean your military has taken over. How else to characterize a government spending two thousand million dollars a day each and every day on its military at a time when its population faces no credible threat?
    And the debate about things military never ends , all law is only about enforcement and punishment. And now actual Military Courts to admit statements obtained by torture (Apparently losing conscioussness doesn’t count as “major organ failure”.) The fact remains the when peace obtains soldiers are useless parasites on the body politic. The MIC is all about getting money for nothing… even though the war ended in 1945.

  105. Ellen1910 says:

    We had a very clear idea about the Chinese in North Vietnam and as I have said before I don’t remember anyone calling them “gooks.”
    Maybe that is a civilian term.
    W. Patrick Lang
    Clearly, Col. Lang is correct. They were called “chinks.” “Gooks” is properly reserved for Koreans. The correct appellation of the Vietnamese is “slopes.”
    How can we expect to win our G4 wars if we permit our ethnological discourse to become so careless?

  106. Curious says:

    This is strange, nobdoy mention the most obvious similarities…
    1. The washington DC paralysis. (the rhetoric, congress, the politicals jibe, pentagon lies, the exchanges, CYA, reports, lies, etc…) are all a rerun.
    2. if there is similarity to Vietnam. What we did in Iraq now is very similar to what the French did during the first indochina war. (the military strategy, installing government, using religious/previous autocrats, disorganized insurgency, corrupt gov. not supported by population, etc etc…)
    3. We actually believe our own lies/BS while the people we supposedly fight for see right through it. (Vietnam. stopping communism vs. continuation of colonial power. Iraq: spreading democracy vs. occupation)
    4. The most dubious one. Completely self absorb observation. Nobody here cite/quote what the Iraqis are saying thinking. Everybody has their own theory what Iraqis are supposedly thinking. Which is very odd since there are tons of Iraqis who blogs, and every single one of them say “occupation” and think the whole US presence in Iraq is bad.
    Some BS, different day.
    Iraq is very much the same as Vietnam. maybe the landscape, few details, actors and equipments are different, but the basic plot is very much the same.

  107. jonst says:

    The fact is the US is not the same nation we were in 60s and 70s. The success of WWII was still fresh with us. The production miracles of the post war years, ongoing. The expanding middle class, a reality. Go anywhere…pay any price, and all that stuff. Almost.The optimism, the belief in ourselves, endless. However, you only get to be ‘virgin’ once. You only get one first ‘marriage’.
    So, here we are, another generation, looking at a failed foreign adventure. But the nation, in the wake of Vietnam, agreed to a ‘prenupt’, if you will. Yes, we would embark upon great ‘adventures’. But our costs were capped. No draft. No tax increases. Indeed, we get expansive new social programs. We all share in the glory— via parades, ribbons, bumper stickers, and heartwarming ceremonies on the homefront (if we win quickly)but we limit the scope of the damage. Or so we think. Its some deal. We all should be proud of ourselves. Look at what we have for ‘leadership’. How many of them ever started a business (that made something other than manipulation of money)ON THEIR OWN? How many ever became highly proficient in some area of life? Enough to write a book about it? How many of them ever ran a farm? How many of them ever invented something? How many of them have ever made a living outside of the govt? Other than giving speeches? Sure, its a generalization on my part…but look around, see what we have. You see optimism? You see an expanding middle class? You see production growth? Take a good, hard, look at the America we have today. That’s one difference between Nam and now. So, if one loss led, to some extent, to the America we today…what is this new loss going to lead to?

  108. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Babek M, All,
    Your second paragraphs seems to capture the point I raised: the divergence between foreign policy and institutional expertise. Foreign policy includes diplomatic, commercial, cultural, and military dimensions. Institutional expertise relates to academia and government, and there is overlap.
    Our problem today, as a Nation, is that we have been out in the region for the last couple of centuries and we shall also be out in the region for the next couple of centuries, as the Europeans and others will be, so we need a serious and effective policy. The Bush Administration has complicated matters for us perhaps for the next 2 or 3 generations thereby benefiting those who compete with us for markets, influence, and the like.
    Presently, our military has been put in the position of buying time so that civilian policymakers can devise an appropriate exit strategy. I agree with Col. Lang’s views on this.
    The United States have since our War of Independence been actively engaged in the Mediterranean Basin and Near East.
    From a book I am writing at the moment: “The Sultan of Morocco was the first foreign head of state to formally recognize American independence when he granted free entry of American ships to his ports on December 20, 1777 and ordered the ships of the corsairs to let the ships pass unmolested. …
    The American Republic pressed eastward in the Mediterranean securing favorable treaties with Algiers (1795, 1815, 1816), Tripoli (1796, 1805), and Tunis (1797). The treaty of peace and friendship between the United States and Tunis contains a remarkable clause expressive of the American willingness to constructively engage with foreign cultures. The first three words of the preamble of that treaty read: “God is infinite.”….
    The American merchants benefited from the establishment, in 1801, of the Mediterranean Squadron of the United States Navy which, in 1865 after the American Civil War, was renamed the European Squadron. The American Navy protected American merchants and missionaries operating in the region just as the Sixth Fleet protects American interests today. The base of the squadron, from 1815-1848, was in the Balearic Islands at Port Mahon, Minorca and was leased from Spain. From 1848 to 1861 the squadron’s base was La Spezia located on the Ligurian coast south of Genoa. In 1865 and 1866, the squadron’s base was Villefranche, France. It then moved to Lisbon between 1866 and 1870 and returned to Villefranche between 1870 and 1883. …
    Edward Robinson (1794-1863), a noted educator himself associated with the Union Theological Seminary, spent four years in Palestine on geographic and topological research and became known internationally as the father of Biblical geography. His research was the most comprehensive since Eusebius and Jerome in the fourth century and for it he was awarded a gold medal in 1837 by the prestigious British Royal Geographic Society. His extraordinary work encouraged the establishment of the American Oriental Society at Boston in 1842…”
    I would add that our official governmental Arabic language training was started by Henry Clay in the 1820s with young language specialists attached to our North African missions-consulates for training in standard and dialect. One such specialist wrote the first analysis of Berber.
    Twentieth Century — Before TORCH, we undertook serious survey research on the ground with locals per the psychological situation. During WWII, military forces operating in North Africa and the Near East were briefed on religious and cultural issues, do’s and don’ts, Islam, local village customs and the like. I have my late uncle’s War Dept. pocket guides for Syria and Egypt sitting on my desk at the moment, and a language guide book for North Africa with distinctions between Moroccan, Algerian, and Libyan dialect.
    The issue is NOT a lack of institutional area expertise (academic or governmental) and familiarity with cultures, religions, geography, and topography. The issue is POLICY. The questions needing serious analysis: WHY the divergence between expertise and policy? WHAT accounts for it? WHEN did this phenomenon arise and WHERE? HOW did this come about?

  109. al palumbo says:

    Please do yourself a favor and log onto:
    to see how the surge is progressing.
    I’d like to see members of Congress read this soldier’s blog. I truly would. Good luck.

  110. Hoplite says:

    PL: Lurking in the background is the ineptitude of the Bush Administration and America as a whole in trying to cope with the reality of the foreignness of Iraq.
    Plus, the clowns in the Bush admin are also expecting people like al-Hakim, al-Sadr, et al to `make nice’ with ex-Baathists.
    Abdul Aziz al-Hakim leads the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC, previously known as SCIRI), which is Iraq’s leading Shiite party and a critical component of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s coalition.
    He is the sole survivor of eight brothers.
    During Saddam’s rule Baathists executed six of them.
    On August 29, 2003, a suicide bomber, possibly linked to the Baathists, blew up his last surviving brother, and predecessor as SCIRI leader, at the shrine of Ali in Najaf.
    Moqtada al-Sadr, Hakim’s main rival, comes from Iraq’s other prominent Shiite religious family.
    Saddam’s Baath regime murdered his father and two brothers in 1999.
    Earlier, in April 1980, the regime had arrested Moqtada’s father-in-law and the father-in-law’s sister—the Grand Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr and Bint al-Huda.
    While the ayatollah watched, the Baath security men raped and killed his sister. They then set fire to the ayatollah’s beard before driving nails into his head.
    De-Baathification is an intensely personal issue for Iraq’s two most powerful Shiite political leaders, as it is to hundreds of thousands of their followers who suffered similar atrocities.
    (Iraq: The Way to Go. By Peter W. Galbraith. NYRB, Volume 54, Number 13)

  111. confusedponderer says:


    The ineptitude that Col. Lang is referring to is caused by the deliberate and persistent disregard of that knowledge.

    I think that’s the point exactly. The Cheneyites consciously excluded advice because they knew better than those experts who were in their eyes biased in a ‘pro Arab way’, and lacked their ‘moral clarity’. For them the term ‘Orientalist’ or ‘Arabist’ is meant derogatory.
    Point in case is Mr. Lang’s little story about his job interview with ‘the * stupidest guy on earth’, Douglas Feist that iirc went along the line: “Is it true you’re that good at Arabic? Too bad.

  112. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think the xclusion experts was done to make certain that orders are carried out with no “if”s, “but”s and “maybe”s. The experts would have questioned orders and resisted those with which they disagreed.

  113. Curious says:

    The fact is the US is not the same nation we were in 60s and 70s.
    Posted by: jonst | 26 August 2007 at 08:00 AM
    Unfortunately we are very much the same nation. The basic thinking and operational methods are the exact same thing. The policy making body, the education background, the world view, they are all the same. This result in exact same behavioral and decision making pattern.
    The classic one:
    1. Iraq opening war diplomacy. That is point to point Vietnam opening act under LBJ. How we use diplomacy to ask for allies help, how we blend economic force vs. military projection. etc. It’s as if a the state dept. is reading from a script created by somebody who copy US history.
    I suppose to test this thesis, one only need to make general prediction what policy decisions and military moves will be next.
    1. somebody will change the current government, constitution, the entire thing by order, regardless of Iraq natural political flow. (naturally, this will only create more confusion, chaos and series of instability)
    2. gadgetocracy. Every and all Iraq problem will be solved through more advance equipments. Regardless if it makes sense or not. Or if it actually create more chaos.
    3. The use of aerial bombing and special force as blunt instrument of power to solve political conflict. (It’ll be a re-run of we need to destroy a village to save a village)
    4. Anybody notice in the 70’s we got tangled up in the middle east (oil shock) and that contribute to accelerating vietnam problem? (guess where we are at now?)
    I suppose an expert can sit down and make better prediction than I am. My point: the leadership, the decision making bodies, the elite class are all the same. They read same manual, same history book, same lessons …
    They will all make same basic mistake.

  114. jonst says:

    I would not try and change a person’s mind when they proclaim we are the same nation today that we were then. Except to say the following….I would love to see the reaction of Mike Mansfield/JW Fulbright, Everett Dirksen et al, to say nothing of old Henry Gonzales of Texas, to lectures from the MG Lynch’s of the world. I would love to see what the reaction of Westmoreland and Abrams would have been to being shadowed, in country, by a guy like Jack Kean while Kean pushed ‘his’ plan.
    I hold certain truths to be self evident…that this nation is not, in meaningful and vital ways, the same nation as it was in the 60s is one of those truths. You disagree. We agree to disagree.

  115. confusedponderer says:

    I agree. They didn’t want their gospel tainted. It was and probably still is unilateral internally just as it is internationally.

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