Rumsfeld’s Army

There are some really serious things going on in the United States Army.

The Army is a unique institution.  It is part federal and part state.  It has always been an institution close to the people.  It is the oldest of the Armed Forces.

It is now experiencing a transformative period so profound that it will result in a very different Army from the one that was re-built after the end of the searing experience of the Vietnam War and the hostility  which the Army as an institution received from much of the American people. 

The post VN War Army was re-built as an army of volunteers, of family people, essentially middle class and oriented toward middle American "family values." Standards were made high for enlisted soldiers, and the force that emerged was filled with people who represent "mom and pop" America.  The combat arms came to be more filed with Caucasians from small cities and rural areas.  Anyone who looks at the pictures of the fallen in the news knows that to be true.  Smoking and drinking were strongly discouraged.  Drug use was virtually stamped out.  Sexual mores reminiscent of the Victorian Age were enforced to the point of absurdity. 

That Was Then:

Now, in the age of Rumsfeld, we have a very different thing emerging.  I have pieced together my understanding of what is happening and would like to offer my observations.  These are informed by my 27 years in the Army and my military education as represented by diplomas from the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.  I welcome informed comment.

Firstly, the Army is being made into a light force in which its primary combat units will be lightly armed Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) of about 3000 infantry soldiers rather than the 15000 to 17000 soldier Divisions which now exist (DIV).  These divisions contain a great many more troops divided into a number of functions.

A typical division today contains:  three ground maneuver brigades (tanks and infantry) , one artillery brigade, one aviation brigade and a large number of supply, maintenance, signal and othr support units.  This is a potent force which can sustain itself in the field logistically for a long time and which has a lot of built-in firepower with which to defeat enemies who have something other than IEDs, car bombs and rifles with which to fight. 

In Rumsfeld’s Army the force will be made up of many small BCTs in which there will be little in the way of organic (built in) artillery and tanks.

Artillery is the big killer on the battlefield.  Artillery (with guns of caliber above 100mm) can fire day and night with great dependability and accuracy at targets so distant they can not be seen from the guns, and unlike aircraft are available all the time.  In Rumsfeld’s Army there will be much less artillery.

Tanks.  Rumsfeld evidently does not like tanks.  He thinks they are too heavy, too expensive and an example of the kind of "old thinking" that he is trying to get rid of.  He thinks this in spite of the fact that the Abrams tank was an indispensible element in the ligthning advance to Baghdad and the additional fact that our troops in Iraq would be severely endangered in the absence of tanks. In Rumsfeld’s "New Model" army the armored vehicle of choice will be the "Stryker" wheeled armored vehicle.  This is essentially an "armored car."  Any Tanker wil tell you that a "Stryker" is a poor substitute for an Abrams Tank.

Army Aviation.  Rumsfeld thinks there is too much of this as well.  It is too expensive, too maintenance dependent, and requires too much cubic space in shipment by aircraft to be as deployable as he would want.

Bottom Line:  Rumsfeld brought Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker back from retirement to implement this concept.  Schoomaker is a Special Operations Forces officer whose greatest achievement during his career was to command the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).  This is America’s SWAT Team.  Light troops, lightly armed with no tanks or artillery.  They are used in air deployments overseas in small groups for short periods of time against lightly armed terrorist forces. 

Get the connection?  The right man in the right job.

At the same time, Rumsfeld is re-making the leadership of the Army in the same way by personally vetting all senior officer promotions and assignments.  He interviews them himself.  This is unheard of.  Well, you can be sure that there will be no more men like General Shinseki to trouble him.

What’s the problem with this whole makeover?  Is this not the age of superior technology and intelligence in which the civilian academic’s theories and dreams of small forces, acting on perfect intelligence, in "surgical" attacks dependent on perfect technology has come at last?

No.  We could be defeated in some future struggle.

Enemies embarrassingly do not do what you want them to do and often show up for the party in awkward numbers. 

As a rule, technology usually fails at the most difficult moment possible and the more advanced it is, the more likely it is to fail.

Intelligence analysis is never perfect.  It is always done perforce on the basis of incomplete information and therefore is always at least a little wrong.  This usuually leaves the "grunts" holding the bag for its flawed predictions.

We will be OK so long as we don’t fight any enemies who are; numerous, who continue fighting for long periods, or who have tanks or artillery.

Let’s think twice before we take on someone like Iran, China or North Korea.

There is another whole side of this story in the effect that Rumsfeld’s plans for re-positioning the new force will have on the people of the Army.  Tomorrow, maybe.

Pat Lang

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32 Responses to Rumsfeld’s Army

  1. b says:

    Technically I agree with the above (hey, I am an ex-tank officer) on the other side the “new army” may prevent the US from taking on Iran, China and N.Korea.
    That may be a good for the world. (BTW: Why is China included in the above “axis of evil”?)

  2. DSK says:

    This is very interesting.
    I would add that these changes have taken place within a veritable sea change in military thinking that has also had profound effects on our national defense.
    When I first enlisted in the Air Force, it was still still considered the most important branch of the armed forces. We got the best equipment and the most highly intelligent, educated, and self-assertive young enlisted people.
    I worked at SAC Headquarters at the 544th Strategic Intelligence Wing at Offut AFB, where it was not uncommon for Staff Sergeants to have at least a B.A. It was clear that field-grade officers managed personnel (normally flying officers who found their way to a desk) and Non-coms and Airmen ran the show on the floor. If the Commander wanted to know something about Communist status of forces, he got up from his desk and walked over and chatted with one of his airmen.
    On one occassion I had, what I thought at the time, the honor to brief Daddy Bush on a Soviet airframe rollout. The only question the former chief of the CIA could find to ask me was “Gee, how deep do you think the snow is there?” I used the line that I was taught to use when I didn’t know the answer, I said, “I will research that and get back to you sir.” I heard chuckling among the Flag-grade officers in the darkened hall before me.
    Then the Cold War dissolved and the base became a Joint-Com; a preserve of Naval, Marine, and Army personnel. Esprit de corps fell by the wayside and the Air Force lost most of its prestige. In my field, career oriented NCOs got out. Some got civilian jobs at DIA or NPIC, most just returned to civilian life.
    This seems to have been a precursor to changes in the Army that you discuss.
    Again, I must admit I remain perplexed. While Saddam, his military capacity crushed in the first Gulf War, was being touted as a great threat as he was supposedly building nuclear weapons (along with the Iranians and the North Koreans), in the real world there remains thousands of nuclear missiles targeting the United States in Russia. Our only defense against this remains a Strategic Air and Naval presence which has been emasculated and marginalized.
    To be fair, neither the post VN army, or the new Rumsfeld “Swat Team” army could stop the hordes of North Koreans from crossing the DMZ for more than a few hours.
    Such tunnel vision remains the greatest danger of Rumsfeld’s proclivity for “modernizing” the Army and American ignorance of strategic realities.

  3. Pat Lang says:

    The list is of the “axis of capability,” not the “exis of evil.” pl

  4. RJJ says:

    “… the effect the … new force will have on the people of the Army.”
    If you have any thoughts on the new privateers, I would like to read them.
    It looks as if they INTEND to replace the present services with mercenaries to be led by regime loyalists.
    They will argue it is a regrettable necessity.

  5. Pat Lang says:

    “the new privateers?”
    Get a grip!!

  6. avedis says:

    Sounds like the Army is emmulating the Marines; becoming shock troops, masters of the blitz.
    All fine and well unless, as you point out, we become engaged in a prolonged conventional war.
    Oddly, the Marine Corps role in Iraq is emmulating the traditional role of the Army.
    Inter-service politics?

  7. Pat Lang says:

    Actually, the UN Command in Korea (US and Koreans) were quite capable of dealing with the North Koreans.
    The lightly armed SWAT team Army of Rumsfeld’s design could never do that. pl

  8. Pat Lang says:

    The marines are not “shock troops.” They are naval infantry who exist for the purpose of capturing lodgements useful to a naval force. It is difficult to conduct “blitzkrieg” at the marines normal rate of advance which is 2 1/2 miles/hour. “Blitzkrieg” implies high speed armored warfare. They do not do that and never have.
    The marines think that they should be withdrawn from combat after the assault phase of an amphibious landing. They were withdrawn after the capture of Baghdad by the 3rd Infantry Division and the marines. This was in accordamce with doctrine. The Army agreed since the marines are not equipped for extended operations in a large land mass.
    In Iraq they are commited to extended operations deep in the interior of a large country. They do not exist for that purpose. A shortage of troops has required this commitment in a role for which they are ill suited. pl

  9. b says:

    North Korea:
    PL says: “UN Command in Korea (US and Koreans) were quite capable of dealing with the North Koreans.”
    NYT today says that may change:
    “U.S. Banks on Technology in Revised Military Plan for a Possible North Korea Conflict”
    quote – American commanders are making significant changes in their plans in the event of a military conflict with North Korea, to rely in large measure on a new generation of sensors, smart bombs and high-speed transport ships to deter and, if necessary, counter that unpredictable dictatorship, the senior United States commander in South Korea says. … The new plans would rely, for example, on being able to move Army units and the service’s new Stryker infantry fighting vehicle on C-17 cargo jets from their base at Fort Lewis, Wash., to reinforce South Korea in just 11 hours, General LaPorte said.
    High-speed troop transport ships can bring larger numbers of marines from Okinawa in less than a day. Heavy equipment for arriving troops is already positioned in South Korea in climate-controlled warehouses, the general said. – /quote

  10. Jerome Gaskins says:

    I’m just the teenager around the fire here, listening with awe and admiration to my elders, happy and proud to be included in the gathering.
    I wonder if the Defense Secretary’s “upgrade” process wouldn’t benefit from being stretched out and checkpointed, as the base closure process has been, or has always been?
    Perhaps a little more governance and transparency would make the Secretariat think thru its plans longer and harder? Provided, of course, that there is no chance for any political party to stack the structure in it’s favor.
    The primary beneficiary would be the affected service.

  11. avedis says:

    RE: Marines. Yes of course. I can’t disagree with you but, I was referring more to the rapid deployment capabilities of the lighter Fleet Marine Corps.
    Sorry Col., but the Corps put the Army to shame when they were able to move troops and materiel into Afghanistan -a landlocked country – and establish forward bases there while the Army was still scrathing its collective head trying to work out the logistics of getting from point A to point B.
    And such experiences may be at the heart of Rummy’s – misguided in my opinion – transformation.
    Furthermore, throughout their 230 year history the Marines have frequently and effectively been deployed in counter-insurgency campaigns.
    This may be another characteristic that Rumsfeld wants to emmulate in the Army.
    There was a time when the term “Blitz” was used by US Marines to describe the type of action they do best, a frontal assault backed by naval guns with small arms at the head of the spear in a campaign of relatively short duration.

  12. ckrisz says:

    Wouldn’t a war with China (presumably over Taiwan) be primarily air and naval?

  13. Pat Lang says:

    I was referring to any future war with China not a specific scenario. pl

  14. Pat-
    You mention that the post-Vietnam Army was oriented towards a “family values” group, what effect do you think that the transformation would have on the family lives of Army Soldiers? What effect do you think it would have on the other values you mentioned?

  15. searp says:

    The Marines ran an extended battle experiment about a decade ago where they put a lot of small teams ashore with the job of calling for fires. That was the plan.
    I recall hearing that this was a failure – the teams were exposed, more often than not, and chewed up by heavier and more numerous OPFOR.
    My point is that if we’re essentially revisiting that experiment with the entire Army we will likely regret it.
    A question for COL Lang:
    To what extent is Rumsfeld being driven to this model by cost? People are vastly expensive in the all-volunteer force.

  16. Pat Lang says:

    Partly cost, partly conceit.

  17. Pat Lang says:

    The answer will be posted this evening. pl

  18. avedis says:

    “We will be OK so long as we don’t fight any enemies who are; numerous, continue fighting for long periods, or have tanks or artillery.”
    I am going to apologize in advance for going off on a very oblique tangent – and I suppose for anything that might have been taken as inter-service baiting above – but as I read the above quote I starting thinking about another of Rumsfeld’s armies; the Iraqi Army.
    I know we are supposed to leave Iraq when the Iraqis can provide security for themselves. Who is going to supply the Iraqi Army with the tanks, aircraft, artillery, and other various and critical weapons systems that would provide security internally, but, more importantly from external threats?
    I just don’t see that happening. Right now it looks like some troops driving around in Toyota pickups with Aks aimed out the back passes for Iraqi armored cavalry.
    Do they have Helos?
    What about communications systems?
    How could we leave the Iraqis vulnerable to external threats like Syria, Iran….?
    Who would pay for it all? Who would train? How long would that take?
    Maybe this aspect of the US withdrawal plan could be addressed at some future date?

  19. Pat Lang says:

    This is an excellent suggestion that you make and I will write something on it this week. pat

  20. J Thomas says:

    I’m no expert on these topics. But here is a question.
    If it’s true that the army is getting divided up into units that can’t stand up to heavy or numerous enemies in conventional battle — planning for what sort of warfare would make that appropriate?
    I can imagine answers that I don’t have the knowledge to evaluate. For example, if we’re going to face enemies who have munitions that are particularly good at hitting targets, then armor does better by being silent and fast than heavy. Don’t be where they expect you to be, don’t get hit. Because if they hit you, you’re disabled anyway.
    Similarly, if any big concentration of force by either side is likely to get WMDed, then you want small forces that are very competent and particularly fast. If they decide to WMD you, be somewhere else by the time they attack.
    I read about our troops invading iraq, wearing full CBW gear in 95 degree weather because they didn’t know that Saddam’s WMDs were all gone. We’re surely going to see a lot more of that. If our enemies know that playing the game by our rules means they lose every time, they’re going to make up their own rules. If we have less of an advantage with WMDs than without, they’re going to start using them. So it might be a good time to get ready to win anyway.
    Could we have end goals that don’t require us to stand up against strong armies? If all the big strong armies are people who already have nukes, maybe we don’t want to send expeditionary forces against them. Go after the little guys, and if we can move fast enough then when a big slow army starts chasing us we just zip off to convenient airfields and fly away, leaving nothing behind but destroyed airfields. No, it doesn’t sound ideal to me either, but it might be what we can afford. Maybe the days are over that the USA was the only nation that could do strong force projection. Maybe with the new technology nobody can do it. Maybe we beat the chinese if we fight them far enough from their borders, and they beat us if it’s too close to their borders, and we just have to stay away from big national armies full of nationalist fanatics on their own turf.
    Well, these particular ideas don’t sound all that plausible even to me. But my question is, are there circumstances that would make something like Rumsfeld’s plan workable? Changes in military technology? Changes in goals? Changes in availability of fuel? I can’t predict such things very well, but maybe you can.

  21. Pat Lang says:

    J Thomas
    You have a plausble argument, but I really think that what we have here is Rumsfeld the aviator’s fascination with airplanes and Gee Whiz equipment and Schoomaker the SOF man’s dislike of heavy forces.
    These pre-dispositions have been massaged into a structure for conducting war against minimally armed “wogs” and terrorists.

  22. J Thomas says:

    Sir, it is all too plausible that Rumsfeld etc are clueless.
    I’m wondering what circumstances would be required to make something like that work. And if we can’t get those circumstances, how much can we do with such a force anyway?
    I can imagine that with enough extremely-good PGMs a light force might take on at least its numbers in heavier forces. Provided they can get sufficient resupply. Wasn’t that an issue in iraq? The public news was reporting we outran the supply chain, like we assumed nobody behind the front would attack our supply convoys. If you move light and fast you need very fast resupply. If you had that, what more would you also need to keep from getting rolled up?
    Suppose that Rumsfeld succeeds in demolishing the army’s own plans. It seems like he could manage that in 8 years. Somebody will have to take what he leaves us and do the best they can with it.

  23. Pat Lang says:

    J Thomas
    You are right. The game will have to be played with the cards available for quite a while.
    -Hope for the “right” enemy.
    -Pray for enough really good PGMs.
    -Hope that a Rommel/Stonewall/Napoleon shows up at the right time and that the system empowers him/her.

  24. NYkrInDC says:

    Don’t know if you read Tom Barnett often, but he addresses alot of the issues you bring up in this piece. Here’s a sample.
    Leviathan’s speed versus SysAdmin’s thoroughness: the budget debate begins
    “Rumsfeld’s Push For Speed Fuels Pentagon Dissent: Billions Are Sought for Force To Fight Blitzkrieg War; Critics Cite Iraq Troubles (Who Will Repair the Sewers?),” by Greg Jaffe, Wall Street Journal, 16 May 2005, p. A1.
    Great article by always good Jaffe on Rumsfeld’s push for speed-speed-speed as the essence of the transformed Leviathan. I agree with Rummy’s approach on two levels: tactical speed is an obvious good, because it keeps our people alive in combat. So buy fast platforms (aircraft, ships, vehicles) so our people can move around as rapidly as possible. Operational speed is also key, but there we’re into the realm of net-centric warfare more than kinetics or movement of stuff, so it’s bytes over bullets.
    Where I part with Rumsfeld and side with the recalcitrant Marines and Army is on strategic speed, or this 10-30-30 notion of stopping a military advance in 10 days, then defeating the enemy in another 30 days, and then being ready to do it all over in another 30 days. Simply put, the U.S. has never engaged foes with that sort of rapidity, and there’s no clear evidence that we’ll ever need or want to react that fast. Because if we’re reacting that fast, we’re reacting alone, and the Leviathan needs more justification than just Washington’s firm decision to act. Without lining up the process that marries the SysAdmin follow-on force to the Leviathan’s power application, we get Iraq after Iraq: easy first-half victories followed by slogging second-half efforts where casualties pile up, allies peel away, and we end up looking more imperial than sysadmin in our bodyguarding of globalization’s advance.
    The Army and the Marines are right: there needs to be budgetary balancing here, and to the extent a bias is revealed with time, it should accrue funds to the labor-intensive SysAdmin force, not the capital-intensive Leviathan, which has no peers on its horizon-all fantasies about China pushed aside by a cooler, more logical, and more utilitarian assessment of globalization and the international security environment it spawns.
    The 10-30-30 looks like the Air Force and Navy trying to hog transformation over the long run, claiming the bulk of the budgetary pie, when in reality the Iraq occupation proves that transformation must shift from the air to the ground if we’re going to become serious about shrinking the Gap and winning this Global War on Terrorism.
    The Leviathan’s Squeezed, but the SysAdmin Bleeds
    “A New Workhorse’s Heavy Load: Nine-Nation Jet Fighter Project Runs Over Budget and Faces Cutbacks,” by Leslie Wayne, New York Times, 27 April 2005, p. C1.
    “Bloodied Marines Sound Off About Want of Armor and Men,” by Michael Moss, New York Times, 25 April 2005, p. A1.
    “stuff is rarely the main difference between life and death. How you use it is. That’s what the military calls tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTP. You provide the best armor in the world and He will eventually figure some other way to screw you over: by piercing it, going around it, whatever. Point being: the “stuff” alone is never what’s wanting. There is never enough gear, there is only enough adjustments and innovation in tactics, techniques and procedures.

  25. Pat Lang says:

    An over-itellectualization of a process that never goes as planned and which requires vast reserve stores of energy and manpower to cope with unpredictability.
    This reminds me of the nonsense that used to be spouted by the “operations research” and “systems analysis” whiz kids who were sure that they could “game” the North Vietnamese into submission. pl

  26. J Thomas says:

    I have no experience with OR for military purposes, but with industrial design it has a place.
    When you do something new, if the OR approach says there’s a particular problem you need to pay real close attention because that problem will probably bite you. But if it says there’s no problem then likely some problem nobody foresaw at all will bite you.
    It’s worth it to learn what you can that way, but it won’t give all the answers.

  27. Pat Lang says:

    J Thomas
    ORSA didn’t loose the war in VN. The leadership of the US civil and military government managed that by themselves, but the kind of throrizing about war on the basis of industrial and business design sure produced a lot of weird, inappropriate and expensive equipment. p

  28. J Thomas says:

    I expect the vietnamese had something to do with that war too, it wasn’t just the US leadership.
    I’m not a military historian, but I get the impression we simply faced too many political constraints. Like, it was very hard to beat the NVA without pushing them through cambodia until there was no place to retreat to, and pushing them through north vietnam until there was no place to retreat. But we did that in korea and wound up fighting the chinese army, and we weren’t ready to do that again.
    And we could have done it as a total war, destroy the production that supplies the armies, but we would have had to bomb china and russia to do that and we weren’t ready to do that.
    And the air force tried to interdict supplies, and they could do it well enough to make a big difference when it’s us attacking, but when the NVA could just sit in safe places until enough supplies got through, all the interdiction did was slow them down.
    We could threaten to do terror-bombing but we weren’t actually ready to kill enough north vietnamese civilians to succeed that way so it was just a bluff and they called us on it.
    In korea when it was decided by the US Army and the PLA slugging it out, it didn’t much matter what the koreans thought. Once the front lines rolled over them a couple of times they were mostly just ready for it to be over. But when we needed the vietnamese to defend themselves they weren’t particularly good at it, for various reasons. I dunno. Something about the training, something about the officers, something about the supplies? Discipline might get you through times of no patriotism better than patriotism will get you through times of no discipline, but they didn’t have enough of either.
    And Johnson didn’t think the US public would agree to the taxes to pay for the war, so he kept the costs off-budget. So we had a series of economic crises. Price controls, we went completely off the gold standard to 100% fiat money, etc. Toward the end we had an oil shock.
    We could have won, but after the early half-measures failed we needed to persuade the american people to wage total war against north vietnam and china. In hindsight it looks very difficult to win without that. At least to me.
    Meanwhile the systems analysis guys failed to identify the critical variables. Or maybe some of them did that and couldn’t get a hearing. Anyway, OR is an art and the results can be useful but not really dependable.

  29. Pat Lang says:

    Vietnam: No. The Vietnamese COMMUNISTS were our enemy and that of the Nationalist Vietnamese, not the Vietnamese people as a whole. The Vietnamese Communists were only capable of doing so much. The insurgency in SVN was not unbeatable by any means and in the end we and the non-communist Vietnamese pretty much did so. The cavalier way in which you dismiss the fighting qualities of many of the troops in the armed forces of SVN is just uninformed. The Paratroops (whom I had the honor to serve with), the RVN Marines, the Rangers, etc, were fine soldiers who fought well and many died for their country, some in my presence. The notion that most people in SVN were on the side of the Communists is just wrong. Look at how many of them left after the Communist victory. Look at how many of them were imprisoned for years after the communist victory.
    The Communists could not have won without the entry of the North Vienamese Army into SVN and the time that their fight there against us provided for political action by their allies across the world.
    Any time in 1966-69 we could have adopted the posture of an offensive-defensive strategy to cut off movement along an East-West line from the South China Sea to the Mekong River on the Laos-Thailand border. We could either have “refused” the flank south along the river or extended it some distance into Thailand. The Thai were our allies in that war and had troops in SVN. We had the assets to make that line impassable for significant numbers of troops and materiel.
    But, to do that would have required political and military leadership with vision, understanding and “balls.” I rest my case.
    ORSA: Logistics and communications are sciences. Operations and intelligence are arts. Why? Because the number of variables in what are essentially human social activities and analysis thereof are so great that any attmept to “solve” them by mathmatical models will inevitably result in failure to “weight” sufficiently factors that can not be measured in numbers. “Chaos” theory robably come closest to describing the problem.
    No. Genius is the answer. The kind of genius that enables a truly great commander to understand the enemy situation, terrain, weather and all else on a “gestalt” basis. It is what the German called “finger tip” understanding. This is the kind of intuition in which as Clausewitz said “knowledge becomes capability without conscious reflection.”
    You can teach that but it helps to have an innate talent. I have known generals who did have it and those who did not. I prefer those who do,
    Pat Lang

  30. J Thomas says:

    Colonel Long, you were there and I wasn’t, and I have to give your experience a lot of respect. On the other hand you weren’t everywhere all the time, so a lot of what you know is what you heard and read, same as me. On the third hand, you had and probably still have access to information I don’t, and you’ve surely spent more time on it. So I wouldn’t argue with you, and yet I might have a few quibbles.
    All the vietnamese were involved in one way or another, not just the communists. The early vietnmanese government was not winning against the insurgents — that’s why we got involved. Kind of like the north koreans were beating the south koreans. The insurgents were getting some help from north korea all along, though, weren’t they?
    And the southerners weren’t that strong. They had some very good military units but not enough of them, and lots of places the civilians weren’t organised well enough against terrorists or too many of them were terrorists. I got the impression the catholics didn’t do enough to persuade others that they made better rulers than the communists. They depended on the communists to do that, which partly worked.
    Here’s a metaphor for that — by 2004 I was ready to vote for anybody but Bush. Except the more I saw of Kerry, the less hard I felt like working at it. I’d vote against Bush, no question, but I wasn’t ready to spend a lot of money and a lot of time campaigning for Kerry. Looking back I’m sorry I didn’t, but at the time I just didn’t have the enthusiasm. I can imagine a lot of buddhists in vietnam might have felt that way.
    I see your point about cutting the NVA supply routes, and it clearly would have had a good chance. I see the problem that we’d have been defending a more-or-less-static line for all the years it took us to mop up the south, and we’d take occasional casualties doing that, it wouldn’t have been popular at home, but it’s the most workable plan I’ve heard.
    But our incursions and bombing in Cmmbodia was “secret”. We let political and diplomatic etc concerns get in the way. And we also did that for the various other approaches that might have worked.
    I don’t know enough to guess whether the diplomatic etc concerns were really important enough to pay attention to. In hindsight we were wrong to do the alternative which lost. But at the time we had generals who oozed the utmost confidence in what we were doing.

  31. Pat Lang says:

    Lang not Long.
    In part of my service I was the chief of intelligenc for a theater wide reconnaisance organization. Of necessity I knew what was going on and what had gone on.
    By 1952, long before we took over this war from the French, the Viet Minh were altogether a communist organization. The VC who were really the branch of the Viet Minh/North Vietnamese government who were in the south were altogether communist, as is the government of Vietnam today. The Viet Minh/VC organization was in no way a “popular front” grouping. Anyone who tells you that who was around then is misleading you.
    You are mistaken in thinking that “All the vietnamese” were involved in the insurgency. I would say that 25% favored the communists, 25% favored the non-communist side and 50% were waiting to see who would win. I lived in isolated vilages in areas controlled (out of town) by the VC/NVA. I never experienced any sort of hostility from the local people. One town I lived in was over-run by enemy troops in March, 1969. They found the villagers to be unfriendly.
    The Viet Minh had always had local force troops and underground political organizations in the south. These continued to exist after 1954 and, yes, the communist government always sent small amounts of materiel and people to them but it was only after Tet 1968 that Northern people and supplies became in a majority in the VC. We had killed the southerners. The NVA Army had come in with their all northern troops in 1964-65. Incidentally all these units, NVA and Vc had a military chain of command which was paralleled at every level by a communist party political commissar.
    Yes. It is true that the southern government and civilians were not strong enough to fight off the communist insurgency and invasion by themselves. So what! Is this a reason not to side with them? The Viet Cong/NVA represented something new in SE Asia, European style Marxism/Leninism. I suppose you know that Ho Chi Minh was a founding member of the French Communist Party?
    The plan for the “Lang Line” wouldn’t have kept us there any longer than we were and we would have won.
    Pat Lang
    I don’t know what

  32. J Thomas says:

    Colonel Lang, (Sorry about the typo)
    I was unclear. I certainly didn’t mean to say that all the vietnamese were with the insurgents, or even that a majority was. What I intended to say was that none of them could help getting involved with the war, and they had some affect on the defeat. Those who opposed us, those who supported us too weakly, everybody had an effect.
    The thing about who was winning without whom else’s support is probably too abstruse to bother with, but I’ll give it a quick shot. You pointed out that the southern insurgents couldn’t win against the ARVN + US forces. I figured that the ARVN etc without us hadn’t been winning against the insurgents. But then as it turned out, we had trouble winning against the north vietnamese army when it was supplied by china and russia. (They could take their losses longer than we could take ours.) I’m not sure what point to make about all this — the point I was trying to make was that it doesn’t lead to any obvious point, but I let that get out of hand. Sorry about that.
    Similarly the misunderstanding about “all the vietnamese” came when I intended a tiny quibble — you said the US civil and military leadership lost the war all by themselves, and I wanted to say that the vietnamese of all sorts probably had something to do with it too. I shouldn’t have bothered to say that, it wasn’t very important and it sounded too much like something else.
    For whatever it’s worth, your plan to win vietnam sounds to me better than any other I’ve heard of. It sounds like it could likely have gotten a military victory. You pointed out the large number of variables that can intervene, and it isn’t impossible that some of them may have intervened, but still it’s the best. Considering how things actually turned out I’m sorry we didn’t do it.

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