– Forgotten after Vietnam everything that we had learned the hard way about irregular/counterinsurgency warfare.
– Justified to itself its extremely slow adaptive process to the evident phenomenon of massive insurgencies employing asymmetric tactics.
My assumption about the first subject has been that the Army’s well established predilection for attritional tactics and heavy maneuver forces caused it to return to that model of warfare as soon as it could after VN. This tendency in the US Army has been evident since the American Civil war and is probably related to the manner of the North’s victory. The second seems more difficult to understand since four or five years have elapsed and only slowly has the Army shown an ability to adapt.
I have now heard enough from those who can only be described as present Army leaders to reach the following tentative conclusions.
– The argument made by them is that force structure and doctrine are "threat" driven and that after VN their perception was that the main threat remained that of the Warsaw Pact and therefore they were duty bound to concentrate on that and to ignore whatever minor threats might exist in the world of irregular warfare.
This seems a doubtful argument since there were secondary or even tertiary threats before, during and after the VN War. The Army had managed to deal with these lesser threats then, why not after the VN War.
– The leadership’s response to the question of why it has taken them so long to change is that they recognized early on that this was a "new" kind of enemy fighting a "new" kind of war. At the same time they say that they consider the pace at which they have changed to be normal within the system they have established for "managing" change and that there is no reason for criticizing them for change which is now coming into effect.
I have looked at the Defense Department and Army’s system for managing change. It is extremely bureaucratic, laden with layers of minutia driven papers, experiments and boards. I suspect that the distribution of personality types which I used to see in the Army’s more senior officers prevails throughout. The senior ranks are typically dominated by people who are extremely good at solving problems within accepted parameters but extremely poor in imagining paradigm changes. Typically, the people involved in managing change approach "change" as a mysterious thing, not easily imagined in the absence of tangible evidence and to be feared. GHW Bush said he was not good at "the vision thing." Neither are most of these folks.
Consequently, they approach change as an engineering problem. By their "lights," they are correct. Their system is now producing change at a rate they are comfortable with. pl