Thursday, August 28, 2003


The Left are always telling us that we should have learned from Vietnam to stay out of Iraq. This military writer has a rather different view. Some excerpts:

Iraq is no Vietnam, but there is a lesson from Vietnam that our commanders in Iraq will ignore at their peril: To win, we must think and act differently than our training and military education prepare us to do.

During the Vietnam War, some of the fiercest fighters the war ever saw were soldiers who were known as combat bums and as troops who had gone native.

What they had in common was an obsession with winning, even at the cost of career advancement within the U.S. military.

they began to adopt the lifestyle of the locals in Saigon and elsewhere, and they began to think "out of the box." Ultimately what emerged was an extremely unique style of counterinsurgency warfare - one that may save us both in Iraq and in our current war against terrorism.

It is worth our while today to learn from the Vietnam-era "combat bums" who went native to fight their war. Of all the combat bums, few left us a more worthwhile legacy than John Paul Vann, who fought in Vietnam first in uniform and then later returned to Vietnam as a civilian advisor.

Typically the counterinsurgency leader leaves the familiarity and safety of U.S. institutions and begins to live among the local population - the same people who are recruited by an adversary such as Osama bin Laden and the like. Sometimes this type of mission will include overseeing civilian projects that will improve the lives of the locals. But in all cases, the leader cuts as many ties as possible with the U.S. government and, by primarily relying on his intuition, learns to move among the people like "a fish through water."

A successful counterinsurgent will begin to build trust with the local population...


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