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LESSONS FROM VIET NAM THAT BUSH DID NOT LEARN

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  • Warren Woessner
    I was recently having lunch with a group of associates and started talking about the parallels between Iraq and Viet Nam. I know that this is nothing new to
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2004
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      I was recently having lunch with a group of associates and started
      talking about the parallels between Iraq and Viet Nam. I know that this
      is nothing new to many of us, but I suddenly realized that the oldest
      person at the table apart from me was 39. These folks have no memory of
      what the Viet Nam years were like. (For the record, when my student
      deferment was cancelled I was close to 26, which was the maximum age of
      men being drafted. I was called for a physical, but then was told I
      didn't need to show up). Bush also avoided service, but apparently did
      not learn any of the following lessons (or is learning them now, the
      hard way):

      1. You can't win the "hearts and minds" of the people by killing them.
      Inevitably, the US ground forces are killing and imprisoning innocent
      civilians. This is just the lack of discrimination between "friendlies"
      and "hostiles" that helped turn the Vietnamese people (and the rest of
      the world) against our efforts.

      2. You can't defeat a determined guerilla resistance with conventional
      forces unless you are willing to use overwhelming force. This kind of
      force is relatively rare in Western culture (thank goodness). In WWII,
      if a sniper fired on a German patrol from a French village, the Germans
      might line up all the men in the village and shoot every other one. The
      US edged toward this sort of brutality in Viet Nam when our forces
      burned villages to the ground for this sort of resistance, but the
      public reaction stopped this sort of activity (when it was revealed).
      The Iraqi prison scandals have also provoked this sort of reaction. The
      U.S. will never have enough troops on the ground, with the kind of
      license to kill required to defeat the multi-level resistance we are
      encountering in Iraq.

      3. When you are losing, you have no friends. Even though our goals in
      Viet Nam were global, at least on paper (prevent SE Asia from "going
      Communist") almost none of our allies contributed anything in Viet Nam
      (I seem to recall some effort by Australia; the Paris peace talks
      failed). A variation of this is "You break it, you own it". Kerry may
      have a better chance of re-engaging our allies and the UN in Iraq but it
      seems like a long shot. Bush has been openly scornful of the
      non-coalition allies, and punished them by withholding reconstruction
      contracts. (Of course there is no real coalition--for example, the
      Japanese troops - about 500 storng - have yet to fire a shot).

      4. You can't stabilize a region politically with a puppet government. In
      Viet Nam, the CIA overthrew the semi-populist Diem regime in 1965, I
      think. The US backed "Presidents" that followed never were able to build
      support or consensus among the populace (or even among other political
      leaders). Bush has pronounced it his calling to bring freedom to Iraq,
      but the people of Iraq are not going to accept our version of freedom
      (which is not grounded in their religion, culture or history).
      Well, I had to get it down, and I hope particularly that you
      "youngsters" find it of some interest.
      Peace,
      Warren


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