In brief, you will find that the illogical direction the Pentagon and Department of State have directed this nation’s foreign affairs and military has its roots in the defeat of the United States Military in Vietnam. The Vietnamese used terrain and guerrilla (insurgency) strategy to oppose the US tactical deployment which was organized to fight like a WWII main force enemy. The US fielded a military force of draftees and inexperienced officers to fight a war they did not understand or desire to participate.
As the war lingered on, much of it on TV, the American wins were insufficient to continue the support for the war back home. General Westmoreland’s light at the end of the tunnel was fading. President Johnson sent the “A” team into the war to reorganize it under one director, combining all military and civilian personnel into the organization CORDS. This did not help; the tactics only got worse.
With new organization came new tactics, the strategy was the same, that of full military dominance of the population of South Vietnam and total destruction of the North Vietnamese communist government. (As an embarrassment for Russia, I assume). There were two misguided tactics promoted; the first was the “Oil Slick” theory which believed if the military continued to cover more area the security and pacification would spread like oil on water. The trouble with it was the lack of enough military to secure the ever-enlarging perimeter; it often created a safe haven for the enemy.
The second tactic, if I heard once in briefings I heard it 40 times, “Cut the head off the snake and the snake dies.” In short, the American strategy for victory in Vietnam was to kill the leaders and anyone who happened to be in the path to the leaders, whether they were soldiers or civilians, government officials or innocent women and children. It is unbelievable the military has continued to this day to deploy resources following this tactic. This is one of the prime reasons the American Military was thrown out of Vietnam in defeat and cannot claim a military victory in any war or deployment since.
Anyone can determine from collective news sites that the “counter” insurgency Afghanistan war is not going well. It is a complex problem that many think is unsolvable. Like the Vietnam War, the government is placing the American military’s mighty and powerful war machinery up against the determined indigenous population that wants no part of the western nation’s controls over them. A lesson that never seems to be learned by Americans is that our culture, style of living, and the constant hammering of our doctrine of government into the lives of Third World populations are not welcome and violently opposed on occasion.
It is impossible to obtain dominance by an outside force, however powerful, without completely destroying the society. This is counter-productive as the world media exploits the results. US Military must be transitioned from belligerent war mongers to keeping peace while actively defending our country. The repercussions of the US military’s failed yet aggressive deployments, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, will bring more violence and even more militarization into the lives of Americans.
Harry Wagner is an 88-year-old veteran of Vietnam. He worked in Military Intelligence, Psychological Operations, USAID, and the Phoenix Program. He has written a book about his experience in Vietnam and includes proven strategies to transition our military from a belligerent agent of war to an advocate on a quest for peace: The Headless Snake.