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26 August 2005

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sbj

I listened to David Brooks this evening too. I figured his references to the situations in Vietnam as they related to Iraq today were almost certainly inaccurate, and that he was proffering these comparisons in order to advance the notion that the lack of support from Democrats and the American public is the cause of our (possibly) eventual failure in Iraq, not the implementation of the Bush administration's policies themselves.

I'm glad you are able to shed some light on the actual mechanics of the conflict in Vietnam in a way that helps expose Brooks' flawed and misleading construct. His lack of knowledge seems perfectly in tune with his desire to blame the public for the disaster in Iraq rather than the architects of that ongoing debacle.

McGee

Colonel - I think you're referring here to the South Vietnamese Revolutionary Development Teams? I had friends who also worked in these programs, and their experience was not as positive as yours. As you must be aware, the efficacy of the local programs depended to a large degree on the qualifications (particularly linguistic) of the US personnel assigned to them (often minimal), and to the level of corruptness of the Vietnamese district chiefs and the local ARVN commanders (quite often maximal). But you're absolutely correct in that these pacification programs were ongoing from at least '66 or '67 to the bitter end. I'm just not convinced that many were that successful, though I'm sure yours was. And, yes, David Brooks does need to do a LOT more reading.
Thank you for your insights, as always!

ismoot

sbj

You can watch the "stab in the back" myth being formulated already. pl

ismoot

McGee

I have never heard of the "South Vietnamese Revolutionary Development Teams." You would have to give me a reference to look at before I could comment. CORDS was the countrywide structure and it was pretty uniform everywhere.

Local government officials are what they are. They are representarives of their culture. The trick is for Americans to learn to work with such people, good or bad, using such leverage as one possesses. In VN that leverage was considerable in terms of money and supplies. I thnk you have to expect that local norms will be different from ours. Ironically, the enemy had a better record on "corruption" because they represented something different from the local "Conficianist," family oriented tradition. The enemy represented European style nationalism and revolutionary socialism.

The CORDS structure paralleled the RVN government structure. The US head of CORDS in the region of the country that I was in 1968-69 was John Paul Vann. pl

McGee

Colonel - Thanks for your response and comments. It's been years and years of course, but I think the Revoluionary Development Teams and CORDS were the same program - just differnet acronyms. Perhaps I've muddied the name slightly (mittelsheimers!). Working for Colonel Vann must have been a gift!

Pat Lang

McGee

Vann was a lot more involved emotionally with the vietnamese than I can claim to have been. That made him a bit difficult at times. I wanted to win the war. He wanted to do something for them that would erase the pain of his early life.

I think that CORDS was like any other big program. It varied a lot by area and leadership.

The communist shadow government had been there in some of these places since the late 40s. Very well rooted. It was easier where I was that year becuase the population was all montagnards in the country and Vietnamese in the towns. pl

angela

Well now we are paying some attention to the fact that we have something like 2 translators per company. We've made little effort to recruit US arabs, haven't pumped up our language schools and Iraqis can only be hired by a contractor who pays too little money. Since we've decided that those in the Green Zone should avoid all danger, the rebuilding seems to have fallen on military commanders who have almost no one who can speak the language.

Pat Lang

Angela,

One of the nasty little secrets here is that Arabic is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. I used to teach it. pl

Jerome Gaskins

Is it okay to ask about some things I've read and heard about Viet Nam?

Pat Lang

Jerome

Sure.

Pat

Jerome Gaskins

Why did it start in the first place? What was the conflict with the French that could not be resolved politically?

Is it true that the partitioning was to be followed by an election that never happened?

I've heard that before we got involved, the Vietnamese asked us for help to combat the French. Why did we turn them away? If they asked for our help, why did we treat them as enemies later on?

Pat Lang

Jerome

France did not wish to give up its colonial posessions after its liberation from German occupation. There was rubber in the country that was worth something but mostly I think their national pride was involved

With regard to the post-partition election that never happened, the Viet Minh movement was and had been busy employing its very ruthless "agitprop" methods in the South and the Vietnamese there (many of whom were refugees from the North and Christians to boot)were afraid they would lose yet another refuge.

In the immediate post-war period there was a discussion in Washington as to whether the French or the Vietnamese meant more to us. The pro-French group won.

By the early 50s, the Cold War was going full blast. France was an important member of NATO. France had sent troops to fight alongside us in Korea. Europe was much more important to us than SE Asia and France was essential to the alliance in Europe. Hell, at theat time the NATO headquarters was right outside Paris. It was very clear by 1954 that the communists has gained control of the Viet Minh and that Communist China was helping them in a big way. So we started providing some military assistance to the French in the way of surplus aircraft, tanks, artillery, etc. It wasn't a lot of stuff and it wasn't new. We also gave them advice some of which was terrible.

Recommend you read Windrow's "The Last Valley." It covers a lot of the politics of this in detail pl

Jerome Gaskins

Thank you, sir.

Did the Viet Minh actually approach us, or was the discussion generated by something else?

I'll get the book and read it, but I wonder how the French "got" Viet Nam in the first place?

Pat Lang

Jerome

The Japanese occupied French Indochina duriing WW2. The French government there was Vichy. So OSS supported the Viet Minh against the Japanese. We were there with a small group doing that when the French came back after the war.

The French acquired Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the last couple of decades of the 19th Century in the general process of colonial expansion that pretty much all the powers in Europe were engaged in. It was the fashion of the day. pl

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