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20 October 2005


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coupl note:

- The vietnamese doesn't have al qaeda (ie. the vietnamnese learns how to fight and develop tactics durig battle) In Iraq, at least in some area Al qaeda operative learns a great deal from afghanistan experiance and they implement it in Iraq. Notice Fallujah/Ramadi spreading pattern, attack timings, the use of populace movement to destabilise neighboring cities, use of religious centers, etc.

- in vietnam we can destroys village or clear jungles and nobody would notice. In Iraq desert landscape and current sattelite technology however, such bombing will raise serious international questions.

- Also, unlike vietnam where villages can sustain itself via farming. In Iraq series of major cities will collapse if we detroy one city in the middle. So if we destroy/isolate a city, the neighboring cities food/gas/civilian supplies will be affected. Instant insurgency potentials.

- Also, unlike vietnam, where we are initially are welcome and have relatively large population support. In Iraq we have no population support left. Saddam already running anti US propaganda years before this invasion. (proof: how quickly we form green zone type of bunker)


more musing and arm chair general.

If we look at these two charts, I have to conclude we don't control the war rythm. (ie. somebody else is dictating the overall pace of attacks. It's April-november-ish pattern)




Hadn't gone through Rice's comments yet before i saw this. Googled Province Reconstruction Teams, found this AID explanation of what they are from Afghanistan. http://www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/afghanistan/PRT_7-18-05_alj.pdf
Does indeed sound like CORDs: "... their goal is to strengthen the reach and enhance the legitmacy of the government through improved security and facilitation of reconstruction and development efforts."


I am going to write on that at an apt moment.



Arm chair general moment again. And I think this is are ideas that people better watch out when we start talking about attacking Iran.

I was wondering: What does it take to choke strait of Hormuz? Can the iranian do it on the cheap and make it so effective that we simply has no way of defeating them quickly enough.

1. unmodified jet ski has range about 100 miles. and the strait of hormuz is only 40miles across. Do the math what this $8000 a pop critter can do (what we gonna do? launch antiship missiles against a guy zipping around on jet ski?)

2. with cheap floating aluminium thanks, The iranian can flood the entire strait with light infantry on jet skis equipped with various weapons designed for land battle on water. (we are toast. we don't know how to protect our ship against anti tank weapons) With refueling pods jet skis practically rules the strait.

3. Banana float towed by jetskis can be deadly. (or aluminium floats or oil steels drum) Fill these things with high explosive, electronics and decoys and we got poors man surface mine (and how much does it cost to make several hundred thousands of these puppies? chump change)

4. So then come the question what the Iranian will do to plug the Hormuz strait to stop aircrat carrier and submarines? (sink in old oil rigs and parks several old LNG tankers)

....Hey, my back envelop calculation says, I can stop the entire US navy from protecting the strait of Hormuz for ... $ 150-250 millions plus about 10,000 men. Who needs world class navy if you can have a band of half runk tourists with rocket launchers?

One word: Yikes.


Clearing the Strait of Hormuz is the kind of thing the US is good at. It is counterinsurgency that we don't fo well. pl


Great Blog, Col. Lang!

I visited today via Wolcott, but have watched you many times on the Newshour.

fabulous topics; you're so bookmarked!

Gotham Image

Pat, enjoy your posts. Regarding the 'criminalization of politics,' I think you'll concur with our recent post about that.

John Robb

Different mechanism at work in Iraq vs. Vietnam. These groups aren't trying to demonstrate that they can govern. They are fracturing the country to force dissolution. Additionally, systems sabotage will make it easy to disrupt any attempt at returning pacified sections of Iraq to "normal" life.


~~~Clearing the Strait of Hormuz is the kind of thing the US is good at. It is counterinsurgency that we don't fo well. pl
Posted by: | 20 October 2005 at 10:36 AM ~~~

yeah somebody points that out to me in other board. (was arguing with a friend)


The Shipboard Deployable Surface Target (SDST) -- also known as "Roboski" -- provides an enhanced gunfire training capability against highly maneuverable, high speed surface targets. As such, Roboski offers an inexpensive, expendable target for Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection small arms training and supports 76mm, 5-inch/54caliber, and Phalanx CIWS training. SDST's are presently maintained by the Fleet Composite Squadron Six (VC-6), COMFIFTHFLT, COMSEVENTHFLT, and the Southern California Offshore Range Extension (SCORE) in support of COMTHIRDFLT. SDST was used for gunfire training in the Arabian Gauntlet exercise.


I think that the Sunni nationalists would certainly like to rule Iraq. Failing that they will be content to dominate their part of the country. pl


I assume the term "assets" includes the lives of U.S. soldiers.

The American people were Big Lied into this war. Once that fact hits home, as hit home it soon will, they will not stand for a long haul commitment to test anyone's theory of waging war. And if those who contend otherwise say different, then I'd counter by challenging them to reinstitute a draft. That'd clear things up in a big hurry.

Michael Murry

On August 26, 2005, on the "Political Wrap" section of The Newshour With Jim Lehrer

New York Times columnist David Brooks said the following incredible things:

"[President George W. Bush has] got to address the issue about winability. And he's got to show what we learned in Vietnam, which was how to fight an insurgency. At the end of Vietnam, we actually got reasonably good at it using a strategy we haven't even tried here."

and . . .

"So I hope the president would take a look at what [Senator Chuck] Hagel said and say, okay, in Vietnam they learned how to fight an insurgency, let's learn from our experience, which we haven't done at all."

Now, I have no idea whatsoever where David Brooks gets his information about Vietnam. When I left the southern part of that temporarily divided, devastated, corrupt sewer (if not whorehouse) of a "country" in January of 1972, I knew of no "successes" or "learning" such as David Brooks seems to have invented out of his own fantastic imagination. I do realize that Brooks has to "justify" the current American quagmire in Iraq out of abject loyalty to George W. Bush, the Republican Party, and the neoconservative cabal of Likudnik fellow travelers who lied and schemed our country into yet another unmitigated disaster for oil, Israel, and domestic political aggrandizement. Still, to try and do the "justifying" by recreating the Vietnam War as some sort of misunderstood "success," simply beggars the imagination. David Brooks doesn't know doodley-squat about either Vietnam or Iraq -- and his stupid comments reveal a depth of intellectual innocence almost beyond sounding.

Before shipping out in July of 1970 to do my own little bit of "Vietnamizing" of some Vietnamese, I attended eight months of intensive language training at DLIWC (Monterey) and then endured eleven weeks of Counter Insurgency School at Coronado Island, San Diego. So, I learned to tell North Vietnamese dialect from South Vietnamese dialect from Hue dialect, and so forth. I read Bernard Fall about the French in Indochina; studied the geography, flora, fauna, and history of Southeast Asia, and so forth. I learned a lot of stuff before I went to Vietnam and found that almost none of it had prepared me for what I soon discovered:

A great many people had lied to me about a great many really important things.

I basically served six months at the Naval Training Center at Cam Ranh Bay (where I seldom saw any Vietnamese trainees) and then a year at an isolated forward river support and supply base two kilometers from the southern tip of the country. I hardly ever saw any Vietnamese trainees there, either. I did see a lot of "controlled" countryside defoliated and depopulated by the South Vietnamese government and its American military patron. In travelling through the main cities of the Mekong Delta, I saw "controlled" populations of refugees driven off their land by the spraying and bombing so that they could only live squalid impoverished lives in stinking refugee slums on the outskirts of the towns. Some "control."

In any event, the National Liberation Front forces just filtered into the local slums along with the "controlled" refugees. Then they organized, planned, and blew up most of the important towns whenever they found it convenient to do so: like during the Tet Offensive of 1968 or after the final American withdrawal in 1975.

I also learned that the South Vietnamese government distrusted its own army and navy to such an extent that the various, musical-chairs cliques in Saigon kept rotating their transplanted North Vietnamese Catholic officers around and among their South Vietnamese Buddhist conscripts so as to keep everyone so confused and weakened that no military worth a damn could unite and overthrow the government in a coup. A tried and true strategy to Divide and Conquer -- themselves. The same dynamic applies in Iraq today, I believe. The "Iraqi government" (i.e., the bunker-dwelling Shiite-Kurdish Alliance) and its American military patron have no desire whatsoever to reconstitute the Iraqi "Army" because if it did, that "Army" would simply overthrow the government and sieze power in a coup. Hence the Dividing and Conquering of the Iraqis themselves -- with the cynical and complete connivance of Iraq's American military patron. Some "standing up."

America -- and especially its bureaucratic military -- never learned how to "successfully" do "counter insurgency" because America has never even learned how to master its own military bureaucracy. Parkinson's Law states that work -- if not America's way of war -- expands to fill the time alloted for its completion. Thus, our military keeps talking about decades of "necessary" war. No timeline, no termination. Just war expanding to fill the endless time allowed for it to never complete. The Peter Principle states that in a hierarchy everyone sooner or later rises to his level of incompetence. So an endless war offers all the time needed for the incompetents to regenerate their numbers. Both these implacable -- and fatally debilitating -- laws of bureaucratic bungling apply in spades to the bloated, inept American military leadership of thirty years ago and today. We have in Iraq what we had in Vietnam because we have the same type of people (OK, the "Best and Brightest" then and the "Worst and Dullest" now) who tried in Vietnam what we've tried again in Iraq: namely, the needless and the impossible with the insufficient for the unconcerned. Or, as one of our Vietnam War slogans had it back then:

"We are the unwilling led by the unqualified to do the unnecessary for the ungrateful."

David Brooks apparently considers the tragic farce in Vietnam some kind of "successful" "learning" that America might just apply to Iraq. America learned nothing from the failed American War on Vietnam, as the currently failed American War on Iraq conclusively demonstrates; and if David Brooks has his way, America won't learn the necessary lessons from its failed War on Iraq, either. The perpetuation of needless imperial war simply has too many invested American constituents, both civilian and military, and they have plenty of people like David Brooks to shill for their interests.

If we didn't learn all this the last time around, what makes anyone think we'll do any better this time? Bah! Humbug!

Serving Patriot

Micheal Murry - WOW!

For Curious, I think you overestimate the ease at which SOH could be closed and underestimate the ability of our ships to protect themselves and fight (even unconventionally) in the Arabian/Persina Gulf. Despite the best efforts of many in 1980-88 War, the oil kept flowing. Closing SOH is tough. Closing it in a covert way probably tougher.


Michael Murry

As an addendum to my comments on the August 26, 2005 edition of The Newshour's "Political Wrap" segment in which I criticized David Brook's reactionary revisionism vis-a-vis the American War on Vietnam, I'd like to mention, as well, some remarks made by Thomas Oliphant on the most recent October 21, 2005 version of that same regular program feature.

Oliphant (substituting for the absent Mark Shields) listened to Brooks' usual equivocating about the "process" and the "progress" in Iraq and then said, summarily:

"[But] what keeps happening is the violence and the deaths, the uncertainty about what the cost is, and there is an element ... that is important to bring up here. And that is [the Bush Administration's War on Iraq] comes with an open-ended commitment. And it's not clear to me politically that this country can sustain an open-ended commitment at this level of violence and cost."

My even shorter summary: America can't afford its War on Iraq.

In support of Oliphant's trenchant comments, Jim Lehrer referred to similar views expressed by Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Adviser to President Carter) on a previous Newshour segment two days earlier entitled: "THE FUTURE OF U.S. POLICY IN IRAQ" (October 19, 2005).

Brzezinski essentially debunked the idea that America can speak of "progress" in Iraq "only in the sense that they're doing what we want them to do." Most importantly, Brzezinski spoke a truth almost never encountered in American discussions of Iraq:

"This is a very serious nation with a sense of pride. This is not a colony anymore."

America tried and failed to intervene in the Chinese Civil War of 1945-1949 because America considered the Chinese in need of American instruction as to how that ancient people should govern themselves. "In the end," wrote historian Barbara Tuchman, "China went her own way as if the Americans had never come."

America tried to intervene in the Vietnamese anti-colonial War of Independence (taking over from the French in 1954) and in the end, nearly twenty years later, Vietnam went her own way as if the Americans had never come.

Brzezinski and Oliphant have made the proper points. (1) The Iraqi people don't need America's confused and destructive instruction on how to govern themselves any more than the Chinese or Vietnamese did; and (2) America cannot afford the bloody, brutal costs of its puerile and pathological attempt to teach one of the world's great grandmothers how to suck eggs.

Farmer Don

Michael Murry says: "My even shorter summary: America can't afford its War on Iraq."
Right on!
America also can't afford it's war in Afganistan.
America also can't afford a new war in Iran.
America also can't afford the high costs of the D.H.S.
America also can't afford the cost of it's huge military.
America must get back to basics. That would be educating it's citizens and fostering the conditions that let them find constuctive employment.

Clifford Kiracofe

Excuse me....could someone cast some light?

1. what precisely is the US mission in Afghanistan?

2. what vital (repeat vital) US (repeat US) national interests are at stake in Afghanistan?

3. please answer 1 and 2 coherently.

I do not see what vital national interests the US has in flea-bitten primative tribals in the "top of the world." Nor do I see what vital national interests are at stake in Kabul and the Valley, for that matter.

Social engineering Afghanistan via COIN...uhm...please explain the US mission and the reason (vital national interest) for the mission.

Fall...good reading. I will leaf through this evening my copy of A. M. Savani (chef de Bataillon), Visage et Images du Sud Viet-Nam (Saigon: Impr. Francaise d'outre mer, 1955). "La lutte armee a pris fin. Mais si le canon s'est tu, si la menace de destruction, de misere et de mort ne pese plus sur la riziere feconde et sure les villages de paillotes tapis a l'ombre des bosquets, le visage et les images que cet ouvrage presente n'ont pas change...."

History? Which military history? I suggest a close examination of the Sikh-Afghan Wars as relevant to the matter at hand...Maharaja Ranjit Singh and all that.


Two questions for anyone who cares to answer.

1) Why did South Vietnam loose the war? Even without American forces they had plenty of equipment and training. And yet they collapsed right away. What did North Vietnam have that the south did not?

2) Assuming antiwar protesting had died off and the U.S. chose to continue fighting, how many more years would have been required to win and at what cost to the U.S. and to the Vietnamese?


Duncan Kinder

The United States is a poor country now,

End of discussion.

It would behoove Obama to consider the benefits of COIN in Mexico before considering what may or m,ay not be feasible in Afghanistan.

Duncan Kinder

The Afghan economy's dependence upon opium distinguishes its situation from that of Vietnam.

As several generations of experience have demonstrated the United States is incapable of adopting a rational policy towards drugs and demonstrably is more prone to engage in bellicose posturing than in pragmatic action with respect to drugs and to those who use or deal in them.

Therefore, the United States in Afghanistan cannot be compared to France in Algeria or the United States in Vietnam.


Well, my first reaction is that you have, once again, cut to the chase, and posed the most axiomatic question for policymakers, in the midst of an Afghan rethink: Do we go the Vietnam route, knowing that we have a badly hollowed-out, but exceptionally motivated Army and Marine Corp; we do not have a draft; we do not have a viable economy; we do not have the mood of the American people for war, as evidenced by the GOP route in the 2008 elections; we do not have language-trained troops or the standup capacity to quickly train the volume of troops required.

I, for one, say that we must get off the slippery slope of a new Vietnam style counterinsurgency war, and look at viable alternatives. I believe the multiple review processes now underway at the Pentagon, at CENTCOM and at the White House all argue for an alternative. I hope that the blog will serve as a source of richly needed debate and input into the decision-making process--before it is too late. Timing of your clarion call could not have been more appropriate.

William R. Cumming

Well never was I in RVN or Iraq or Afghanistan. But did live most of my adult life in DC area. The basic problem as I see it over the next 5-10 years is how does the United States govern itself and then what influence does it have over a world collapsing into the disorder brought about by the "Masters of the Universe" on Wall Street. I think it is time for basics.Internationally there is an extremely confined set of options for the US for the next decade. Unless the BRIC countries together with S. Africa can help pull the load for international stability there is a liklihood that most of the crippled but still functioning international organizations and even trade relationships will break down into the various nation states trying to protect themselves internationally and internally from this crisis. It is becoming clearer every day that the OBAMA administration does not have any kind of coherent international foreign policy or economic strategy. Okay so what happens? The essential corruption and weakness and ignorance of both houses of Congress is daily on display. Almost nothing is being done to reinforce the US sinews that still are strong, and instead pie-in-the-sky remedies are flocking to the fore. MY guess is all of the above will only be even more crystal clear by the end of 2009 or middle of 2010. I think Malcom Gladwell's "Tipping Point" is increasing in evidence. PL agree that from one point of view COIN and US strategy/tactics in RVN were effective. But sanctuaries and determination of opponents finally wore down the US will. Why, on the street most people in US felt that 12 years of effort was enough to convince everyone else in the world that at least for that period of time you did not want to tangle with the US. Also, I think in Iraq it is not the surge but the internal realization of the Iraqi peoples and various religions that the one thing you need to know is milk the US for what it can so as to be on top when the US inevitably pulls out. Afghanistan is NOT a nation-state. Nor is Pakistan in many ways. Britain is about to adopt a new internal policy that Mullah's arguing that Islam and democracy are antithetical will get a radically new approach by the government. I think the treatment of women under Islam is shameful and yet I think that the circumstances of the advancement of women in the US towards equality may be a key to our understanding or misunderstanding the rest of the world. Perhaps it is time that we call it as we see it. Religions that fail to renounce hate and violence are not really religions. Bankers that are fundamentally mired in a corrupt system don't really deserve anything from the government. International organizations that are failed or almost failed need reform. Remember I am a fuzzy headed liberal but time to speak the truth about some issues. Since your post was about military policy--time to speak the truth there also. The military is mired in rank and perks and needs to be reoriented to pull the weight of the huge investment of the US in its military structure and support system. Let's start with one small step--Any US government official or employee (military or civilian) cannot receive reimbursement for attending conferences where the conference sponsors are making money off the conference. These activities are nothing more than two-way indoctrination for attendees. If a government/military official is speaking on the record on a policy basis then that affair should be completely open to the press and the public for NO fee. The inside the beltway culture has to be changed. Daschle did not get it and now despite what is being said health care reform is dead in the first (maybe last) OBAMA administration. What the Republicans seem to get that the DEMS don't is that the devil is in the details. OBAMA lack of experience and indecisiness is really beginning to tell. Example a month has gone by and no decision on FEMA in or out of DHS and no FEMA Administrator nominee. Why is this a tell-tale because even though not geared to do so, FEMA is at least a rung in the DOMESTIC CRISIS MANAGEMENT ladder. It also looks like the White House Personnel Office (as was Clinton's during the first year-1993) totally in disarray. It is now all about which factions are going to control which policies in the Obama administration. Dealing with Afghanistan is very serious business. No signs yet that Obama is a serious person on the tough issues. The jump from street organizer to President may just be too far to avoid broken bones.


Well, Pat, I guess there is not much goodwill when it comes to the differentiation between tactics well employed and strategy poorly conceived. I have as much respect for you and others like Smedley Butler who organized on COIN principles throughout the years during foreign missions (including my late father who was an Army officer in the Philippines between 1944 and 1946)...

... but the central reality is that counterinsurgency and insurgency are really just two sides of the same "coin": the human inclination toward cooperation for all the concrete reasons connected with culture and tradition, not abstractions like "democracy", no matter how greatly we might value them as part of our political traditions and culture at home.

Now, I actually decided to contribute to this discussion after reading Lind this morning:


Two recent elections point to a grimmer reality. The first was in Iraq, for provincial councils. In Iraq as in most of the world, the question is neither whether elections were held nor who won. The question on which social order depends is who accepts the results of an election. If elections are to substitute for war, not only the winners but also the losers must accept their outcome. Losers must give up power, patronage — one of the very few local sources of money (often lots of it) — and possibly physical security as well, hoping for better luck next time, if there is a next time.

I suspect the odds of that happening in Iraq are small. The Washington Post recently quoted one U.S. officer who served as an adviser to Iraqi army units saying of Iraqi commanders, “When you got to know them and they’d be honest with you, every single one of them thought that the whole notion of democracy and representative government in Iraq was absolutely ludicrous.”

That quote was in a piece by Tom Ricks, the Post’s long-time defense correspondent, in the Sunday February 15 “Outlook” section. Rick’s goes on to say,

I don’t think the Iraq war is over yet, and I worry that there is more to come than any of us suspect…

Many of those closest to the situation in Iraq expect a full-blown civil war to break out there in the coming years. “I don’t think the Iraqi civil war has been fought yet,” one colonel told me.

So, I thank you and your comrades, Pat, for your service on the front lines over the years even if I still disagree with your suggestion that the larger mission was 'winnable' in any definitive sense... just as we must acknowledge the efforts, however ephemeral and imperfect, of those professionals who are on the 'real' front lines of the misnamed GWOT...


I too served in Vietnam in the closing years, and other places. The Colonel's observations on Vietnam and COIN strategy are correct in my opinion.

Sarting with the Revolutionary war the American people's patience for concluding a war has traditionaly only been 4 to 5 years MAX. Bush has used all of that time and political capital and in Iraq.

Politically, time is up. Rightly or wrongly if Obama tries a long term COIN operation in Afganistan. It will be a diaster. Let's hope he gets wiser advice than did Bush.


'Logical thinkers should come to grips with the idea that France won in Algeria and America won in Vietnam employing this doctrine only to have public opinion at home and resulting political decision turn away from the fruits of victory.'

I will be honest and say that this seems to me like the opinion of a military technician (or artist if you prefer) defending his technique (or art).

Yes, fair enough, the technique is a well-developed one which the US Army knows how to employ. But to say that it lead to victory in Algeria or Vietnam requires defining 'winning' as meaning something other than 'achieving our war aims'. Which to a non-specialist like me seems (ahem) counter-intuitive.

Wars are always fought in a specific political setting. I don't see how saying that the US could have won in Vietnam because the technique was right but there wasn't the political will is different from saying that the Germans could have won in WWII if only their industrial policies had been different, or the English Channel had been narrower.


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