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20 March 2007

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Peter Principle

The best way to put it, I think, is that Iraq IS like Vietnam -- but almost all the similarities are on OUR side.

Except, as Col. Lang points out, the "best and the brightest" are even dumber and dimmer than they were back then.

Duncan Kinder

What is overwhelmingly the same is the war against the guerrillas. That is the war that Petraeus intends to prosecute to the end.

What proponents of the Iraq War ( as well as proponents of the Vietnam War, for that matter ) tend to miss or to deny is that for nearly a century now guerrilla armies have repeatedly fared well or prevailed in diverse circumstances against conventional armies - Yugoslavia, China, Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc.

The point is that conventional armies depend upon an industrialized society to back them up. You, Col. Lang, have often written about the importance of logistics. That, in turn, gives rise to the question of where do these logistics come from. This includes factories, managers, Rosie-the-Riviters, scientists, and all of the other paraphernalia of a modern industrialized society.

Guerilla armies, in contrast, are backed up by different social systems, which do not have all this industrial paraphernalia and which are comprised of individuals who largely do not want or are not able to become part of such paraphernalia.

That is what guerrilla / conventional warfare really is all about - what sort of social structure will prevail.

Therefore, debates over whether Vietnam was "won" " over there" or "over here" miss the point. The point is that the body politic of Vietnam, at that time, rejected the Western social structure much as a heart transplant patient's immune system might reject a transplanted heart. Apparently, Iraq today likewise is rejecting the proposed transplant of democracy.

Clifford Kiracofe

Per comparisons: Recently, I had the opportunity of an excellent briefing from the Joint Improved Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) per Iraq situation.

Two factors interested me: 1) the skillful use of the Internet by the "bad guys" (BG?).
2) changing technical environment linked to consumer electronics industry that BG take advantage of and incorporate into ieds.

The budget for this DOD org is over $4 billion annually.

After the briefing, I indicated in discussion that what I saw presented per shaped charges against "icon vehicles" in Iraq reminded me of what I saw in Southern Africa in the late 1970s.

Are the Israeli weapons systems, such as the Marine Corps recent Golan vehicle purchase, the US is using in Iraq negative locally from a public relations standpoint?

Nancy Kimberlin

The main similarity between Vietnam and Iraq is the US should not have entered into either of these wars.

W. Patrick Lang

DK

Your remarks reflect the "received wisdom" of the defense academics about this kind of thing.

1- In Vietnam the enemy relied on exactly the same kind of logistics as any other army. Their forces were resupplied continuously and in volume by a highly organised set of supply lines that ran through Laos and Cambodia from the north before turning east into VN. Goods moved over those purpose built roads by truck convoy, elephant and other beasts of burden, by bicycle with side panniers. Weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, food (rice in mountains) etc. Both the NVA and the main forces of the VC were supplied that way. They could never, ever have supplied their forces by living off the peasants.

In the parts of the country along the borders to the west that they controlled as redoubt areas, they established factories for making uniforms and for maintenance purposes. Sometimes, these were underground, sometimes they were not. They established food growing areas in some areas that were completely under their control. These were run by units of the NVA. All these "industrial" areas were in parts of the country nearly uninhabited by town dwelling vietnamese.

2- In Iraq, the insurgents have been "living" in part off the mountain of ordnance that the previous government left scattered all over the country, but for key components of their "infernal machines" they rely on imported electronic parts ordered either as specific parts or as components of consumer electronics. These boards and other components are ordered over the internet and delivered into the country by the package delivery services operating there. The inablility of the Iraqi insurgents to establish more robust external lines of supply is what keeps them from growing larger forces, that and the lack of unity that I mentioned.

3- You mistake the ideology of the Viet Minh/ VC / NVA. It sounds quite romantic the way you put it, like something from Fanon, but in fact the enemy we faced in SE Asia was a product of French education and European thinking on nationalism and marxism. Remember that Ho Chi Minh was a founding member of the French Communist Party, and that Giap was educated at a good lycee and normal school and was a teacher in the French colonial school system. That enemy was very tightly organiaed along lines that mirrored ours. It was the Vietnamese that we sided with who represented traditional Confucianist society. Most of them never really got their minds around the idea that country was more important than family. The enemy side understood that clearly.

Lastly, as is mentioned in the Kaplan article, the guerrillas had pretty much been defeated in VN by 1972. pl

Babak Makkinejad

All:

I am posting this twice for educational purposes.

Today (20-th of March) is the New Year according to the Persian Solar Calendar; No-Ruz (New Day in Persian) is being celebrated from Syria all the way to the Chinese border.

The festivities will be on-going for the next few days; in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey ( by the Kurds), in Iran, Azerbaijan Republic, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and parts of Pakistan.

This is the biggest holiday of the year – and the year is 1386.

Matthew

Clearly, training Georgians to replace Iraqi employees in Iraq makes perfect sense....no wonder it's a disaster.

JfM

We are an impatient people and have been all of our existence as a nation. It is simultaneously one of strongest attributes while also one of our most debilitating strategic weaknesses. As much as any other national characteristic, it was impatience that made us the world’s center of economic and technological innovation and growth. Generally under the right circumstances, national impatience can be a force for good. In the realm of foreign policy with o0ther and strange international cadences involved, impatience can be a spoiler.

Our failure with the inaccurately labeled, “Palestinian Question” is largely attributable to our impatience. Trying to serve as a self-described “honest broker” has largely accomplished little and cost us much in terms of our own treasure and regional standing. First, our insistence of “honest broker” is a sham, a fig leaf far too small to cover our real disposition. And our predictable impatience which finds us wanting some peace construct between the sides more than the side wants resolution dooms us from the git-go.

Sometimes, even in the foreign policy world, our impatience can work to an overall advantage with better outcomes than actions pursued at the half step. But when coupled with stunning arrogance and breathtaking ignorance, impatience in necessary groundwork to leverage later successes simply puts the bus in the ditch much faster. We may have learned the lessons of Vietnam but in the intervening years we seem to have forgotten them. Maybe this time, but I doubt it. We are an impatient people to our core.

rjh

I am always reminded of a discussion I had with a construction manager shortly before the final fall in Vietnam. He was full of confidence and ready to go out and rebuild bridges as soon as the NVA were pushed back away from Hue. This pessimism at home was completely unjustified. "You should see the great things we are building." I didn't witness, but did read, the equally delusional reports of the French regarding control of Delta territory just one year before Dien Bien Phu. Again, the optimism was overwhelming.

The biggest difference is that then we were proud that we could rebuild bridges that had been blown. Now we seem to settle for painting schools.

Chris Marlowe

I frequently wonder if there is any floor to American arrogance, ignorance and stupidity? Is there a point where I can say to myself, my family and my friends "We have reached bottom, it can only get better from here. Be sad for now, but cheer up, the future will be better."

I have come to the sad conclusion that in America, there is no bottom. It's just a free-fall.

The only upside to all this is that George W. Bush has made it apparent to the whole world. When South Vietnam fell, Gerald Ford exhibited some decency in his treatment of the Vietnamese refugees. Not so with George W. Bush, who is too busy leading his crusade against Islamofascism.

As for Petraeus, I would venture to say that Bush is the only person in Washington who is delusional enough to think that there can be victory in Iraq, and still say so publicly with a straight face.

For everyone else, the best Petraeus can offer is a decent interval before the inevitable end comes.

arbogast

There is a very great difference between military tactics/winning the war and debating what purpose the war is supposed to serve.

Suppose we had won in Vietnam? I take it that would have meant today there would be a divided Vietnam, the South an ally of Western Democracies and the North an ally of China.

Except that what has happened in reality is that Vietnam has become another manufacturing powerhouse like its neighbors and has embraced the same kind of capitalism that China has.

A great many shoes sold in the United States are made in gigantic shoe-making "cities" in Vietnam. The Vietnamese workers are paid pennies a day. This occurs because American companies finance it and promote it. Is this what "American influence" means? Is this "the American Dream"?

The war in Iraq is a colonial war. If Americans want to win a colonial war, they have the opportunity to do so right now. Colonies are tricky things, but here's our chance.

VietnamVet

Colonel,
Yes, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA has not faced a main force Army that could battle it to a stalemate like in Korea or Vietnam. In East Asia, states arose led by the Communist Party after centuries of subservience that could fight Western invaders; States that downplayed religion but built upon their nationalist, cultural and historical unity against foreigners.

In the Middle East the anti-colonial fight against the USA has not progressed to main force battles yet; mainly, because the states have been bribed into subservience by oil money. Iran is the exception. Its oil money built a religious militia that battled the Israeli Army last summer to a standstill. Like East Asia, Western hegemony in the Middle East is ending. The means and knowledge to drive out foreign armies is available, all it awaits is unification of a Muslim religious super state as the counter force to Christian and Jewish extremism.

Western leaders who believe that Walter Cronkite and Jane Fonda lost the Vietnam War have no concept of the strength of mankind’s resolve to free itself of foreign invaders. 97% of Sunni Arabs oppose the presence of the USA in Iraq.

Iran and genocide is next, rather than admit the inevitable failure of the American occupation; a forced withdrawal and economic Malaise.

anna missed

RE P.L.'s point#1,

Over half of the Iraqi population (cutting across all ethnic/religious sects) agree that attacks on U.S. forces are to be condoned. While not exactly a "unity", as expressed by a clearly defined political ideology and linier chain of command -- it is still an amazing statistic. One that presumably, can account for the capacity of "spontanious generation" of seperate and diverse forms of insurgent groups, guided nonetheless by a shared mission. Perhaps it's an anti-colonial gene born of historical grind, or perhaps, its the Koran itself. But, at any rate, what has been birthed by the American occupation is the ultimate COIN rubics cube insurgency, that seems all to willing to poison its host population in order to drivwe out the intruder.

Oh, How they would love a distinct supply line, or a known chain of command -- anything, that would fit into their "metric" world.

W. Patrick Lang

vv

"that could battle it to a stalemate like in Korea or Vietnam."

I do not think it is accurate to say that the NVA "battled (us) to a standstill."

And when we were mostly gone in '72 their offensives in the north and at An Loc did not fare all that well. The combination of the ARVN and RVN and US air defeated them.

Their village agitprop efforts had not done well by then and the massive bombing of North Vietnam after the temporary collapse of the peace talks caused them to back away.

It was only after the de-funding of assistance to the RVN that Hanoi went over to the offensive in1975. The forces that then over-ran the country were their CONVENTIONAL forces. Remember the pictures of NVA riding tanks into Saigon. Those were not captured tanks. They were Soviet made and organic to those units. pl

Duncan Kinder

Col:

It is not a contraction to note that guerrilla forces often rely upon external sources of supply. Mao, for example, in his On the Protracted War, cited the existence of the Soviet Union as a vital factor.

Nor is the Westernized background of guerrillas a necessary contradiction. Chou En-lai, for example, was educated in the West. Indeed, the cliche' "familiarity breeds contempt" explains how Westernized Orientals can be distinctly anti-Western.

Actually, Russian history contains some of the best discussions of this tension. Although, since Peter the Great, Russia did succeed in industrializing, it was difficult. This produced an anti-Western backlash. The writings of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky explore the psychological dynamics of this.

Guerilla warfare, essentially, is a continuation of this same dynamic in which non-Western countries, unlike Russia, abandon entirely efforts to industrialize and adopt instead nonstandard tactics to repel what is to them an alien infection.

Charles

Pat, what I take from your comments above and on Late Edition, is that it might actually be possible to "win" in Iraq against the "Insurgency" with enough patient resolve, and this fate would be a kinder one than leaving them to the "hell on earth" of settling things amongst themselves.

So now I could be talked into supporting a well prosecuted war to the end, knowing there's not enough patient resolve to do so, thus defeating the purpose, delaying the inevitable "hell on earth", and leaving me with my original Lennist conundrum.

What Is To Be Done? given the respective Iraqui and American realities? What is the most realistic possible optimal course of American action for the best outcome for the Iraqui people and state?

I think I have a handle on the best course for the American people and state - get the hell out now. And then watch the Afghan mission fail while Pakistan falls apart because of the original complete uninterrupted clusterf**k from the contracting out of the scouring of Tora Bora for Bin Laden to the present corruption of the the Karzai government and the completely bone-headed war on drugs thingy.

I'm a work in progress too. For a good long stretch, my natural cynicism was constantly being attenuated by happy small-scale human realities, but now I'm just minded to hark back to General sir John Hackett's old book, the Third World War - which, if you're an optimist, you'd have to support.

You well informed, realistic types have made me so confused. Thank you God, for letting me be so here rather than there.

VietnamVet

Colonel,
The US Army couldn’t defeat the NVA. The possible nuclear war precluded invasion of the North Vietnam. The NVA couldn’t defeat American Troops but preserved their supply lines and forward bases in Laos and extracted a terrible tool of Americans fighting for numbered hills that were abandoned afterwards. Every battle was fought at Vietnamese instigation.

Years later reading “A Bright Shinning Lie”, I learned that the valley I spent a year was overrun in the 1972 Offensive. Once American troops left, the Vietnamese Communists retook control. The Americans sooner or later would have left South Vietnam. To stay meant a never ending war. That is a stalemate.

The same for the Middle East as long as the USA occupies by force Iraq and Afghanistan. An invasion of Iran is impossible without the draft and gas rationing and could ultimately lead to a nuclear exchange. Yet, with so many squeals to Vietnam in play, a decision to take on Iran does not seem that impossible for the current President who doesn’t understand the strategy employed by the Vietnamese to unify their nation or the Sunni Arabs to rid their land of the hated infidels.

walrus

Excellent points Col. Lang and I agree with you.

For me, the question is, "why weren't the lessons of Vietnam applied in Iraq?"

Surely, I thought, there must be one or two old foxes left who will indoctrinate the command about the likely risks after invasion and how to do the "risk management" to counter these risks?

Unfortunately this was not the case.

Before the war, I listened to the "shock and awe, net-centric fourth generation warfare" mantra of the Rumsfeldians and my skeptic meter pointer crept off zero.

After the invasion, I was pleased to note the British in Basra blowing up Baath party offices and patrolling the streets in soft headgear on foot.

Then I found out that in Baghdad we had not blown up Saadams palaces - instead we moved into them. My skeptic meter went into the red zone. What "messaeg" does this send the locals?

Then I read over a year ago, an account of an IED attack on a convoy. The writer, some sort of Sergeant, explained "we live in a FOB, every two days we have to run this food and fuel convoy".

"Every two days????" What sort of dumbass training are you giving your officers? I bet the insurgents probably used an alarm clock to set off the IED. My skeptic meter peaked.

Then last year I learned that with great fanfare the U.S. Army was rewriting its 25 year old manual on counterinsurgency. The skeptic meter went off the scale and bent the pointer!

To put it politely, "Don't these dumbasses ever learn?"

Apparently not, for I was yesterday at an aerospace/defence exhibition, complete with U.S. Ambassador no less, and mockups of shiny new weapons.

And proudly displayed in all this was an armoured personnel carrier with the "latest" modular cage to defeat RPG-7's. There it sat, with photographs of troops sitting proudly inside their "cage", staring out at Iraqis who were staring back. It made me want to cry, because it showed that exactly nothing has been learned.

Sandy

http://www.counterpunch.com/roberts03162007.html

March 16, 2007
Government Without Restraint
The Last Days of Constitutional Rule
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

The Bush administration's greatest success is its ability to escape accountability for its numerous impeachable offenses.

The administration's offenses against US law, the US Constitution, civil liberties, human rights, and the Geneva Conventions, its lies to Congress and the American people, its vote-rigging scandals, its sweetheart no-bid contracts to favored firms, its political firing of Republican US Attorneys, its practice of kidnapping and torturing people in foreign hellholes, and its persecution of whistle blowers are altogether so vast that it is a major undertaking just to list them all.

Bush admits that he violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and spied on US citizens without warrants, a felony under the Act. Bush has shown total disrespect for civil liberty and the Constitution and has suffered rebukes from the Supreme Count. The evidence is overwhelming that the Bush administration manufactured false "intelligence" to justify military aggression against Iraq. The Halliburton contract scandals are notorious, as is the use of electronic voting machines programmed to miscount the actual vote.

The chief-of-staff to Vice President Cheney has been convicted for obstructing justice in the outing of a covert CIA officer. Proof of torture is overwhelming, and the Bush administration has even had the temerity to have permissive legislation passed after the fact that permits it to continue to torture "detainees." The Sibel Edmonds and other whistle blower cases are well known. The Senate Judiciary Committee has just issued subpoenas to Justice (sic) Dept. officials involved in the scandalous removal of US Attorneys who refused to be politicized.

Yet the Democrats have taken impeachment "off the table." Many Democrats and Republicans and a great many Christians can contemplate illegal military aggression against Iran, but not the impeachment of the greatest criminal administration in US history. Far from being scandalized by what the entire world views as an unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US, leading Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination rushed to inform the Israel Lobby, AIPAC, that they, if elected, will keep US troops in Iraq.

The previous occupant of the White House could not escape being impeached by the House of Representatives for lying about a consensual Oval Office sexual affair. President Nixon and his vice president, a saintly pair compared to Bush-Cheney, were both driven from office for offenses that are inconsequential by comparison.

Liberals branded Ronald Reagan the "Teflon President," but the neoconservatives' Iran-Contra scandal was a mere dress rehearsal for their machinations in the Bush regime.

What explains Bush-Cheney invulnerability to accountability?

Perhaps the answer is that Bush has desensitized us. Like kids desensitized to violence by violent video games and movies and pornography addicts desensitized to sex, we have become desensitized by the avalanche of Bush-Cheney crimes, lies, and disdain for Congress, courts, and public opinion.

Our elected representatives, if not the American people, now regard as normal such heinous actions as war crimes, the rape of the Constitution, self-serving use of government office, and the constant stream of lies and propaganda from the highest offices of the executive branch.

Perhaps that is what disillusioned foreigners, who once looked with hope to America, mean when they say that America does not exist anymore.

If the notion has departed that the highest political offices in the land are supposed to be occupied by people who are honest and faithful to their oath to the Constitution, then we are far advanced on the road to tyranny.

In future history books, will Bush-Cheney mark the transition of the United States from constitutional rule to the unaccountable rule of the unitary executive who cancels out Congress with signing statements and silences critics with the police state means that are now part of the US legal code?

Paul Craig Roberts held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University and was Senior Research Fellow in the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

W. Patrick Lang

DK

I will say it again. The NVA were in no sense guerrillas and their army functioned like any other army.

You understand that I differentiate between them and the VC guerrillas?

VV

Your point seems to be that the NVA had "the initiative" throughout. There is merit to that argument in the "big picture" although we often had it in smaller engagements, and I don't think the Ia Drang fighting in 1965 could be described that way.

Charles

In a "perfect world" that would be true. This is far from a perfect world. If we had started to employ counterinsurgency doctrine with enough men four years ago we might be in a very different situation but that was then and this is now. pl

Clifford Kiracofe

Per external supply lines:

1. I return to the Southern African examples. Take the war in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia (ZR) that I saw some of. External support was organized roughly as follows: 1) ZR was divided into operational sectors. 2) each sector had a corresponding zone in an adjacent country for support. IE, from Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia. 3) Soviet advisors assisted the process of aid and support of the "guerilla" movements ("national liberation movements") operating against the then government of ZR. 4) the operational sectors inside ZR were tribally based territories 5) Mugabe and Nkomo's support bases were mobilized by tribe. Despite the "Communist" gloss, it was a tribal war I thought at the time: about 20,000 some dead of which only about 3,000 were white locals; rest were black Africans killed-butchered by black Africans.

2. The use of IED's in Southern African wars at the time was a salient feature. Usually either land mines (like in Afghanistan today) or arrangements of dynamite plentiful in the region owing to mining operations or both or other combinations to "boost" the effect. They were so problematic that the South Africans designed special vehicles to resist-deflect bottom blast, sort of v-hull things. It is logical, given the old Israeli connections in South Africa, that some of their vehicle sales to the US military reflect past South African innovations. I understand we are also using South African technology in Iraq.

3. When later in Central America in the early 80s for the banana wars there (gratis Fidel and Moscow) I had an interesting experience. Debriefing a Sandinista officer, the topic turned to IEDs. He explained various techniques and so I said, "What you just said reminds me of what I saw in Southern Africa recently." Said he, "Well I was trained by Africans (Angolans) at the Island of Pines, Cuba." He had moved up the ladder from training camps on the Costa Rican border, to being selected for advanced training on the Island of Coiba off Panama, to a final selection for training in Cuba.

Same old, same old and it is not rocket science.

Grimgrin

This reminds me of something Gwynne Dyer pointed out in his book "War". If you go over the list of cases where guerrilla armies won, China and Cuba are the only cases where they managed to unseat a local government. If you look at South America or the Middle East, guerrillas and insurgents have fared badly against governments drawn from the same national/ethnic/religious group. In Colombia for example, where guerrilla movements enjoy the best possible terrain and ample funding from narcotics the guerrillas haven't been able to do more than fight the government and paramilitaries to a stalemate.

I think guerrillas get overrated. They don't defeat conventional armies very often. What they do is make it so costly to keep an army in a country that their opponent gives up and leaves. After which you usually get a civil war or dictatorship depending on the strength and unity of the guerrillas.

All this actually suggests another difference between Iraq and Vietnam. In Vietnam it seems like there was a concerted effort made to make America and it's allies less foreign to the Vietnamese. In Iraq it doesn't seem like the people running the war are even aware that that's an issue.

Cugel

You do realize that the "NVA Colonel" who supposedly said in reply to an American officer who claimed we never lost a battle, "that is true, but it is also irrelevant" is TOTALLY a made up right-wing urban myth!

I think Col. David Hackworth was right when he claimed in About Face that no knowledgeable NVA officer would ever have said that statement because it's FLAT NOT TRUE. Gen. Giap's memoirs are on point for that.

We were defeated in a classic military sense in that the enemy was able to sustain their war, and we were not. Given the disparity in firepower, no major U.S. units like divisions were overrun, but that's hardly the measure of success.

And having "more resolve" and staying for another 10 years wouldn't have changed the outcome one iota.

We lost. Period. And that includes the political as well as the military sense of the word. Just like we're losing in Iraq. And it doesn't matter a hill of beans whether a brigade is able to seize some piece of ground if all pieces of ground are an endless battlefield where we suffer casualties without being able to effectively end the conflict.

Iraq is exactly and completely Vietnam on methamphetamine. It's all happening in warp-speed, right up through the escalation, the inevitable de-escalation after 2008 and all the rest of the sorry ugly failure of "Iraqization."

Sgt.York

W. Patrick Lang wrote: "The forces that then over-ran the country were their CONVENTIONAL forces. Remember the pictures of NVA riding tanks into Saigon."

I don't think you can argue that conventional forces are required to oust a foreign occupation or standing government simply because General Giap's overall strategy planned for the use of conventional forces (see below). I would assert that the fight against the "occuping infidel Crusaders" is closer to a popular uprising or peasant revolt against foreign overlords or despotic rulers. Also, with the current level of US airpower I don't believe Giap's strategy is feasable.

The current clear-hold-build doctrine assumes US Forces clearing (chasing Che Guevara and his bandit buddies from the village and back into the mountains). When the 'bad guys' are born and raised in the town you are clearing and consist of all the adult males you have a problem. You end up with Colonel Steele giving orders to "kill all military-age men" in Samarra or flattening Fallujah like the Russians flattened Grozny. The 'hold' in CHB also assumes that local forces take control the area and provide security. The Kurdish Pershmega and Badr-infiltrated ING/IP aren't viewed by the residents of Anbar province as local forces and are thus ineffective in performing 'hold' duties. Because of this, US Forces are attempting to undertake 'hold' duties which is akin to guys in T72 tanks who speak Ukrainian quelling the gang wars in LA between the Crips and the Bloods.

----------------
GIAP'S STRATEGY
Phase I: Conduct guerrilla and terrorist operations to control as much of the population as possible. Phase II: Guerrilla forces consolidate into regular units to attack isolated government outposts. Phase III, Large units form to establish full military control over an area.
----------------

Chris Marlowe

Col. Lang mentioned that the US had largely fought the conventional Communist forces in south Vietnam to a standstill in 1972. The thing is, as far as Americans were concerned, the war had been lost in their living rooms, and that was what counted.

I would venture to say that the US situation both domestically, and on the battlefield in Iraq, is a replay of 1974.

After seeing Bush's very defiant attack of Congress' right to subpoena his unelected and very powerful political advisors such as Rove, he is looking more and more like Nixon in the runup to Watergate. This is no coincidence, Rove was a very dedicated Nixon supporter, who loves "dirty tricks" in fighting his political opponents. (BTW, Rove is a master at anonymous direct-mail dirty tricks campaigns.)

At the same time, Bush's influence, even with Republican supporters in Congress is quickly eroding as 2008 looms closer. This reality fits in with Bush's own delusional mindset; his own isolation reinforces his belief that he is right. Unlike most more normal people, he does not believe in referencing other peoples' opinions to establish if he is making the right decisions.

The Republicans in COngress need to distance themselves from the Bush White House in order to save themselves. The easiest way for Republicans to do this is to "suddenly" remember that the US has a Constitution, even though they conveniently forgot this over the past six years when they had a majority. (Bush/Cheney's interpretation of the limitations on the power of the executive lies somewhere between Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il.)

Watergate ended when Goldwater went to see Nixon in the White House to tell him that he no longer had the support of Congressional Republicans. The question now is, "Who's going to play Goldwater's role?"

Meanwhile in Vietnam, er Iraq, Petraeus is buying time for the US. The Shi'ites, Sunnis and al-Qaeda are all watching, figuring out when to make a move, and how to position themselves after the US occupation ends. All of Iraq's neighbors are doing exactly the same, since the tribal alliances do not break cleanly along national borders.

Of course, for intelligent Americans, this is like a replay of Groundhog Day, except this has played out on a thirty-year cycle, and not on a daily cycle.

But this is a decision most Americans have decided to make, secure in their own arrogance, ignorance and stupidity. Hey, what's a few hundred billion dollars and a few thousand lives?

"Don't interrupt me, I gotta watch American Idol."

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