Lessons Ignored

The Counterinsurgency Field Manual, written by Generals Petraeus and Amos, contains lessons learned from past counterinsurgencies.  One such lesson is cited below in its entirety:

Building a Military: Sustainment Failure

By 1969, pressure was on for U.S. forces in Vietnam to turn the war over to the host nation in a process now known as Vietnamization.  While assisting South Vietnamese military forces, the United States armed and equipped them with modern small arms, communications, and transportation equipment—all items produced by and sustained from the U.S. industrial base.  This modern equipment required an equally sophisticated maintenance and supply system to sustain it.  Sustaining this equipment challenged the South Vietnamese economically and culturally, despite the training of several thousand South Vietnamese in American supply and maintenance practices.  In short, the American way of war was not indigenously sustainable and was incompatible with the Vietnamese material culture and economic capabilities.  South Vietnam’s predominately agrarian-based economy could not sustain the high-technology equipment and computer based systems established by U.S. forces and contractors.  Consequently, the South military transformation was artificial and superficial.  Many South Vietnamese involved in running the sustainment systems had little faith in them.  Such attitudes encouraged poor administration and rampant corruption.  After U.S. forces left and most U.S. support ended, the logistic shortcomings of the supposedly modern South Vietnamese military contributed to its rapid disintegration when the North Vietnamese advanced in 1975.

From:  U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual, 3-24, p. 8-10 (176/282), Univ. Chicago (2007). 

Courtesy of RJR.

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2 responses to “Lessons Ignored

  1. This is good information, but how does it relate to Afghanistan? Are we applying this lesson learned from 40 years ago?

    • The point is that we are not applying these lessons (hence the title, “Lessons Ignored”). In fact, in 2008 and 2009, a conscious decision was made to field the fighting forces first instead of the enablers with an understanding that it could complicate matters later. Undoubtedly, There were significant political factors behind this decision. But even though the COIN expert, GEN Petraeus, took over ISAF in July 2010, he did nothing to reverse this policy. So now we have the Afghans almost completely dependent upon Coalition support for fuel, food, and repairs–and we are eliminating combat troops (at least US) in 2 years.

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