Tag Archives: Vietnam

The Fog of Peace

The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.”  –George Orwell

It should come as no surprise that this blog is not especially optimistic about the sustainability of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.  A new blog at www.foreignpolicy.com doesn’t shake that pessimism.

Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason hit the nail on the head with their article “The Fog of Peace.”  Discrediting any optimism embedded in the United State’s peace talks with the Taliban, they list three reasons why the optimism is not just unfounded but delusional.

1.  There is no “Taliban” in the sense the proponents of talks envision it.

Just as the Knights of Malta did not agree on policy matters with the Knights Templar [in the First Crusade], and carried out radically different strategies in the Holy Land, so the various groups of the jihad often fundamentally disagree with one another on how to achieve their common goal of establishing religious rule over disputed territory.

2.  The enemy is interested in pre-withdrawal concessions, not a settlement, in an alien culture in which seeking negotiations to end a war is surrender.

The motives of any such representatives simply do not now and will never coincide with our own. The Quetta Shura has no genuine interest whatsoever in any “peace talks” or negotiations except to gain concessions such as the release of their comrades in Guantanamo Bay.

3.  No understanding with senior clerics in the Taliban movement has ever outlived the airplane flight back to New York.

 The Taliban of 1996-2001, which was infinitely more centralized and controllable than it is today, never kept a single such agreement for more than a week.

 Johnson and Mason strike a serious blow with a startling comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam.  Noting that the Afghan National Army has maybe 100,000 under arms in a country 4 times the size of Vietnam, the South Vietnamese had 1,000,000 under arms with a modern air force and yet collapsed after just 3 weeks of fighting.

Afghanistan is like a boat; It’s just a hole the U.S. government is pouring money into.

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.