Darwin Campbell – Saigon Evacuation post 6

My focus so far has been to see the similarities and differences in the Iraq and Vietnam wars.  The article that I found last that I’m writing from now is a piece from a U.S. Army archive.  This may be a bit biased in some aspects, but overall I think it has some good points.

A big difference is that in Iraq we started with conventional war, cleaned it up in three weeks or so, then dealt with insurgency warfare after.  In Vietnam it was the opposite, fighting a combined insurgency and conventional, and then a more or less conventional at the end.

The military tactics between the two were far different, if nothing more than terrain.  We lost far less individuals in Iraq as well.  In Vietnam, an ambush or delaying device would be used in conjunction with an attack, and usually in Iraq the device was utilized by itself.  IEDs were placed by a single person, or a team, and that was usually all that you faced as far as harassment.  Vietnam was more like Afghanistan, and the early part of Iraq, when the device would be employed followed by an attack.  We developed technology to stop the detonation of the IED in the first place, and SOPs that made attack afterwards useless.  Whereas a sharpened stick in a hole can’t be blocked by a DUKE system.

Another point is that in Vietnam the country was somewhat unified, and used to fighting other populaces out, whereas in Iraq the country has almost always been in turmoil and upheaval.  This leads to different tactics of establishing Government.  I personally think that since the goal in Vietnam was to stop the spread of Communism, we pretty much succeeded (although communism itself mostly stopped it’s own spread).  In Iraq our initial goal was to fight terrorism, which we succeeded in quickly, then changed the goal to establishing a better regime in the area.  The question that arises is, is it possible to make the area stable as well as establish democracy?  Maybe we should have focused on one side of the coin at a time, or only one from the get go.  I think we set our sights too high.  We did make the area a little more stable, as well as more democratic, but in trying for both things we failed to reach the apex.

http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/summary.cfm?q=377

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One thought on “Darwin Campbell – Saigon Evacuation post 6

  1. Darwin,

    Your post made me think of Max Boot’s “Incurable Vietnam Syndrome” essay we read for Thursday’s class:

    The Vietnam conflict featured a variety of factors that are absent in Afghanistan and Iraq. North Vietnam was a disciplined, one-party state with one of the world’s largest and most battle hardened armies. It had the legitimacy that came from a struggle against French colonialism and the support of two superpowers, China and Russia. Almost all of its resources from 1954 to 1975 were devoted to one goal–the annexation of South Vietnam. Given such a formidable foe, which was able to confront us not only with black-clad guerrillas but also with regulars riding tanks, the U.S. defeat becomes more explicable and less replicable.

    The Iraqi guerrillas, Sunni and Shiite, were formidable in their own right, but they were no Viet Cong. Neither are the Taliban. They are more likely to engage in sustained firefights than were Al Qaeda in Iraq or the Mahdi Army, but they are incapable of maneuvering in battalion-, brigade-, or division-sized formations as the Vietnamese Communists routinely did.

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