The Army and Vietnam, part 4

by Ted on January 26, 2006

Last post from The Army and Vietnam by Andrew F. Krepinevich. This section describes both the Iraqification and the “oil spot” strategy, in which local forces take over security duty, and pacificed areas spread out and undercut the ability of the insurgents to draw strength from the local population. Eventually, this forces the insurgents back toward the borders and back into low-level harassment. It sounds as good as anything I could come up with. However, a strategy that heavily employs many small, light infantry units is inevitably in conflict with the goal of force protection, as these small units are vulnerable to IEDs and hit and run attacks.

It’s also interesting to note how the analogy with the Vietnam war breaks down with regards to Iraq. Iraqification is probably more difficult than Vietnamization because of the threat of ethnic civil war, and I don’t think that it’s accurate to talk about “guerilla bands that lie in wait just outside the populated areas” in Iraq. But, as always, I might be wrong.

(Comments on the last excerpt were especially good.)

Excerpt removed. Buy the book.



aaron 01.26.06 at 1:03 pm

Excellent post.


Barry 01.26.06 at 5:04 pm

Testing comments, 5:04 PM, EST (is everybody actually working hard today?)


No Preference 01.27.06 at 6:48 am

It’s surprising that Vietnam is held up as a model for Iraq. Vietnamization was a mirage. The Vietnamese government and army totally collapsed in a few short weeks in 1975 because the government was installed and kept in power by the US, and could not survive without our massive support. The GVN never had as much legitimacy among Vietnamese as the communists, unfortunately.

The current Iraqi government faces the same question of legitimacy. That ‘s nothing, however, compared to the our own crisis of legitimacy in Iraq. What right do we have to be there, shaping their future? None, and the Iraqis know it.


Jokomo 01.27.06 at 6:50 am

How about putting easy links to the other 3 parts of this article somewhere on this post? Alternately, a clearly marked tag that allowed one to access all 4 posts would be helpful.

Patience is a virtue, just not one of my virtues.


Brendan 01.27.06 at 7:11 am

‘What right do we have to be there, shaping their future? None, and the Iraqis know it.’

True, but what’s lacking at the moment is any mass popular movement with democratic legitimacy to actually ask ‘us’ to leave. Look at the shenanigans that are currently going on to even get some kind of a government formed, let alone one that will have the internal coherence and legitimacy to ask the occupiers (that’s us btw) to leave. The problem is that to get a majority the Shias will have to compromise with the Sunnis and at the moment both sides don’t seem to be able to agree on anything. So to form a government the Shias may have to ally themselves with the Kurds, who of course will not agree to any proposal that results in the occupiers leaving.

Result: deadlock, instability, economic chaos, etc.


hirvi 01.27.06 at 11:43 am

“Excellent post”

You may think so, but I’d like to see someone try to implement that, Aaron.

He calls for large numbers of “small, light, mobile units”, preferably locally recruited, to operate at night, and with “coordination among many government organizations”.

Leaving aside the question of how small, how light, and how mobile the units are, how big is the reserve, which government organizations are to operate at night, and what is to happen during the day, where is one to find the highly proficient and motivated infantrymen (because that’s what you need to be as an ‘ace night-fighter’) to fill these units – from a local population?

And if you could find them, is it likely you’d have an insurgency in the first place?

Well, they can try it, I suppose. But in the meantime, the Pentagon is spending billions on 70-ton artillery pieces, and heaven knows what else that won’t fit in the plan, so it’s sure to be a slow-starter.

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