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"Lessons Not Learned from Vietnam War" Topic

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23 Feb 2017 10:02 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from Modern Media board
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02 Jun 2017 8:10 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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1,741 hits since 22 Feb 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Tango0122 Feb 2017 4:23 p.m. PST

"The Taliban resurgence jeopardizes the United States's ability to conduct a pacification campaign in support of a foreign government. Indeed, the 2016 uptick in Taliban movement in Afghanistan mirrored that of North Vietnamese Viet Cong Infrastructure of the 1970s. Defeating the enemy's ability to organize and operate is fundamental to pacification. During the War on Terror and the Vietnam War, complex enemy organizations posed a serious challenge to the United States. Highlighting difficulties in pacification for both the Republic of Vietnam and the United States during the Vietnam War serves as a lesson underscoring the limits of American power to defeat clandestine networks.

At the core of the American war in Vietnam lay the need to control the South Vietnamese people, not the so-called winning of their hearts and minds. Pacification—the means of fighting the Vietnam War—included military and political methods. Both the North and South Vietnamese governments managed competing pacification programs to extend administrative capabilities to the countryside. North Vietnamese military gains in 1965 across the Republic of Vietnam meant Government of Vietnam (GVN) efforts to control the rural population required undercutting those already established by the North Vietnamese. Using a combination of conventional military might, covert activity, and propaganda, American and South Vietnamese authorities …"
Main page


Legion 422 Feb 2017 4:33 p.m. PST

I think regardless of any lessons learned in SE Asia. There is really nothing more the US or it's allies can do for A'stan.

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 5:51 p.m. PST

If you are going to cut and run, don't go back in.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member22 Feb 2017 10:51 p.m. PST

I have to think that the the US is happy enough that they can't be physically thrown out of Afghanistan, hence they can always appear to be "winning" by the sheer virtue of being there. Perhaps the Pentagon sees this as a jobs program, and a testing field for all their new toys.

Zargon Inactive Member23 Feb 2017 7:12 a.m. PST

Corruption wins every time.

zoneofcontrol23 Feb 2017 7:28 a.m. PST

Best to let them continue their fight with each other as long and violently as they wish. Just keep a big hammer to squish anything that leaks out.

Legion 423 Feb 2017 8:49 a.m. PST

If you are going to cut and run, don't go back in.
The US was supposed go back in to Vietnam if things went bad after we left. And not unexpectedly, they did. But Congress correctly voted against sending the SVN anymore equipment, ammo, etc. As they wisely noted, we already spent over a decade there and to waste more money and possibly lives would not be worth it.
I see this same scenario in A'stan …

I have to think that the US is happy enough that they can't be physically thrown out of Afghanistan,
It's not about being happy. The simple fact is the Taliban, AQ, or Daesh. Can't do it.
hence they can always appear to be "winning" by the sheer virtue of being there.
I'm sure the US military leadership, knows there is "no winning" per se in the "classical" sense. And since there is no draft [Thank the Gods !] and an all volunteer military. The US units deployed there are doing what they are trained and paid to do. First of all "following the [lawful]Orders of the POTUS", etc., …
Perhaps the Pentagon sees this as a jobs program,
Jobs of who ? The military ?
and a testing field for all their new toys.
Those could be tested elsewhere if need be. Syria, Iraq, etc. Bottom line the best way to test new equipment is in actual operations.

Best to let them continue their fight with each other as long and violently as they wish. Just keep a big hammer to squish anything that leaks out.

I totally agree, drones, CAS & TLAMs/SLAMs, etc. can do what needs to be done generally.

Waco Joe23 Feb 2017 9:13 a.m. PST

"Best to let them continue their fight with each other as long and violently as they wish. Just keep a big hammer to squish anything that leaks out."

This x1000

Legion 423 Feb 2017 9:16 a.m. PST

It seems they are going to do that regardless … thumbs up

Oberlindes Sol LIC23 Feb 2017 1:04 p.m. PST

Legion 4 wrote, "Jobs of who [sic] ? The military ?" I think that the jobs to which reference was made were the jobs of the manufacturers of weapons and equipment.

Legion 423 Feb 2017 4:18 p.m. PST

Woops ! My badd … Jobs for "who" [damned auto-correct !] … Yes, I thought that, and was making a little joke(?) …

But again, my sense of humor does not translate well online. I should have put – evil grin

Regardless no harm, no foul …

Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP24 Feb 2017 2:47 p.m. PST


Rod I Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member24 Feb 2017 3:22 p.m. PST

War usually doesn't work. It takes strange turns or twists and produces unexpected results. The winner, if there is one, often does not realise the goals for which the war was fought and must then wrestle with new problems born out of the conflict. Thus, war is a clumsy tool which produces chaotic results. Wargaming might try to reflect this better in its design of grand strategy games. How, I have no idea.

Rod Robertson

Whatisitgood4atwork26 Feb 2017 9:09 p.m. PST

Breaking a stalemate is a matter of who can wait the longest.

However long the USA and her allies decide to persevere in a stalemate, it will never be longer than Afghanis can wait or North Vietnam could wait.

Virginia Tory02 Mar 2017 6:09 a.m. PST

"But Congress correctly voted against sending the SVN anymore equipment, ammo, etc. As they wisely noted, we already spent over a decade there and to waste more money and possibly lives would not be worth it."

Yeah, hard to defend yourself against a massive North Vietnamese conventional attack when you are starved of ammunition and equipment by your supplier. Talk about a self inflicted, self-fulfilling prophecy. Nothing "wise" about it. Pretty shameful, actually.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP03 Mar 2017 2:30 a.m. PST

Wargaming might try to reflect this better in its design of grand strategy games. How, I have no idea.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and suggest……dice?

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP03 Mar 2017 7:17 a.m. PST

read this , ..disagree fundamentally.
it's not nearly that easy .

lack of lessons learned by the political drivers of the conflict in Afghanistan factor much more than lack of lessons learned from Vietnam by the military.

..if there is a fundamental lesson here it's of a systemic overconfidence* by USA political/military leadership to tackle longstanding problems they don't really understand (or want to)…by committee , and lack of patience and political/material support to 'do it right the first time'.

(*some would say a 'cultural arrogance')

I'd suggest the 'Afghanistan campaign'("2001-2014") was a much bigger FUBAR than Vietnam ever was.

this article also fails to mention a complete lack of political and nation-building success in A'stan. This "battle" in A'stan was nearly there for the winning, but lost by political vacillation, and the change in military strategy to go 'kinetic' with the special forces , rather than keep green berets in the villages.(to deny Talib support..which was working).

Burning the Koran, and bombing weddings doesn't help.
The USA lost the political war here, just as sure as the USA lost Vietnam when the Saigon police chief executed the VC prisoner in front of the US network-TV cameras.
..or the USA lost Iraq when the reservist MP's at Abu Grahib decided to share photos taken on their personal mobile phones… bought into a secure area.

War is politics.

If Vietnam was the 'unwinnable political war' the USA military actually nearly 'won' …

…then Afghanistan was the 'winnable military war' the USA + western political-drivers just fumbled continuously (like invading Iraq in 2003) until the Afghani civilians 'lost' anyway for waiting (and cooperating) ..a greater tragedy .

and it just got worse from there.

In both conflicts the good guys forgot that their fundamental purpose was to protect civilians (from bad guys) and assist the civil power. It's completely not just about killing bad guys.

Panfilov04 Mar 2017 2:56 p.m. PST

But the "Civil Power" in Afghanistan is/has been more interested in how much they can squirrel away in their Swiss bank accounts, not actually providing governance. Or at least a well paid sinecure, again, any governance or leadership is secondary.

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP05 Mar 2017 12:52 a.m. PST

Absolutely ! both cases (Vietnam and Afghanistan) the central 'Civil Power' was pretty rotten , and non representative of the folks in the countryside. This made the folks in the countryside exploitable by outside actors with an agenda.
US/Free world support for the central civil power has to occur (for political legitamacy) , but the folks in the countryside shouldn't be forgotten either (ie; civil services- access to health, education, transport, and v importantly – protection/security from outside actors) ..otherwise you have no information, influence or 'control' outside the limits of the barracks.

In both cases the US had great (likely genuine) altruistic self-belief they could turn around rotten 'political infrastructure', with good advice (tho' not necessarily diplomatically well delivered), investment in $$$$$$$$$ and boots on the ground (but in 'escalations'), and time (but measured in election cycles).

Bangorstu05 Mar 2017 4:32 a.m. PST

The battle for Afghanistan hasn't been lost – the government hasn't collapsed and is still fighting hard.

Vietnam of course wasn't as ethnically diverse making the situation in theory easier.

At the start of the Iraq War, John Simpson (who is an exceptionally experienced war correspondent) noted American troops weren't actually very good at manning vehicle checkpoints.

the troops were nervous, trigger happy etc – in contrast to troops of other nations (Canadians, British) who do this kind of thing as UN duty all the time.

Consequently there were a number of tragic accidents.

The traditional inability of the USAF to identify targets properly, and to blame the locals for getting bombed (weddings etc) also doesn't help.

The US seemed to have started off by not really understanding COIN warfare at all. They seemed to think it beneath them… something poorer countries did.

Now, I think they've learned a lot – and it's been a very steep learning curve.

Attention to detail is everything. Having an Arabic speaker (even if only a few phrases) at a checkpoint. Indeed bothering to put up signs in clear Arabic….

Understanding local customs – like shooting at weddings.

Most importantly – owning up to your mistakes quickly and honestly. No-one expects you to be perfect.

But the US has a long history of victim blaming whenever something does wrong… and promoting/ decorating those who screw up. That doesn't sit well with the victims.

28mm Fanatik06 Mar 2017 8:53 a.m. PST

Afghanistan's de-centralized tribal structure and ethnic history suggest that any foreign backed government is unlikely to last very long.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2017 10:28 a.m. PST

Or indeed, any government at all.

Rod I Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member06 Mar 2017 3:05 p.m. PST

You cannot bomb militant self-determinism out of existence whether you use napalm, B-52's, helicopter gunships or drone strikes. When a people are determined to be free from foreign rule (be it British/French/US backed Saigon or Coalition backed Kabul) your choices are negotiation or genocide. The latter is unacceptable so talking and deal-making rather than killing becomes the critical skill-set.

War only works when both sides have armies and are willing to use them on the battlefield. If one side refuses to play the game then unfortunately oppression and atrocity replace war. We try to dress this up with sterile phrases like freedom-fighting, resistance, counter-insurgency or COIN operations but it really boils down to the murder of armed and unarmed civilians who won't bend the knee to an outside power and the murder of soldiers who try to impose that genuflexion. Colonialism is brutal and we must ask ourselves do, we have the stomach for it anymore? I think we do not and I think that is a good thing.

Rod Robertson.

Whatisitgood4atwork06 Mar 2017 9:27 p.m. PST

'If Vietnam was the 'unwinnable political war' the USA military actually nearly 'won' …'

I must disagree. The very idea that the US could win the Vietnam War ignores the most fundamental thing about the War: It was not the US's War to win or lose.

It was North Vietnam's and South Vietnam's war. Of the two of them, the South never looked like winning, and sometimes didn't look like they were even fighting it.

The US as an ally achieved tactical victories and a strategic stalemate – as long as they remind in place.

The US's best Commander of US Military operations in Vietnam was arguably the final one: General Frederick Weyland – the man responsible for predicting, preparing for, and defeating the Tet offensive.

Here's what he said:
'I've destroyed a single division three times . . . I've chased main-force units all over the country and the impact was zilch. It meant nothing to the people. Unless a more positive and more stirring theme than simple anti-communism can be found, the war appears likely to go on until someone gets tired and quits, which could take generations.'

Bang on. Tactical victories do not mean winning. The people of South Vietnam not motivated or committed to winning, and the situation stalemated until someone quits.

It's pretty hard to get, 'the US military nearly won' out of there. That's stalemate, not winning, not losing. Stalemates go to the one who can wait the longest. That meant North or South Vietnam. The US was not going to fight their war for generations, and nor should it have.

So unly South Vietnam could ultimately win against the North. It was their country. They were the only ones who could ever wait out the North. And they never looked close to winning, or of even being able to maintain the stalemate on their own for any length of time.

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2017 11:40 p.m. PST

Hi Whatisitgood4,
I don't disagree with what you are saying here, this is the 'unwinnable' local governance, social-reform, anti-corruption, motivational, civil-infrastructure, business development, law-and-order "political war", and was/is seemingly a very-long-way second priority, or perhaps a third priority for US Policy makers, after domestic US party-Politics.
I'm sorta trying to using the language of the opening statement to this thread and the tone of the accompanying article which methinks focusses too much on ‘how the US lost the war', rather than ‘how the US failed to win the peace' . I feel the accompanying article author is using the word ‘pacification' here in a meaningless way.
Yes, there are many parallels in the Vietnam and Afghanistan conflicts, but the Phoenix program in Vietnam vs. the ‘kinetic' use of the US Special forces in Afghanistan isn't the place to start, nor is the most significant SNAFU made in either of these military-political theatres. Not by a long shot.
In Vietnam , the ‘political, civil, and economic assistance' was considerable , (eg. a lot of road, bridge and port building, hospitals etc.)… but the military assistance was colossal by comparison . America was here to fight Communism , not nation-build.
I like your quote from General Weyand , yes, ..I maintain the US-led Military Forces had to ‘win the military war' over and over again because no meaningful "political war" was being pursued.
What is "winning" on these terms ?

In response to the completely collapsing situation the US found in 1964 Vietnam, … the US Military deployed Divisions to the other side of the planet (1965) , built bases and ‘rescued' a deteriorating tactical situation (1966) almost in spite of the ARVN , then went on the offensive (1967), survived + destroyed the biggest (surprise) offensive the VC + PAVN could muster in 1968 (a US election year) and went back on the offensive by the end of the year through to 1970 , whilst training-up the ARVN (etc.) forces to Regt and Division level such that they "held on" (with US backing) in 1968, and by themselves (with US air support) in 1972. … about eight years later .. (or two US political cycles) …all on a playing field where the boundaries and goalposts were being constantly changed.
…. How much has a Military Command gotta do ? … hahaha!

By this point it was not a civil war inside Sth Vietnam, the insurgency was destroyed, it was hereinafter a conventional war between nation-states.

Meanwhile .. the "political war" was ‘handed over' by weak diplomacy, empty threats, intrigue, incursions, détente and rapprochement by the Nixon government .

Yes , there are many parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan, in both cases , but more so in A'stan … the central government never actually really ‘governed'.
The country folk in key strategic areas governed themselves, and had traditionally because central government authority was so weak ..the VC and Taliban infiltrated and supplanted this ‘village-and-district local government' and made it theirs , …at the point of a gun as need be, usually at night in the zones where the security forces would fear to tread.

We (the 'free world') insisted they realign with the central government authority, participate in a democratic process that did not represent them and was inherently corrupt, gave away lots of freebies , but was outta the village, and back behind the wire by nightfall .

In the many relatively isolated cases where this was not the FWF MO , and relationships and trust were built , local governance , economic development and improved security for the locals resulted. ..some measure of ‘peace' was being won.

But by comparison , the majority focus was always about "winning the war" , so 'winning the peace' never really gained the momentum or critical mass it needed.

Bangorstu09 Mar 2017 12:35 p.m. PST

The main problem with Vietnam wasn't anything the American Armed forces did…OK they ignored a lot of European COIN experience but…

The South Vietnamese government simply wasn't worth fighting for. It was corrupt, oppressive and a kleotocracy.

The North was oppresssive but had a better story to sell.

The British won Malaya in part because they'd granted independence…better times are coming.

Vietnam…why fight for a lousy status who? Or help eyes crazy Americans who think the swines in charge are wonderful?

Whatisitgood4atwork13 Mar 2017 12:01 a.m. PST

Cant jimmi wrote,'But by comparison , the majority focus was always about "winning the war" , so 'winning the peace' never really gained the momentum or critical mass it needed.'

I very strongly agree with you there. The military campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq were won quickly by professionals. The post-military phase … sigh.

Well, let's just say that the fact that the first US Governor of Iraq was not a career diplomat, had no prior Middle-East experience, and did not speak Arabic sums it up. The peace 'may' have been winnable (or may not have, I do not want to diminish the difficulty of the task), but not like that.

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 5:57 a.m. PST

Agreed @ Whatisitgoodfor; ; but careful who you call ‘US Governor of Iraq' ..that sounds very "colonial" ..hahaha!
Paul Bremer the ‘chief executive officer' of the "Coalition Provisional Authority" (CPA); appointed "subject to the authority, direction and control of Secretary of Defense (and warrior-poet) Donald Rumsfeld" , near singlehandedly caused the political collapse of Iraq with his first two executive ‘decrees' , plus …pushing through an Iraqi constitution that granted the US status (in Iraq) no other sovereign government would agree to , and then ..insisting/driving on a "democratic process" so ignorant and unsophisticated it was guaranteed to hand central power to the (majority population-by-numbers, but not-by-region) Shiites.
Forget all the good , clever , inventive soldiering done up to this point, … the US (Bremmer + CPA et al.) lost, and continued to lose the peace . (political war) .

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 7:15 a.m. PST

Hi Stu , .. waay harsh dude !
? Is it fair to say, the US were on a anti-communist crusade at the time ; explained to the public as the ‘domino theory' . ..which in the context of other communist-world activities and adventures of the moment (like 1964) would have seemed legitimate enough reasoning to get involved in Vietnam . (ie; ‘so we don't have to fight the Commies at home / in the continental USA').
In the early 60's , aside from Sth Vietnam , communist movements/ insurgencies were also ‘active' in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Phillipines, Laos and Cambodia. China had also ‘invaded' Himalayan border regions (Aksai Chin) of India in 1962. The Caribbean and Europe in the early 60's were also holding US anti-communist attention and alarm .
…it would be fair to suggest the USA was making a military stand against the spread of world communism in far-away Vietnam . The local Politics of the situation (which were awful) were irrelevant for the US purposes. The US were going to Vietnam, because that was where the communists were. The US were not arriving in Vietnam to nation-build.
The British in Malaya/Malaysia also controlled the government, military and police, and could ‘make' policy. The US in Vietnam did/could not. Malaya/Malaysia was a simpler, smaller ethno-political and geographic problem (in comparison to Vietnam). The US and SVN had high-level advice from an influential Australian Colonel "counterinsurgency expert" (Ted Serong) with experience in Malaya .. but a lot of his advice was perhaps not the best (with 20/20 hindsight), or ignored, and some methods as translated to Vietnam (eg; the Strategic Hamlet program) were a security and political disaster.
The North ‘lost' the war too, by 1975 … nearly all the adult the males of a generation or two of Nth and Sth Vietnam were dead or damaged. A few years of failed crops and local famine followed.

Communist politics exists to take and keep political control. Communists governments use oppression as one method to exert control on their own citizens. I disagree this is a ‘better story' just because it is being told at gunpoint with no other alternative stories allowed. The inner politics of the Nth Vietnamese elites have always been pretty murky and savage too.
But somehow the Sth Vietnamese Catholic political elite (–of-the-moments) managed to look worse

Bangorstu16 Mar 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

The British did indeed have significant advantages… though I do think they were also more successful in their hearts and minds strategy.. and got down and dirty more than relying on technology.

Note we did also use the tried and tested method of paying people to give themselves up….

The problem wasn't so much the Americans – though I thin kwe can all agree the US Army had some issues.

The problem was the South Vietnamese. They were essential. And they simply didn't have a cause to beleive in.

Why? Because an American backed kleptocracy didn't seem to be a better bet than the 'evil Communist' regime that was the alternative.

Any time you end up with a govenrment fighting its own people, you have to take a long hard look at why.

It doesn't happen in democracies that treat their population well…

And before someone asks about Northern Ireland – in the 1960s it failed both those tests..

RudyNelson16 Mar 2017 3:31 p.m. PST

Different situations. Vietnam was one of the mostly densely populated areas of the world. A fact not understood by Americans. Afghanistan was one of the lowest per square mile populations. But the ribbons of population arable areas is what matters.

lesson not learned from Vietnam? You cannot win a war by fighting with restrictions. Goals cannot be met or maintained in a positive column. War must be won as a total war, not a restricted one.

Bangorstu17 Mar 2017 4:41 a.m. PST

Vietnam was hardly densely populated… it's still roughly half that of, the UK and it's had a population boom since then.

Had you fought a total war, you'd still have lost because the people simply didn't want you.

It's just a fig leaf to make you feel better.

If you wanted to win, you had to get rid of the South Vietnamese government and replace it with something less corrupt and more democratically accountable.

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2017 7:23 a.m. PST

Hey Stu , talk nicely ? , .. you know it wasn't RudyNelson's fault ?

Your last line is inciting illegal overthrow of a sovereign state ?!
..the CIA did that (was at least complicit), and got a year of political turmoil and military coups. Bad call.

Murvihill17 Mar 2017 9:43 a.m. PST

If the US had fought a total war they would have overrun N Vietnam. Insurgencies have a hard time becoming more than gangs of bandits without a supply source.

Bangorstu17 Mar 2017 10:49 a.m. PST

Capt Jimmi – third person plural, not singular.. I mean it's a comfort blanket do many Americans.

And yes I am saying regime change as necessary. Given the regime in question I susoect few years would have been shed. It had no legitimacy.

As for total war, I don't see many signs of the USA holding back… massive air strikes, lots of troops deployed… what more could you have done?

Without, for example, ending up fighting the Russians or Chinese?

28mm Fanatik17 Mar 2017 2:35 p.m. PST

If the the US had fought a total war they would have overrun N. Vietnam.

True, and the Chinese would intervene just like they did in Korea. No matter what people say, Vietnam (like Korea) isn't worth going nuclear, or even fighting the PLA, over.

Whatisitgood4atwork20 Mar 2017 2:54 a.m. PST

What Mr Fanatik said.

RudyNelson wrote: 'War must be won as a total war, not a restricted one.'

The Cold War – of which Vietnam was just one battle from the US pov – was ultimately won as a restricted war. Very restricted, considering just some of the ways it could have gone unrestricted. Thank goodness.

Murvihill20 Mar 2017 10:33 a.m. PST

"As for total war, I don't see many signs of the USA holding back… massive air strikes, lots of troops deployed… what more could you have done?"

Umm, we didn't overrun N. Vietnam. Not because we couldn't, but (as mentioned) we chose not to to avoid provoking China. We also didn't bomb Hanoi into the stone age. We could have, but didn't. Vietnam was a limited war.

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2017 8:08 p.m. PST

"Total war" also should mean a shift in political 'footing' too.

..I'd suggest USA is not capable of ‘Total War', the US political circus does not have the discipline, and hasn't had it since before the 60's.

You'd need to start with no US partisan-Political "public" bickering about policy, costs, deployments, best or worse-case scenarios …that should be all officially a "war secret", until they come to write the histories. … once the election is over ..everyone is 100% right behind the President.
The American ‘open-to-all' politico-media debate conducted nightly on TV, with media outlets doing their own polling and ‘expert' critique allows ‘enemy' decision makers to know (in detail) what segments of the public and government are thinking, or not thinking.
This should also include not 'telegraphing' at political level, shifts of future military policy change …("eg troops out in four years"-type statements..or tweets).
Politicians, diplomats, and all public servants are at ‘war' too. They need to understand S T F U ! …. T.H.I.N.K. !

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2017 8:21 p.m. PST

Government needs control of the press and information…both ways,….but the US can only control US press (and not that much) …and certainly not Overseas press (…only China can do that ) so 'information control' is critically important. With even-handed censure laws if need be. In the battle for ‘hearts and minds' (that must also be fought on home soil) ,… the information available is important for winning the ‘minds' so their hearts will follow . Broadcast Press ‘freedoms' have to be curtailed, censorship is important. War is hell.
(eg. In 2004 'Abu Ghraib' should never have been seen, much less televised. …? 'CBS lost Iraq ?, .. as well as Vietnam ? ).
Nth Vietnam (like any totalitarian regime) was able to win this war at home. The US totally guffed it, the North Vietnamese, outplayed successive US governments wrt control of information and "press". The US had no idea what the Nth Vietnam was thinking.

Modern day Islamo-terrorists recruited by ‘social media', organised by internet, and fought with mobile phones. It had this battle won before the US knew it had started.

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2017 8:24 p.m. PST

Government needs ‘United' Control of dialogue/negotiation with "local actors", and presenting a united and coherent political front.
Today the US isn't winning this war of communication and influence-building either, as US politicians and Generals play Charlie Wilson, the UN is at best ; useless, and the US government has a ‘policy' of not talking … and for a while back there was unlikely to have anyone nearby who speaks the language anyway.
Many US commanders hold dialogue with local actors (and traditionally successfully have), but US politics supercedes anything they might agree to , and all talks /agreements are rendered meaningless. So local actors learn that talking with local US commanders is only of so much value , (even if the Commander personality himself is genuine and skillful ).. as US Politics (and action) might change dramatically with any turn ,..particularly a new administration.
Government needs some control of / or oversight of funding for military adventurism such that generals have to prepare a costed "business plan", for the deployment (and to keep their job). Politicians and Generals (et al) have to consider what this is all costing the taxpayer, they live in a fantasy world of first-class paid expenses. There is no way on any cost-benefit-analysis the USA has invested the time and $$$$$$$$$$ well (domestically or internationally) in the last 15 or so years.
(…some would argue the USA is bankrupting themselves fighting wars for Saudi Arabia.)

capt jimmi Supporting Member of TMP22 Mar 2017 10:21 p.m. PST

The problem with this of course is then endemic ‘fudging out' of costs that civil servants (and defence contractors) learn .. to keep their job. Warfighting is massively expensive exercise per day, however it is calculated, …but especially if it is calculated by "what we coulda done with that money at home". The USA need to learn to do prolonged counter-insurgency more cost effectively. And that doesn't mean ‘contractors', and shouldn't mean death squads.

Vietnam was a hugely expensive deployment held together by shoestrings. … so was Afghanistan, so was Iraq. In all cases the funding was ‘escalated' in response to security shortcomings. There was little or no coherent politico-military "Plan" (except maybe "kill 'em all" in Vietnam, or "smoke ‘em out" in Afghanistan ) , and the politicians responded by throwing (public) money at the problem/changing goal posts/ "plan" as it deteriorated. A lot of time and money was wasted for want of a thorough plan. Bombing from a hi-tech fighter or drone is a really expensive way to kill a guerrilla.

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2017 9:08 a.m. PST

Its easy though to get your total war.

Just tally up the total cost of all the equipment needed, manpower needed and the costs of supporting the ensuing veterans for say 10 years.

Once you have that dollar figure, go to the public, tell them the amount and tell them to pay for it in a mixture of tax increases and benefits cuts that account for the entire amount.

I'm sure they'll be very receptive.

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