Monday, August 13, 2012

A Book Report

A few weeks ago, while on the road, HH6 and I stopped to do some shopping at a local thrift shop (a favorite past time). Amongst the other items she found, HH6 found a couple of books for me. Most notable of these, thus far, is a book I read decades ago, in junior high or high school, on the Vietnam conflict.

"Silence Was A Weapon: The Vietnam War in the Villages," by Stuart A. Herrington, is a study of the author's experience as a young military intelligence Captain in the Phoenix Program. Because of the relevance of this book to the subject of this blog, I'm going to take the time to quote some excerpts, and interject my own commentary on why any specific excerpt is relevant, and how it ties into the resistance side of the spectrum, versus the counter-insurgent's.

As COL. Herrington (as an interesting historical note, now retired Colonel Herrington's audit of Abu Ghraib was one of the primary causes of the public exposure of the abuses that were occurring there. As will be seen below, his experiences and the abuses he witnessed in Vietnam led to a career-long disgust with torture and "enhanced interrogations.") points out in the preface to his book, the views he expressed were "offered with the sincere hope that they will assist in clarifying why the well-intentioned efforts of our country to win the "hearts and minds" of the South Vietnamese people ended with the ignominious departure of our ambassador from the roof of his embassy in an evacuation helicopter."

(Critical Note: This article is not intended to portray myself as an expert on the Vietnam War. While I have, for obvious reasons, studied the shit out of it, I was not there. I can only look at it, through the prism of history, based on the recollections and reports of those who were there. So, as I critique things that occurred, it is not intended to belittle or badmouth the veterans who went, most often poorly trained for the conflict they were entering, and did the best they could under the circumstances, often with Olympian results that belied the piss-poor preparation they were given. While the argument has been made, accurately, that U.S. forces smoked the shit out of PAVN and VC forces every time they faced them on a conventional battlefield, that is not the same thing as saying "we won the battles and the politicians lost the war." In reality, the PAVN and VC learned from battles like the Ia Drang and the Tet Offensive. Yes, the U.S. military can leverage our technological might and monkey-stomp the fuck out of any conventional force on the planet. The difference is, with few exceptions, such as SF, the U.S. military is terribly hide-bound and unable to look back to the Founders and remember the lessons of UW, while the PAVN and VC had no institutional pride to overcome. They adapted to the threat they faced, and mastered UW. We have a lot to learn from them and other irregular forces that the U.S. and other large, conventional militaries of the world have faced over the last four or five decades. That is my goal with book reports like this. Expect more of them. --J.M.)

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