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Iraq Is Not Vietnam, Part XXVII

There are many reasons Iraq is not Vietnam, as has been chronicled in many places. Yet, the Vietnam parallels are tirelessly strewn about. In fact, the dreaded Vietnam-esque 'quagmire' meme breathed its first breath of life before the first American boot even hit soil in Afghanistan.

Yet, for those charged with prosecuting and winning the conflict of our time, they do so beyond the seemingly disinterested cameras and microphones. Such is the unglorious nature of warfighters, bound only by a sense of duty to secure victory from the jaws of perception. With regard to incessant Vietnam comparisons, they choose to draw perpendiculars when appropriate rather than accept parallels when self-defeating.

Greg Jaffe writes of one such group of men in The Wall Street Journal, and one in particular: The U.S. Army's LTC John Nagl.

The embrace of these Vietnam histories reflects an emerging consensus in the Army that in order to move forward in Iraq, it must better understand the mistakes of Vietnam.

In the past, it was commonly held in military circles that the Army failed in Vietnam because civilian leaders forced it to fight a limited war instead of the all-out assault it longed to wage. That belief helped shape the doctrine espoused in the 1980s by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. They argued that the military should fight only wars in which it could apply quick, overwhelming force to destroy the enemy.

The newer analyses of Vietnam are now supplanting that theory -- and changing the way the Army fights. The argument that the military must exercise restraint is a central point of the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine. The doctrine, which runs about 120 pages and is still in draft form, is a handbook on how to wage guerrilla wars.

It offers Army and Marine Corps officers advice on everything from strategy development to intelligence gathering. Col. Nagl is among the four primary authors of the doctrine. Conrad Crane, a historian at the U.S. Army War College, is overseeing the effort.

LTC Nagl's book can be found here:

...and if he ever had time for a web presence, perhaps he would be well at home here:

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The preface to Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife:
Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam
by John A. Nagl is available on the University of Chicago Press website: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/567702.html