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The Basics of War and How the U.S. Went Wrong
Right Side News ^ | 9/24/12 | Col. Thomas Snodgrass (Ret)

Posted on 09/25/2012 3:46:18 AM PDT by RightSideNews

In view of the public frustration with a decade of largely unsuccessful U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the impending cuts to the U.S. military budget, there is an active debate at present as to what military strategy and force structure should be fashioned for the future. Unfortunately, many taxpayers and most politicians are totally illiterate when it comes to the subject of warfare. (Judging from the dismal results in the last ten years, a similar conclusion might to drawn concerning the U.S. officer corps.) In an attempt to fill this critical knowledge void and perhaps raise the level of the on-going national defense dialogue, this essay is offered to provide the lay reader with an awareness of the basics of warfare. One qualifying note is that this essay will not deal with the morality of war or justification for going to war. While understanding “just war theory” is integral to the study of warfare, it is beyond the scope of this essay, which is intended to focus on the “how of war,” rather than the “why of war.” The appropriate place to begin a discussion of war is with the purpose of war as defined by Carl von Clausewitz in his masterwork, On War: WAR THEREFORE IS AN ACT OF VIOLENCE INTENDED TO COMPEL OUR OPPONENT TO FULFIL OUR WILL . .

(Excerpt) Read more at rightsidenews.com ...


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; geopolitics; military; war

1 posted on 09/25/2012 3:46:21 AM PDT by RightSideNews
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To: RightSideNews
The North Vietnamese always knew that the U.S. could have ended the war within weeks to months by bombing Hanoi rail and road logistical movement points, closing the Haiphong harbor by mining, and destroying the dykes and flooding the country, if Johnson had ever acquired the moral courage to stop the senseless slaughter of American GI’s in South Vietnam jungles. The World War II combat veterans who were the U.S. military leadership during the Vietnam War understood that unless the center of gravity source of the war is attacked and destroyed, the war would end only when and if the enemy is disposed to cease combat. Unfortunately President Johnson, along with his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, ignored and suppressed the advice and concerns of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in order to continue to pursue their suicidal, but politically expedient, ‘limited war,’ game theory, counterinsurgency strategy.

This is spot on.

One does not have to be a Military Historian or Combat Authority to realize that had we (mostly Johnson and to a degree, Nixon) had the "stones" (and not worried about Russia or China, without who's aid, North Vietnam could not have survived for 90 days) to cut all supply routes in the North, that little "war" would have been over in 6 months or less.

Worse yet (than that clueless, crook, RAT, Johnson picking targets from the Oval Office) was his ROE's which while not quite as bad as today's under Dear Reader, they were responsible from MANY casualties (not to mention the horrors of being a POW in North Vietnam for the survivors) of our brave pilots, to wit: he imposed "SPECIFIC" ingress and egress routes the pilots had to observe and consequently, the NVA, not being completely stupid, simply set up most of their SAM's and AAA along those "designated" routes, making for sitting ducks of our pilots.

Not since War II has the U.S. had the "desire" or "will" to win a Military Conflict and it has only gotten worse under this Islamic-appeasing, commie, Community Agitator, though W was not exactly my idea of a forceful, CIC who started out with good intentions after 9/11, but was led astray by advisers who suggested he not go for the jugular, less we "offend" Moose-limb countries.

Add to the mix a completely politicized (and wussified) Military Leadership, the chances of our defeating our sworn enemies (who have openly advocated our destruction)--ESPECIALLY if were UNWILLING to even "identify" him--is slim to none.

2 posted on 09/25/2012 4:07:09 AM PDT by neveralib
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To: RightSideNews
WAR THEREFORE IS AN ACT OF VIOLENCE INTENDED TO COMPEL OUR OPPONENT TO FULFIL OUR WILL ...

We'll that was pretty simple. The U.S. military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan were complete disasters because it's now 2012 and I still have no idea what "our will" was.

3 posted on 09/25/2012 4:09:15 AM PDT by Alberta's Child ("If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested.")
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To: RightSideNews

The ONLY way to rebuild a nation is to completely destroy that country... kill many, many citizens and destroy their Military and industrial powers... crush them so badly that when we do finally roll into their enclave... they will worship the ground we walk on... as we feed them and give them water... otherwise FAILURE.

LLS


4 posted on 09/25/2012 4:15:30 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ("if it looks like you are not gonna make it you gotta get mean, I mean plumb mad-dog mean" J. Wales)
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To: neveralib
Not since War II has the U.S. had the "desire" or "will" to win a Military Conflict ...

I don't disagree with you -- but hey, let's face it ... World War II was the third major U.S. "imperial war" in less than 50 years. Three strikes and you're out, and I contend that by the time 1950 rolled around the U.S. simply could never justify the use of military force all over the globe. The whole purpose of the "half-assed war" approach is to manage these military campaigns in a way that is as politically palatable as possible. This means two things, first and foremost: (1) no compulsory military service, and (2) little or no disruption to civilians in the U.S., even in terms of alterations in our standard of living (e.g., "America is at war, while Americans are at the shopping mall").

5 posted on 09/25/2012 4:15:37 AM PDT by Alberta's Child ("If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested.")
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To: RightSideNews
IMHO... I think that we should just do the first things and forget rebuilding nations. We can't afford it any longer and I despise our enemies enough to never lift a finger to stop their suffering.

LLS

6 posted on 09/25/2012 4:17:56 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ("if it looks like you are not gonna make it you gotta get mean, I mean plumb mad-dog mean" J. Wales)
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To: All

SAMUEL:

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

EINHERJAR:
...and leave it a smoldering crater


7 posted on 09/25/2012 4:27:21 AM PDT by Einherjar ( Asking only workman's wages I come looking for a job But I get no offers...Just a come-on from the)
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To: neveralib
I would disagree slightly with your and Col Snodgrass' analysis of the method to have stopped North Vietnamese support of the VC/NVA in the south. Bombing and mining would not have been sufficient: it would have required an invasion and occupation of North Vietnam to have stopped the North Vietnamese leadership and the mobilization they had in place. (Col Snodgrass is Air Force: they always think that aerial bombing will do the trick. It is never enough and the fight is never over until one of our grunts raises our flag on their flagpole).

The risk was that the Chinese would have become directly involved a la Korea, but that would have been have to have been dealt with. The masses of the PLA would have had that awful terrain and the advantage we had in indirect fires against them and we would have prevailed, "if we had the stones".

The bigger and unmentioned questions were why we chose to fight on the cheap when the Communists chose that strategic area for a conflict and why our government chose to allow pro-enemy forces in this country to subvert our efforts. Even when we had identified the agents, the couriers, the funding, and the communications we didn't do a thing to any of them. Now some of those same traitors are honored members of our current government. I'd love to know what the real story was/is.

8 posted on 09/25/2012 4:36:22 AM PDT by Chainmail (A simple rule of life: if you can be blamed, you're responsible.)
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To: RightSideNews

The US went wrong by electing a Marxist sissy to the presidency.


9 posted on 09/25/2012 4:38:33 AM PDT by BuffaloJack (Obama loved the poor so much, he created millions more.)
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To: LibLieSlayer
I mostly agree with you.
Our mistake in the middle east and elsewhere, is confusing the nature of war with nation building. War by nature, is the exact opposite.
Let's take Iran for example.
1. Carpet bomb all cities, manufacturing centers, electrical, and fuel plants.

2. Exterminate anything and everything not wearing a US uniform.

3.Repeat and rinse.

4.Go home.

10 posted on 09/25/2012 5:00:52 AM PDT by RavenLooneyToon (Tail gunner Joe was right.)
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To: RightSideNews

Unless you are ready to KILL your enemy... Women, children, pets, infrastructure... Then you should not go to war. A “politically correct war “ with associated “caring” rules if engagement is folly and the ultimate oxymoron. Unless your enemy is destroyed, then he will rise again with revenge. On this issue, are you ready to 1. carpet bomb Tehran or 2. bomb only strategic military installations? If #1, then pull the trigger and don’t look back, if #2, just stay home and wait for them carpet bomb YOU! (Which will probably anger you enough for option #1... If there is anything left if you).


11 posted on 09/25/2012 5:16:04 AM PDT by ThePatriotsFlag
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To: ThePatriotsFlag

Amen

The whereabouts of Taliban are known but families protect them. All should be exterminated. PC is a losing proposition.

Destruction of the enemy is the only way to win a war. Releasing imprisoned warriors allows the war to continue.

Dead warriors can’t continue to fight and kill you


12 posted on 09/25/2012 5:20:38 AM PDT by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... Present failure and impending death yield irrational action))
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To: RightSideNews

Forget Viet Nam. We let the politicians lose that one for us. (And millions of innocents died as a result; their blood is on the hands of the appeasers.)

But today’s guerilla wars should be fought by America the same way it is being waged by our enemies: asymmetrically. It makes little sense to send in uniformed troops, tanks, and bombers to destroy a few shacks. When we take out a ten-dollar mud hut with a $2 million cruise missile, who wins? Better we find and train elite killers who look, speak, and (god forbid) smell like Taliban and al-qaida, infiltrate their organizations and cities, and wage a war of terror against them. They blow up a building, a mosque goes up in flames. They kill an American citizen, half a dozen of them are found flayed and headless the next day. And throughout the weeks, their command and control personnel mysteriously vanish. Could it be that those rotting remains we found in the landfill are what became of Zawahiri?

We always have the traditional option — uniformed troops. But we fight fire with fire and we do it better than they do.


13 posted on 09/25/2012 5:36:55 AM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: RavenLooneyToon

Pretty much how I see it... I agree.

LLS


14 posted on 09/25/2012 5:36:55 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ("if it looks like you are not gonna make it you gotta get mean, I mean plumb mad-dog mean" J. Wales)
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To: bert
How to lose a war for sure:

Forbid the mere mention of the true enemy.


15 posted on 09/25/2012 5:40:40 AM PDT by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: RightSideNews

If you go to war, you need to bring a copy of Sun Tsu with you. If you don’t you will fail.


16 posted on 09/25/2012 6:14:00 AM PDT by BuffaloJack (Obama loved the poor so much, he created millions more.)
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To: Chainmail
If one studies Op Lam Son 719, he can readily see what was the carotid artery of North Vietnam. And this was Laos. Had we done this early on, instead of 1971, we might have actually accomplished something.

In one of the largest Ops of the Vietnam War, thousands of ARVN Troops entered Laos, just south of the 17th Parallel. Along Highway 9. Staggering casualties on both sides occurred. The US lost over 100 helicopters and had 500 others damaged. The North threw everything they had into the fight. They had no choice...

But instead, we sprayed Rainbow Herbicides all over God's creation. Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. We bombed everywhere. Engaged in the forced relocation of civilian population. Never a good thing.

We should have concentrated these assets along Highway 9, into Laos. Extend the "McNamara Line." Would have made far more sense than what we did, and are still paying for...

17 posted on 09/25/2012 6:17:08 AM PDT by donozark (I was a Vietnam Veteran before it was popular...)
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To: RightSideNews
Basically the queeran is a Declaration of War against mankind.

Until the document, and it's hosts are destroyed it will stand.

18 posted on 09/25/2012 6:25:36 AM PDT by rawcatslyentist (I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a Barack 0b0tt0my!)
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To: IronJack

We are constrained by the Geneva Conventions and the Laws of Armed Conflict. Our enemies are not. They are willing to do whatever it takes to win, we are not.


19 posted on 09/25/2012 6:26:12 AM PDT by Dr. Pritchett
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To: Chainmail
>"Now some of those same traitors are honored members of our current government. "

Johnny's a hero. A VC hero!

Photograph of John Kerry meeting with Comrade Do Muoi, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, in Vietnam. Photo displayed in the War Remnants Museum (formerly the \'War Crimes Museum\') in Saigon. The June 2, 2004

20 posted on 09/25/2012 6:30:52 AM PDT by rawcatslyentist (I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a Barack 0b0tt0my!)
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To: Dr. Pritchett

If we are hamstrung by humanitarian considerations and legalistic mumbo-jumbo that causes Americans to die needlessly, then it is time we level the playing field. We can do that by elevating our enemies, which is unlikely when dealing with mental and moral deficients like muslime, or we can get down in the mud and filth with them and prove once again that there’s nothing Americans can’t do better than their enemies.

Do we want to win Miss Congeniality or do we want to destroy those who would destroy us?


21 posted on 09/25/2012 7:29:54 AM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: IronJack

I’m with you, brother. Either we fight for real or we just don’t go. It’s like we’re always trying to prove we can win the war with one hand tied behind our backs.


22 posted on 09/25/2012 7:40:00 AM PDT by Dr. Pritchett
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To: neveralib

Absolutely correct. IMO


23 posted on 09/25/2012 7:48:27 AM PDT by mongo141 (Revolution ver. 2.0, just a matter of when, not a matter of if!)
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To: Travis McGee

Not just forbidding the mention of the true enemy - denying it’s very existance.


24 posted on 09/25/2012 7:49:07 AM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: DuncanWaring

...and prosecuting anyone who should actually attack that unmentioned enemy.


25 posted on 09/25/2012 8:01:21 AM PDT by CodeToad (Be Prepared...They Are.)
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To: RightSideNews

Where we went wrong?

We stopped killing the buffalo.

The Plains Indians were brave, well led, highly mobile, and well armed. They were probably the best light cavalry in the world at the time. Forcing them into a decisive engagement (that we could win...) was pretty much impossible.

So we killed the buffalo; darn near all of them. By doing so, we eliminated their primary source of food and material. The Plains Indians were left with a choice between starvation and surrender.

That is the way you beat an insurgency - you kill the buffalo.


26 posted on 09/25/2012 8:13:18 AM PDT by Little Ray (AGAINST Obama in the General.)
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To: CodeToad

If the current crew had been in charge in Dec ‘41, the commotion on that famous Sunday would have been an “unfortunate accident while setting-up for the next Fourth of July fireworks display”.


27 posted on 09/25/2012 8:33:42 AM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: Little Ray

I don’t think we went to kill all their food sources just to defeat them.


28 posted on 09/25/2012 8:38:11 AM PDT by CodeToad (Be Prepared...They Are.)
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To: CodeToad

That is HOW you defeat them. Kill their logistics. Kill off their sources of beans, bullets, and bodies.

Killing individual warriors or jihadis is a waste of time; there are always more to take their place. But if they can’t feed or equip their fighters and if their families are starving and freezing in their camps, they can’t fight - you win.

If you want to win, you kill the buffalo.


29 posted on 09/25/2012 9:01:30 AM PDT by Little Ray (AGAINST Obama in the General.)
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To: Little Ray

Who’s selling them their guns? How are the weapons getting from source to user? Interdict and destroy the highways, trucks, gasoline supplies. “Disappear” the agents who broker the transactions. Intercept the weapons, sabotage them, then deliver the defective supplies to the enemy. Poison their food stores and water. Make every breath they draw a question mark.

Interrupt their money conduit. Track down their couriers and cut their throats. Then use the money yourself. Find the money sources. Convince them that their bucks can be spent more wisely ... like on insurance. Find out who’s getting paid and why. Make them hurt.

Compromise their intelligence community. Infiltrate. Disinform. Set them up. Ambush them with their own need to believe. Eventually all trust breaks down and the organization becomes paralyzed.

Destroy their command and control. They are fanatics and madmen with plenty of zeal but no direction. Take away the directors and you shatter their illusion of superiority. If we can get to bin Laden, the average raving diaperhead doesn’t stand a chance. Make them know that, dangerous as it is to resist the Taliban, it’s vastly more dangerous to piss off Uncle Sam.


30 posted on 09/25/2012 9:24:49 AM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: IronJack

Bingo.
Make war on their money. Find the donors, kill them and their families (no arrests, no trials). Find out who handles their money and ditto. State actors should be subject to massively destructive “black ops.” Spray poppy fields with most carcinogenic defoliants we can find.

Shut down NGOs providing food and medical care. Drive off the livestock, poison and demolish their wells.

Kill any “news” reporters or cameramen that try to help them with propaganda features.

IN the end, they need to be reduced to starving and freezing in the caves. Then, we’ve won.


31 posted on 09/25/2012 9:39:47 AM PDT by Little Ray (AGAINST Obama in the General.)
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To: Alberta's Child

Your post completely ignores the “half-assed wars” with France from 1798 to 1790, the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805, The Second Barbary War of 1815, the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848, the “Banana Wars” in central America from 1898 to 1934, the Philippine–American War from 1899 to 1902, the Russian Intervention from 1918 to 1920, action in the Dominican Republic in 1965, and Grenada in 1983. All wars fought overseas.

Everyone thinks when the US goes to war it’s always total war with a million troops sent into the fray. The record shows that it’s more often a limited engagement with more modest objectives than unconditional surrender.


32 posted on 09/25/2012 10:04:07 AM PDT by SoCal Pubbie
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To: rawcatslyentist

I bet Comrade Do and his cronies had a good laugh about Johnny when they went back to their offices.

The look on his (Do’s) face is clearly, “Who TF is this traitor”?


33 posted on 09/25/2012 10:15:53 AM PDT by Vermont Lt (I am NOT from Vermont. I am from MA. And I don't support Romney. Please read before "assuming.")
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To: Little Ray
So we killed the buffalo; darn near all of them. By doing so, we eliminated their primary source of food and material. The Plains Indians were left with a choice between starvation and surrender.

That is the way you beat an insurgency - you kill the buffalo.


Not to split hairs, but we were the insurgents - we were moving into their territory. I'd like to think you and I would fight just as hard to defend our lands, homes, and families from outside forces, especially if the outcome was a crappy reservation somewhere.
34 posted on 09/25/2012 9:20:09 PM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: af_vet_rr

We’re not fighting to defend our lands at all. We don’t even know who is on them, and the administration is killing OUR buffalo. Dark times ahead.


35 posted on 09/25/2012 9:33:41 PM PDT by The Toll
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To: Chainmail
Regarding the Chicom intervention risk, Linebacker II provoked no Chicom reaction. Furthermore, they reacted in Korea because they didn't want US forces on the Yalu. The topography between the Yalu and Beijing is tank country. The topography between the Chinese-NVN border and the next mountain range is jungle and then on to the next major river barrier is jungle, etc.

Soviet national interest in NVN was opportunistic, and the Red Army was not a power projection force.

Without the port of Haiphong and with the Red River dykes breached and Hanoi underwater, there would have been no dry RPGs to send south. The VC and NVA in the south would have been reduced to survivalism and “true” guerrilla warfare living off the land, if they chose to stay and fight.

It was fully supplied NVA conventional forces that won the war, not the VC.

No beans and bullets, no war.

In response to your question why we chose to fight on the strategic ground chosen by the communists — we had a lot of foolish people in the White House who believed that the lessons of history didn't apply to them. Some things never change.

The antiwar, pro-enemy forces had years to organize and succeed because Johnson was gutless and dragged the war on and on with his limited war-nation building strategy. Some things never change.

36 posted on 09/26/2012 12:24:10 AM PDT by gyrfalcon (“If you wish for peace, understand war.”)
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To: gyrfalcon
I think that you and I could launch into a long discussion about this stuff - Vietnam was a large part of our lives.

You are correct about he the unsuitability of terrain for conventional forces in Vietnam. I went back to visit Vietnam with my wife in 2000 and an M-48 tank that got mired up to its fenders while I was there in '66 is still there, exactly where we left it. That mud is like glue.

You still sound like the Air Force. i.e., "we still could have won that thing if we bombed more". I don't agree. Bombing does have an effect but it is not decisive. Resilient people just dig in and work around. When the trucks were interdicted, they used pack animals (including elephants), bicycles, and increased sea transport. After the war, we discovered that they were transporting a large percentage of war materiel via coastal shipping despite our navy blocade. By the way, the idea of breaching the Red River dikes was bruited about by Jane Fonda in 1971 as an example of our war criminality. She was lying, as always: we were attacking the POL loading facilities on the dikes -using conventional bombs - a heavily defended and legitimate target, not trying to "flood the Red River basin to cause the genocide of the Vietnamese people" as she said then.

You underestimate the commitment and involvement of the Soviets and the Chinese during the war. They invested Billions to ensure that the "National Liberation War" in Vietnam was successful. The Soviets infused the area with state-of-the-art antiaircraft systems and advisors and the Chinese also had advisors in North Vietnam and even in the South. One of our snipers killed a Chinese advisor as he was standing in a sampan near us. The ring he was wearing was big enough to slip easily over my thumb! (I didn't get the ring).

The Soviets and the Chinese were heavily invested in a communist victory and we would have seen the Chinese ground forces if we had landed in Vinh as planned. The Chinese PLA is primarily foot-mobile and they have lots of soldiers to expend. As I am sure you remember, they were very competitive with the Soviets for the leadership of the Communist world at that time, so I believe that the threat of Chinese intervention was very real.

The pro-enemy/"antiwar" organizations were led by old-line communist cadres supported by the Soviets and later directly by the NVA. At the top of the People's Coalitionfor Peace and Justice and the New Mobe you will find Irving Sarnoff and Dorothy Healey and Bettina Aptheker and many, many more hidden faces who corresponded with the enemy throughout the war. They received money and direction and followed their lead. The press (like today) camouflaged the whole movement as a "spontaneous reaction to an unjust war" but it wasn't to the movement's leadership. They knew exactly what they were doing and the NVA called the tunes from the timing and placement of demonstrations to the "thrust" (theme) of each event. The FBI knew all of this but no Attorney General inconvenienced anyone. Interesting, isn't it?

37 posted on 09/26/2012 4:32:20 AM PDT by Chainmail (A simple rule of life: if you can be blamed, you're responsible.)
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To: af_vet_rr

“My country! May She always be right! But my country, right or wrong!”


38 posted on 09/26/2012 6:21:31 AM PDT by Little Ray (AGAINST Obama in the General.)
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To: Chainmail
The bigger and unmentioned questions were why we chose to fight on the cheap when the Communists chose that strategic area for a conflict and why our government chose to allow pro-enemy forces in this country to subvert our efforts. Even when we had identified the agents, the couriers, the funding, and the communications we didn't do a thing to any of them. Now some of those same traitors are honored members of our current government. I'd love to know what the real story was/is.

There were and are traitors serving foreign powers and subversive agendas within the State Department and US military. They were there during the HCUA hearings and are still there today. The terrorist massacre by Nadil Hasan was entirely preventable.

39 posted on 09/26/2012 11:46:04 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (Obama likes to claim credit for getting Osama. Why hasn't he tried Khalid Sheikh Mohammed yet?)
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To: Chainmail

Agree that you and I could discuss Vietnam for a long time. And I agree that the government under our Commander-in-Thief, Lyndon ‘Silver Star recipient’ Johnson, wouldn’t act against the pro-enemy leftists because they were basically the Democrat constituency.

But irrespective what you and I believe (I viewed the war from the Lt/Capt perspective), here is what the admiral who would have done the targeting in NVN, had it not been for old Silver Star Lyndon, believed. Adm Sharp is on the record that the US military could have successfully won the Vietnam War any time that President Johnson chose after 1966:
“Once the decision was made to participate in this war and engage Americans in the military conflict, I believe we should have taken the steps necessary to end the war successfully in the shortest possible time. It was folly to commit Americans to combat and then force them to fight without utilizing the means we so richly possessed to win an early victory. It is my firm belief, however, that we did exactly that by not using our air and naval power to its full effectiveness. . . . . We could have brought the Vietnam War to a successful conclusion in short order, early in the game, once the decision had been made by the civilian leadership to engage with US forces. All we needed to do was assemble the necessary force and then use it the way it was designed to be used. (I do not include atomic weapons in my definition of necessary force. In my view, there was never a need for employing nuclear devices in Southeast Asia, and I never recommended such.) In fact, we assembled the necessary force quite rapidly. By mid-1965 we had strong air power available. By 1966 we had the full measure of air power to do the job, and our ground forces were strong enough that in combination with such air power properly applied we could have forced Hanoi to give up its efforts to take over South Vietnam. But authority to use our air power to this end was simply not forthcoming.”
Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Strategy for Defeat: Vietnam in Retrospect, Presidio Press, 1978, pp. 2-3.


40 posted on 09/26/2012 12:31:12 PM PDT by gyrfalcon (“If you wish for peace, understand war.”)
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To: gyrfalcon
I think that the Admiral could have been right but my experience as a ground-pounder makes me a bit skeptical about the people who made sweeping pronouncements. I saw a great deal of application of our raw firepower and from what I saw, we rarely hit the right thing. F-4s were notorious for hitting the wrong treeline altogether and naval gunfire was only useful if you had something against everyone in a particular gridsquare. Our worst experience was with an F-100 who bombed us despite air panels, smoke and frantic radio calls. Lost 27 good young Americans with that one. The problem wasn't with our intentions, it was the aiming and location technology of the time. I was a scout observer for part of the time and we were lucky to get the first round within 300m of the target first shot with all of the combined errors of old maps (usually French), poor survey, old ammunition, ancient M12 sights. Good adjustment skills might get you on target within a couple of adjustments but those first rounds could be lethal to the wrong people.

The enemy was very able too. Underestimating them seemed to be a cottage industry with our leadership and the whiz kids in Washington but down where the rubber met the Type PS Ball round, both the NVA and the Main Force VC were dangerous and stuck where they were if they outnumbered you.

I think that the Admiral may be right that if we hit them without restriction from the get-go, before the enemy had a chance to get all those bundles from the Eastern Bloc, they might have seen reason but I don't think so. Even we Lance Corporals at the time knew that the only way of stopping the NVA was to visit their back yard in person. As we thought about it back then, if we were in North Vietnam "everybody's the enemy".

Semper Fi

41 posted on 09/27/2012 10:30:52 AM PDT by Chainmail (A simple rule of life: if you can be blamed, you're responsible.)
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To: Chainmail

“if we were in North Vietnam “everybody’s the enemy” — so it would have been also when dropping bombs on “Ho-land”

The admiral’s (and the AF’s) point was that we should have hit the enemy’s strategic facilities like Haiphong before they set up their sophisticated air defense system.

I taught in the Air War College during my last 3 years on active duty, and I taught military history at a university for 10 years in retirement — my only point in bringing this background up is that I’ve given a great deal of thought to and reading about Vietnam in those positions (I was very bitter about the “no win strategy” when I left Vietnam).

Here are some notes I gave my university students for them to think about —

First, regarding the failed interdiction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the reasons for the failure can be found in the lessons learned from three wars (WWII, Korea, Vietnam) as summarized by USAF Gen William W. Momyer who clearly states the conditions necessary to employ the effectiveness of airpower in stripping away enemy military capability with air interdiction.
“OVERLORD’S LESSONS: Every major ground campaign through the remainder of World War II was coordinated with an interdiction campaign… With the interdiction campaign destroying critically needed supplies, the Wehrmacht was then forced to fall back, or if units stood and fought, their positions could be overrun because of the logistics failure. Regardless of their will to fight, the lack of needed weapons, food, and ammunition made it infeasible for German units to stay in the battle.
“From these lessons of World War II, the concepts of interdiction developed: (a) Strike the source of the war material; (b) concentrate the attacks against the weak elements of the logistical system; (c) continuously attack, night and day, the major lines of communication supporting the army in the field; (d) inflict heavy losses on enemy logistics and forces before they approach the battlefield where the difficulty of successful interdiction is greatest . . ..”
Gen William W. Momyer, Airpower in Three Wars, USAF, 1978.

After Vietnam, there emerged an anti-war shibboleth that interdiction doesn’t work because the US was unsuccessful in shutting down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but as Gen Momyer made clear, we were dropping our bombs in the wrong places – we should have been bombing the supply depots in Haiphong and Hanoi rather than bombing monkeys in the Laotian jungle.

It must be noted that much is made of the fact that the US dropped more bomb tonnage in Vietnam than we did during WWII; and therefore critics of the war frequently still say “See, we could not have done any more – there was no way we could have won” – of course such statements are uninformed and silly because Johnson controlled the targeting of North Vietnam from the White House, consequently Johnson put all targets that could have ended the war off limits – in Johnson’s own words: “They (US Forces) can’t bomb an outhouse without my permission.”

Had Johnson desired to end DRV aggression quickly, 1) he could have bombed the Red River dikes, flooding the principal population center of the DRV causing paralysis to most of the economy and the Hanoi central government, 2) he could have mined Haiphong Harbor and destroyed the Haiphong docks stopping the major inflow of war supplies for the insurgents in the South that were coming by sea from Communist China and the Soviet Union, 3) he could have destroyed the RRs, bridges, and highways coming into North Vietnam from China over which war supplies were imported, 4) he could have bombed the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong where the RR and truck marshalling yards/supply depots were located for the onward shipment of war materiel to supply the communist combat forces in South Vietnam, 5) he could have permitted US Forces to destroy the MIG interceptor bases instead of making US fighters wait to engage them until after the MIGs took off, 6) he could have permitted US Forces to destroy the SAM sites when they were under construction instead of making US fighters wait to engage them until after the sites were completed and tracking US fighters to shoot them down.

Johnson did none of these things, condemning American fighting men to die taking on the North Vietnamese and their weapons that had been smuggled down the Trail one soldier at a time as they emerged from jungle border of South Vietnam instead of destroying their troops and weapons en masse in barracks and supply depots while they were still in North Vietnam.

Would those actions have worked? I believe they would have worked a lot better than what Johnson permitted.


42 posted on 09/28/2012 1:22:51 AM PDT by gyrfalcon (“If you wish for peace, understand war.”)
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To: IronJack
We do not have the will, but turning one of their countries into an uninhabitable wasteland just might send enough 'message' to the rest to back off.

Messing with anything with our flag on it would become Something You Just Don't Do overnight.

43 posted on 09/28/2012 2:17:56 AM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing)
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To: gyrfalcon
The antiwar, pro-enemy forces had years to organize and succeed because Johnson was gutless and dragged the war on and on with his limited war-nation building strategy.

And subvert the US media. They were a key element in our political loss of the war. The VC had been defeated. The NVA opportunistically invaded after almost all of our forces were gone, and even then, that took a couple of years before they did it.

44 posted on 09/28/2012 2:31:47 AM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing)
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To: gyrfalcon
This is very enjoyable - we Vietnam types don't many opportunities to discuss our views as our war recedes further in everyone's rearview mirrors.

I definitely agree that LBJ screwed all of us with his idiotic limits. He was a typical democrat in that they start wars, invest other parent's children, then make things tougher for our side to win.

Now my bona fides:I went on from Vietnam to be commissioned and the served 28 years including as an artillery battalion commander and a student at the Command and Staff College. Later I developed fire support technologies for the Marine Corps as a civilian, lecturing on fire support to several venues. So there.

You, my friend suffer from "excessive Air Forcesness". It is a disease that I am very familiar with, since my Dad and both Uncles were in the Air Force and regarded my time in the Corps as a sort of unfortunate birth defect. This disease causes one to sort of sweep one's hand over maps and say "bomb here, bomb here, war over". Not so fast - just taking Overlord into account, the massive tonnage dropped did cripple the German ability to marshall and move reinforcements to the front but didn't completely eliminate it. As it was, it was the sacrifices of the army's landing forces that defeated the Germans at enorous loss - losses that might have been reduced some at Omaha if there had been decent close air support to take out the German positions overlooking those beaches.

How about the crippling stasis at Anzio? Despite energetic interdiction by the USAAF in that theater, the troops were pinned in their enclave for months while they were pounded by long-range German artillery that the Air Force couldn't find. Despite the inspiring conceptions of Douhet and Mitchell, bombing alone never concludes the battle. And sometimes it doesn't even contribute much, as in the difficulty in locating and reducing the Chinese movements in North Korea in 1951.

In our war, if LBJ had gone with the all-out air war, it might have done much more that we really did but did we have sufficent assets in theater in experience pilots, appropraite aircraft, operational fields, ordnance in dumps to conduct a campaign of the scale you are talking about? I seem to remember that it took years to accumulate all of those assets in the awe-inspiring quantities that we eventually did have in Thailand, South Vietnam, Guam, and offshore with the carriers.

Air wars are powerful things but there are limits. The lessons we should get from analyzing Vietnam are how things went they were so we won't do the same things again. Unfortunately, we keep electing new versions of LBJ, so the point is moot.

45 posted on 09/28/2012 4:49:59 AM PDT by Chainmail (A simple rule of life: if you can be blamed, you're responsible.)
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To: Smokin' Joe

I would like to see generations of diaperhead mothers telling their children that if they don’t behave, The Americans will get them. I want the mystery and terror of our presence to become part of their folklore, like the Boogeyman or Baba Yaga. I want them to cringe in abject, bowel-loosening fear at the sound of an approaching jet.

If they want a war — and a world — without rules, so be it.


46 posted on 09/28/2012 5:31:26 AM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: IronJack
I want them to cringe in abject, bowel-loosening fear at the sound of an approaching jet.

Yep!

47 posted on 09/28/2012 6:58:12 AM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing)
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To: Chainmail

It has been enjoyable. This is the kind of dialogue I tried to get students to engage in.

“excessive Air Forcesness” has also been called “the Zeus lightening bolt complex.” I “joined the people who joined the Army” four times in my career, so this is not the first time I’ve heard the charge.

My simple reply is that the GPS-guided PGMs have replaced the Norden bombsight. Satellites and drones provide surveillance for locating targets that wasn’t even dreamed of a couple decades ago, let alone WWII. Mitchell, Douhet, and Trenchard were about a century ahead of their time. The technology of the early and mid 20th Century just couldn’t begin to support their warfighting concepts. We are only now approaching the required level of technology.

Look — I agree that there is no replacing boots on the ground to control territory and politics. My “message” in today’s world is that Americans don’t do COIN well — pursuing that strategy is fighting on the battlefield of the enemy’s choice. Americans put steel on the target best — that is our strong suit. Not to use U.S. technological strength to maximum advantage would be as stupid as going to the Ia Drang to assault an enemy-fortified mountain instead of bombing the Haiphong docks. It’s just a dumb way to squander U.S. lives.

We didn’t have to occupy Hanoi to make it all but impossible for the DRV to resupply major, meaningful forces in the RVN. The logistics to move the amount of ammo required by the VC/NVA just to stay in the field (not to mention to be on offense) required much more infrastructure than bicycles and porters. If Johnson had targeted that infrastructure before it was heavily defended as I have outlined previously, Adm Sharp’s prediction would have been fact.

Regarding the enemy today — Islam — I lived in Peshawar and worked with the PAK military daily for more than a year. The only thing those people understand is who has more force and who has the stones to use it. Compassion and not using force to preclude collateral damage is understood as weakness and cowardice, not some humanitarian virtue.

All jihadist organizations are sponsored by nation-states. Without nation-state support they are like gangs of thugs terrorizing local neighborhoods.

I know this war plan won’t happen in my lifetime, but what we need to do is go after the supporting nation-states and wipe a couple cities of ragheads from the face of the earth. The ragheads would understand that message and jihad against the West would cease for a a century or two — as it did after the crushing jihadist defeats in 732 and 1683. Jihad is like Haley’s Comet, it will be just keep on coming back — it is built into Islam. All we can do is smash it when it appears. The get-tough principle needs to be implemented domestically as well.

The ultimate solution is to make Mecca/Medina into radioactive holes and post a sign — “Allah — Out of Business.” Islam is based on the belief that Allah is all powerful and Islam can’t lose. That is the belief that must be destroyed to end jihad. It was the same thing with Hitler and the Emperor.


48 posted on 09/29/2012 12:48:44 AM PDT by gyrfalcon (“If you wish for peace, understand war.”)
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To: gyrfalcon
Well, I can't argue with anything at all you've said in this post! The future is precise and more than likely, unmanned. We will have to expand what we're doing with Predators, air, land, and sea and do it before everybody else does.

Your take on the Islam is spot-on: it's not so much a religion as a recipe for conquest and subjugation. I lived in the Middle East for a while and I learned first hand that there is no such thing as coexistence- they have to be in charge or else.

Firepower is the one edge we have at this moment, they have mass. We absolutely must keep that advantage at all costs. I have been trying to lever the Marine Corps towards the next evolutionary moves towards the future but they are stubborn and slow to move with this generation of top leaders. Maybe after the younger set who have been blooded in Iraq and Afghanistan take the reins (and we rid ourselves of the current administration), we'll see movement.

Hope so.

Have genuinely enjoyed the discussion with you! Wish you "fair winds and following seas"...

Semper Fi

49 posted on 09/30/2012 12:07:37 PM PDT by Chainmail (A simple rule of life: if you can be blamed, you're responsible.)
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To: Chainmail

It’s been very enjoyable for me as well.

Since you’ve lived in Dar al-Islam, did you by chance read my Right Side News post “Our Society Has Lost Sight Of Reality”? It’s at — http://www.rightsidenews.com/2012092717100/editorial/rsn-pick-of-the-day/our-society-has-lost-sight-of-reality.html — I’d be interested in your opinion.

What has amazed me about Petraeus’ revival of COIN in FM 3-24 and in McChrystal’s implementing plan for Afghanistan was the absence of Islam and jihad! I wrote an MA on COIN (Walt Rostow was my thesis advisor at UT) and taught at the USAF Spl Ops Sch — the essence of COIN is knowing and taking advantage of the target culture. Islam IS the culture of raghead land. Bush, Obama, Petraeus, McChrystal, and all the neo-cons pretend Islam isn’t a big factor. The idea of “replacing” Islam with democracy is ludicrous.

Incidentally, I have very good memories of working directly for generals Dennis Murphy and Chuck Pitman when they were the C5 at ROK-US CFC. Great Marines!

Keep’em flyin’


50 posted on 09/30/2012 2:16:58 PM PDT by gyrfalcon (“If you wish for peace, understand war.”)
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