From MidEastWeb [via Billmon] comes this excerpt from Robert McNamara's 1995 book In Retrospect:
It is sometimes said that the post-Cold War world will be so different from the world of the past that the lessons of Vietnam will be inapplicable or of no relevance to the twenty-first century. I disagree... There were eleven major major causes for our disaster in Vietnam:
We misjudged then--as we have since--the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries... and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.
We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience. We saw in them a thirst for--and a determination to fight for--freedom and democracy. We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people... to fight and die for their beliefs and values--and we continue to do so today in many parts of the world.
Our misjudgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders...
We failed then--as we have since--to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology equipment, forces and doctrine in confronting unconventional, highly motivated people's movements. We failed as well to adapt our military forces to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale U.S. military involvement... before we initiated the action.
After the action got underway and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course, we failed to retain popular support in part because we did not explain fully what was happening and why we were doing what we did. We had not prepared the public to understand the complex events we faced and how to react constructively to the need for changes in course as the nation confronted uncharted seas and an alien environment. A nation's deepest strength lies not in military prowess but, rather, in the the unity of its people. We failed to maintain it.
We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Where our own security is not directly at stake, our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose.
We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action--other than in response to direct threats to our own security--should be carried out only in conjuction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.
We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions... at times, we may have to live an imperfect, untidy world.
Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues...
These were our major failures, in their essence. Though set forth separately, they are all in some way linked: failure in one area contributed to or compounded failure in another. Each became a turn in a terrible knot.
Pointing out these mistakes allows us to map the lessons of Vietnam, and places us in a position to apply them to the post-Cold War world.
As MidEastWeb points out, "McNamara's lessons remain relevant today, because they remain unlearned."
Clearly, the largest unlearned Vietnam lesson is that our massive military superiority does not guarantee success in military/geopolitical ventures, because we remain very vulnerable to asymmetrical methods of warfare (terrorism, guerilla warfare, and so on) used against us.
It's also interesting, I think, to take a look again at the list of attributes of military incompetence which I posted here some months ago:
1. A serious wastage of human resources and failure to observe one of the first principles of war -- economy of force. This failure derives in part from an inabilty to make war swiftly. It also derives from certain attitudes of mind...
2. A fundamental conservatism and clinging to outworn tradition, an inability to profit from past experiences (owing in part to a refusal to admit past mistakes). It also involves a failure to use or tendency to misuse available technology.
3. A tendency to reject or ignore information which is unpalalable or which conflicts with preconceptions.
4. A tendency to underestimate the enemy and overestimate the capabilities of one's side.
5. Indecisiveness and a tendency to abdicate from the role of decision-maker.
6. An obstinate persistence in a given task despite strong contrary evidence.
7. A failure to exploit a situation gained and a tendency to 'pull punches' rather than push home an attack.
8. A failure to make adequate reconnaisance.
9. A predilection for frontal assaults, often against the enemy's strongest point.
10. A belief in brute force rather than the clever ruse.
11. A failure to make use of surprise or deception.
12. An undue readiness to find scapegoats for military set-backs.
13. A suppression or distortion of news from the front, usually rationalized as necessary for morale or security.
14. A belief in mystical forces -- fate, bad luck. etc.
Now, I am not arguing that the American military is incompetent -- on its own terms, it's obviously extremely powerful, and accomplished the overthrow of Saddam's regime fairly handily, even given the restrictions placed on them by Rumsfeld -- but I have been reading a lot of remarks in the past few weeks by members of the military, complaining, basically, that what's going on in Iraq isn't really warfare as it's supposed to be fought, and these comments certain do have the whiff of incompetence about them.
Stating the obvious, the aim of any military action is the achievement of specific political goals, and the insurgents are utilizing the methods available to them which will serve to isolate the US from the rest of the world (not a difficult job, considering the head start that the Bush administration gave them) and which, they hope, will eventually, drive us out, leaving a circumstance, presumably, in which the insurgents have a better chance of achieving power (or restoring it, if one assumes that they are Baathists).
So far, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of achieving these goals, despite the disrespect of the American military.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.