Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Ignorance of Military History

I was reading the recent Vanity Fair (the one with a half-naked, somewhat thuggish looking Tiger Woods on the cover) about a sniper who worked in a Dallas suburb police force and in Afghanistan. It was pretty darn good. I'm not sure I could get good enough at shooting to hit things at a thousand meters and I'm pretty sure I could not survive with my soul intact the inevitable mental costs of shooting people you can see well through a scope. I can barely bring myself to kill deer, giant or otherwise, at less than a 100 yards. But here was some jarring misinformation in the article. Behold.
In Vietnam, American forces killed at least 3.5 million people. In the process they fired untold billion of rounds of small-arms ammunition and dropped nearly seven million tons of ordnance—a weight three times heavier than that dropped on Germany during World War II. Afterward, the military had to recognize that its expenditure of ammunition had only helped the enemy cause.
I think his death figures for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong is high, but, if true, that means we had a kill ratio there of 70 to one. Wow. Who knew we were so bad (and I'm using that word in its early 1970s meaning, which is good)? The massive firepower we brought to bear against the enemy was of course the reason for so lopsided a ratio and it won us, and our allies, the war, but the writer, William Langewiesche, says the our heavy firepower "only helped the enemy cause." Is he insane?

A war is won when the enemy lacks the will or the ability to continue fighting. Generally you have to kill the enemy soldiers, and a lot of them and degrade their military-industrial complex, as we did with the Nazis and Imperial Japanese in WWII. The Vietnamese are tough and took casualties that would have brought other nations quickly to their metaphorical knees. But we did not bomb North Viet Nam as we bombed Japan until very late in the war, just before the peace treaty. We fought the NVA on full auto all the time and to say our overwhelming firepower helped the enemy is fantasy and a serious ignorance of military history. After the total failure of Tet the leadership in Hanoi seriously considered quitting and only fought on because our press' misreporting of the battle (and the growing peace movement therefrom) gave them hope. Does he not know these simple, irrefutable facts of history? But there's worse to follow. Turning to Afghanistan and continuing on the fantasy theme that killing the enemy in huge numbers is good for the enemy and bad for us, Langewiesche writes:
This war is going to be lost and declared to have been won. It worked that way in Vietnam; it is working that way in Iraq; it will work that way in Afghanistan as well. Meanwhile, “collateral casualties” undermine the moral ground of the fight and make the losing worse. There have been too many, they must be avoided, and something must be done.
Afghanistan is lost? What is he channeling Harry Reid? It's a tough fight because it is a tough place, but lost, already? Don't make me laugh. Changing our tactics to a more effective form of counter-insurgency is only happening now. Our troops have been recently doubled and will be augmented again, finally. Give General McChrystal a chance at least. That's all we're saying. Give war a chance.

The war in Vietnam was lost and declared a win?--he's got it 180 wrong. Tet was a huge win for us. The Viet Cong, our primary adversaries at the time, were combat ineffective for the rest of the war, but ask 10 people if we won Tet and 9 at least will say no. We pulled our last ground troops out just as the ARVN, largely on its own but with our very effective close air support, were blunting an NVA blitzkrieg and killing nearly 100,000 NVA soldiers. North Vietnam signed a peace treaty the next year which the NVA later broke after the Democrats in Congress stabbed our allies in the back.

Iraq is a lost war? Really? Saddam is still in power and alive (as is his cousin "Chemical" Ali)? No, in fact, they are both executed as war criminals, and in place of a near 30 year Hitler lite dictatorship is a nascent, somewhat messy, constitutional republic, providing, like us, they can keep it. Lost?

Next thing he'll say is that the British Commonwealth's success against the Malay Communists was a failure too.

It's just chilling to see such historical ignorance get in print.

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