Friday, July 29, 2005

Vietnam Haunts the USA but Inspires Iraq

The Council on Foreign Relations, one of the most prestigious US political research bodies, has accused the US government of actually boosting Iraq's insurgency by its lack of postwar planning.

Among many things, the study mentioned a few key factors such as inadequate troops in Iraq to stabilize the insurgency problems, and the lack of postwar reconstruction that engendered dissatisfaction among the local population and consequently promoted insurgency appeal. The report berated the Bush Adminstration for making a gross and critical miscalculation by believing it didn't need any more forces than the invasion itself.

The report used disparaging terms like ‘diffuse’ and ‘uncertain’ stabilisation and reconstruction efforts, meaning half hearted or half baked efforts without any firm direction or focus. It went on to admonish the Bush Administration by stating:

"Nation-building is not just a humanitarian concern, but a critical national security priority that should be on par with war-fighting."

"The failure to take this phase of conflict as seriously as initial combat operations has had serious consequences for the United States, not just in Iraq but, more broadly, for international efforts to stabilise and rebuild nations after conflict."

The force level required to stabilize Iraq had been calculated by two US generals at 450,000 troops. This was confirmed by a US think-tank. Yet the US Defence Department has only some 140,000 troops there, less than one-third of what is required. Therefore Rumsfeld is to be blamed for this because he wanted to apply his doctrine of light mobile blitzkrieg forces. His strategy has been heavily influenced by two major factors:

(1) The US painful Vietnam experience (and to a smaller degree, the Somalia debacle). Rumsfeld was mindful of politically unacceptable heavy losses like the 55,000 dead and many hundreds of thousands wounded and maimed in Vietnam. Ironically, his fears are now realized by the very doctrinal application he formulated to avoid the Vietnam effect.

(2) The US Defence Department's disdain for Iraqi ground forces, an impression gained probably from the 1st Gulf War. Unfortunately for Rumsfeld, he had assessed the Iraqis against a scenario of conventional warfare, where American air power and technology reign supreme. But he had forgotten that while Saddam may be evil, that doesn’t mean that Mother of all dictators has been stupid.

Like Rumsfeld too, Saddam and his generals (and most military around the world) had studied the Vietnamese experience. From that S-E Asian example, Saddam's strategy would be to accept/anticipate a loss in the conventional warfare during the invasion, but strike back in an insurgency uprising during the occupation.

In so anticipating an American conventional victory and subsequent occupation, the Iraqis had planned accordingly for the aftermath. Some likely strategies would have been the pre-positioning of arms caches at various strategic locations for use in guerilla warfare and the dispersal of its crack troops, the Republican Guards, among the Sunni dominated cities, towns and regions to fight as insurgents. A system of network for the insurgency would have been in place long before the invasion.

Unfortunately, what have occurred since then has been the hijacking of some portions of the resistance by Islamist groups like al Qaeda. They have been responsible for the suicide bombings and indiscriminate attacks.

The Vietnam War has traumatised the USA so much that its modern day military tactics have been formulated around its ugly experiences in the rice fields and jungles of Indochina. But that war, where a 3rd world nation beat the hell out of a 1st world superpower, admittedly at the horrendous cost of some 4 million of Vietnamese people killed and an entire country devastated, has inspired smaller and less well armed nations like Iraq.

The Vietnam example shows that there can be still active political and military “life” after alien military occupation.

Believe me, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, and many smaller nations have also planned their final fallback strategies likewise, along the model of the incredible fighting Vietnamese.

No comments:

Post a Comment