• State Department Won the Vietnam War

    May 18, 2012

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military

    Remember the Vietnam War? You know, the one from Rambo, the war that was supposed to stop Communism from rolling Asia like dominoes? Fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here? Kennedy? Johnson? Nixon? Bueller? The US fought in Vietnam in one form or another from the late 1950’s until we gave up in 1975 and lost. Helicopters on the roof of the Embassy, hippies taking over the country, some history stuff went down, babies.

    Vietnam was America’s first modern counter-insurgency war. There are a lot of definitions of counter-insurgency (COIN), but it boils down to a war that can’t be won and isn’t fought in the traditional Red Guys clash with Blue Guys and the winner seizes territory way, like Private Ryan and Tom Hanks did in World War II. A COIN struggle is characterized primarily by a “hearts and minds” struggle, a multi-spectrum approach to winning the loyalty of the people by protecting them, helping them, establishing a local government, that kind of thing. The failure to do this in Iraq is the subject of my book, and the ongoing failure to do this in Afghanistan will be the subject of some other person’s book to come.

    If you check Wikipedia or ask the Vietnam Vet next door, you’ll find out that we did not succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese. If you want to read the best book written about how COIN and Vietnam, it is Street Without Joyby Bernard Fall.

    One of the crucial elements of the failure to win the real war in Vietnam was the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) program, run by the same State Department that flopped in Iraq. Formed in 1967, CORDS was headed by a State civilian, Ambassador Robert W. Komer. CORDS pulled together all the various U.S. military and civilian agencies involved in the hearts and minds effort, including State, USAID, USIA and the CIA (who tagged on the remnants of the Phoenix Program, just because). CORDS civilian/military advisory teams were dispatched throughout South Vietnam.

    So how’d that CORDS thing work out for ya’all? It failed in conjunction with the whole war effort. We lost the war. Nothing four Presidents said about Vietnam was true and tens of thousands of people died for no purpose. We did not win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the Looking Glass, according to the State Department’s slick self-congratulatory monthly magazine (thanks taxpayers!), CORDS “was a success” and in fact somehow contributed to the defeat of the Viet Cong in the Delta by 1972, where per the State Department, the wiley Commies couldn’t even muster a squad-sized action. It is true– read it all here in the State Magazine (p. 16) you’re paying for anyway.

    The article is just spiffy, using words like “swashbuckling” non-ironically to describe State’s men in Vietnam, and claiming in 1967 State’s Vietnam Training Center was “the center of things” (1967 was the freaking “Summer of Love” so State thinking their Training Center was the center of anything is beyond nerd land.) We learn that many FS men “enjoyed their tours.” In fact, US military officers “watched in awe” as the first State Department troopers deplaned, just like in that movie Platoon no doubt.

    Here’s a keen description of precisely how State won the Vietnam War (those in Afghanistan now, pay attention):

    [We] would pick a house at random, politely ask if we could come in and chat, and enquire about the perspective of the resident on everything from the state of the rice crop to the price of cooking oil to the honesty of local officials.

    Dammit! Why didn’t we know that before spending $44 billion and nine years trying to solve Iraq and win that war! All we had to do was “politely ask.”

    OK, fun’s over. Here’s the problem. If State is still clinging to the bizarre idea that it succeeded in Vietnam, and propagandizing its own employees with the same, what hope is there that they will ever make any progress about the failures visited upon Iraq, and the failures now ongoing in Afghanistan?

    Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it we’re told. But those who make up their own versions of history to fit present political needs are simply doomed in advance.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      One would hope State’s siren song would strike a CORD. But war is an American Idol and most of US are tone-deaf.

      05/18/12 2:24 PM | Comment Link

    • Mark said...


      And the beat goes on… Not only did the US lose the war, a war it never should have fought on behalf of a client state it never should have created, but its efforts resulted in the deaths of approximately 3 million Vietnamese from both sides, men, women and children, soldiers and civilians. That’s about 7% of the entire population of a divided Vietnam at the time. Close your eyes for a moment. Now try to imagine The Wall times 50.

      There are also 300,000 Vietnamese MIAs (compared with fewer than 1,300 US MIAs) and war legacies that continue to haunt Vietnam, including as Agent Orange and unexploded ordnance (UXO). The US legacy, as in so many countries around the world, was one of death, destruction and destabilization.

      05/19/12 7:25 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      “But those who make up their own versions of history to fit present political needs are simply doomed in advance.”

      Bruce is working on a new song to reflect the times: “Banned in the USA.”


      05/19/12 11:49 AM | Comment Link

    • jim at rangeragainstwar said...


      We SF officers were req’d to read the Bernard Fall tomes during our training.We also had to read JP Lauterguy FICTIONAL works and did this help any of us to stop and say-WTF?!?
      I recently saw a NOVA special on the GREAT INCA REBELLION and this made me realize that since we’ve been in the New World we white men have been fighting 1 form of COIN, or another since 1545.
      As a RVN vet my heart is still filled with sadness at the things that i’ve seen done in the name of liberty and democracy.
      It was all the same stuff as the Spaniards did in the 1600th century.
      A pretty sad commentary.

      05/21/12 12:55 PM | Comment Link

    • jim at rangeragainstwar said...


      Your pic of Rambo is a good distillation of the war.
      Note that his m60 is not in a firing mode. The bolt must be to the rear since it’s a classic open bolt MG.
      A small point but relevant.
      Even the movies screwed the war up.

      05/21/12 12:58 PM | Comment Link

    • Roger Lafontaine said...


      As I recall the Vietnam war was lost because of the hippies. You see the hippies didn’t approve of the war so they said some mean things about the troops doing the ‘noble killing’. This caused our ‘boys’ to become disheartened and eventually give up. That and the fact that the politicians wouldn’t let us use nukes. Nukes would have made a big difference. We’ll always regret not using nukes.

      05/23/12 8:00 PM | Comment Link

    • U.S. Military Defeated in Vietnam by Michael S. Rozeff « CITIZEN.BLOGGER.1984+ GUNNY.G BLOG.EMAIL said...


      […] State Department Won the Vietnam War (wemeantwell.com) […]

      05/24/12 4:02 PM | Comment Link

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