The US military’s recent focus on large-scale combat operations puts it at risk of repeating the mistakes it made during the Vietnam War, writes James B. Meigs in the Wall Street Journal.
The Vietnamese communists’ network of political organizations and Vietnamese revolutionary warfare, which was more nuanced and context-dependent than conventional warfare, allowed them to outlast French and American forces for almost three decades between 1946 and 1975. The key to the Viet Cong’s success was irregular warfare, a term coined by Bernard Fall, an Austrian Jew who fought in the French Resistance and then worked as a researcher and academic in the US. US policymakers would do well to study Fall’s insights, Meigs argues.
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The US strategy in Vietnam was set by commanders who served in the European theatre in WWII, that emphasized maneuver warfare that utilized combined arms where infantry was supported by armor, artillery, and air support. Their decision to reprise this type of warfare in Vietnam proved to be disastrous waste of resources. By the time the US began counterinsurgency strategy, it was too little, too late.