Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Use of the Past

Dale Andrade and James Willbanks, two of our leading historians of Vietnam, have written a fantastic article (pdf) in the latest Military Review on the counterinsurgency lessons from Vietnam. Andrade and Willbanks use all the latest scholarship to write a clear and objective summary of the major issues of the effort in Vietnam, and what that can tell us about fighting counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.* Read their article along with Robert Cassidy's shorter piece from the Summer 2004 Parameters.

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* Andrade and Willbanks are just a bit disingenious when it comes to the work of Lewis Sorley. They write in the footnotes that "The leading source taking the viewpoint that General Creighton Abrams had the only correct strategy is Lewis Sorley, A Better War." Sorley is an unabashed Abrams supporter, but the book also credits William Colby and Robert Komer, and Sorley also wrote several articles and a book on General Harold K. Johnson that argues that Johnson's ideas on pacification should have been applied earlier in the war. And Sorley is at work on a biography of Westmoreland that will no doubt flesh out his arguments about the distinctions between Westy and Abrams.

Andrade and Willbanks are correct in making the case that the situation after Tet was much better for the application of pacification techniques, which helped Abrams do his work. Still, I'm not so sure after reading Westmoreland's muddled memoirs of the war that he was as clear-eyed about the early strategic decisions he made as Andrade and Willbanks let on. But these are quibbles of interpretation relating specifically to Vietnam, none of which effect the overall worth of the Andrade and Willbanks article.

2 comments:

Grant Jones said...

Thanks for the brief. I was having trouble with getting Military Review online for a while. I'm glad whatever the problem was it's now fixed.

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