Thoughts after re-reading Andrew Krepinevich’s ‘The Army and Vietnam’
First, what a good book. Dang. I am amazed the Army let him publish it while he was on active duty. His conclusion on the U.S. Army in Vietnam is that: It expended human resources at a relatively high rate and material resources in a profligate manner as part of a strategy of attrition. Yet ...
It expended human resources at a relatively high rate and material resources in a profligate manner as part of a strategy of attrition. Yet the Army achieved neither a quick victory nor the maintenance of support on the home front for a continued U.S. presence in Vietnam.… Furthermore, in attempting to maximize Communist combat losses, the Army often alienated the most important element in any counterinsurgency strategy — the people.
If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor …
By the way, COINhatas to the contrary, Krepinevich does not seem to me to be riding on the "Better War" Abrams bandwagon. To the contrary, he approvingly quotes Robert Komer as saying that, "I was there when General Abrams took over, and remained as his deputy. There was no change in strategy whatsoever." Krepinevich continues: "In the two years following the Tet Offensive, Army main-force units continued to operate as they always had." (P. 257)
Meanwhile, not so impressed was I with Yuen Foong Khong’s Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965. Not unreadable, but I did wonder why I was reading it. I mean, got it!: Analogies can be misleading, especially when unexamined. Good blog item. But a whole belabored volume? On the other hand, this is a good book to have in hand every time someone invokes one of these analogies in discussing foreign policy issues, as happened with me just the other day in a discussion of what to do the next time the NoKos make trouble.
Books like this make me glad I am not an academic, and especially not a "political scientist" — what an ugly, inaccurate term, like "biological artist." That said, I bet Andrew "Logic of Violence in Civil War" Exum liked the Khong book.
Finally, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but a new book is out this week from Free Press titled Between War and Peace: How America Ends Its Wars, and edited by Army Col. Matt Moten. It looks really interesting, with an all-star lineup of authors. I’m told that Roger Spiller’s "Six Propositions" essay is terrific. And I’ll read anything new by Joseph Glatthaar on the Civil War, by Brian Linn on the Philippines War, by Edward Coffman on World War I, or by Gerhard Weinberg on World War II. Plus chapters by George Herring, Conrad Crane and Andrew Bacevich. And Gian Gentile on how the Vietnam War ended. This is the 1927 Yankees of military historians, folks. As if that were not enough, the introduction is by the singing general, Martin Dempsey, whom I am betting will be the next Army chief of staff. Start spreading the news.
Thomas E. Ricks is a former contributing editor to Foreign Policy. Twitter: @tomricks1
More from Foreign Policy
America Is a Heartbeat Away From a War It Could Lose
Global war is neither a theoretical contingency nor the fever dream of hawks and militarists.
The West’s Incoherent Critique of Israel’s Gaza Strategy
The reality of fighting Hamas in Gaza makes this war terrible one way or another.
Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
In tying Washington to Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. president now shares responsibility for the broader conflict’s fate.
Taiwan’s Room to Maneuver Shrinks as Biden and Xi Meet
As the latest crisis in the straits wraps up, Taipei is on the back foot.