Not Knowing the True Nature of the Enemy - Part 6 (An Even Bigger Problem Today)

The most famous quote of Sun Tzu, the Chinese general and philosopher (circa 544 to 496 BC) and author of The Art of War, is:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

Sun Tzu (Master Sun), whose birth name was Sun Wu, must have considered this vitally important , because he said it at least four different times with slight variations.

He also emphasized the importance of the intelligence function in warfare.  This seems to include a much broader outlook than simply the military strength, weapons, and positions of the enemy. It is of utmost importance to know what motivates the enemy and what our own motivations are. We must be honest about our own motivations and predispositions to believe what is most comfortable to us rather than the hard facts of reality.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote: “We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable.”  Military Intelligence is most useful, when as far as humanly possible; it conforms to the reality of the enemy’s strength, morale, ideology, and motivation. It is useless, when it conforms to wishful thinking, political pressures, self-deception, or humanist fantasies about human nature.  

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Micromanaging and Ignoring Military Chiefs - Part 5

A sixth prominent mistake in the Vietnam War was that President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara continually refused to listen to the experience and accumulated wisdom of military chiefs and micromanaged military operations. This was an exacerbating factor in the first five mistakes covered in this series: appeasement, allowing enemy sanctuaries, a U.S. media-driven South Vietnamese regime change, the disastrous military doctrine of “gradualism,”and failure to utilize our strategic supremacy in Air and Naval power. Not listening to military experience and advice was also an important debilitating factor in providing effective political leadership in war. Some crucial leadership mistakes will be covered in another article in this series.

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Failure to Fully Utilize Air and Naval Superiority - Part 4

The fifth big mistake in Vietnam was failure to utilize our most powerful military assets—our overwhelming superiority in Air and Naval Power—early in the conflict. Pacific Area Commander (CinCPAC), Admiral Grant Sharp, believed this was the greatest mistake in the war.   This mistake was closely related to and overlapped the fourth big mistake, which was the Johnson-McNamara doctrine of gradualism discussed in part 4 of this series.

On April 20, 1965, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara held a conference in Honolulu to inform General Wheeler, the Chairman of the JCS and his top commanders in the Pacific of the Johnson-McNamara strategy to prevent the fall of South Vietnam to the Communist regime in Hanoi. Also attending this meeting were Admiral Sharp; General Westmoreland, Commander of the Military Advisory Command in Vietnam (MACV); and retired General Maxwell Taylor, the U.S. Ambassador in Saigon. McNamara brought with him his most influential advisor, Assistant Secretary of Defense, John McNaughton, and National Security Advisor Walt Rostow. This was a mere seven weeks following the commencement of Operation “Rolling Thunder,” Johnson’s plan to bring Hanoi to the negotiating table by a gradually escalating campaign of bombing targets in North Vietnam.

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Still Popular in the Liberal Democrat Playbook - Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we identified three of the biggest mistakes of the Vietnam War:

President Kennedy’s failure to challenge North Vietnam’s glaring and extensive violation of the 1962 Geneva Treaty on the neutrality of Laos, President Johnson’s compounding of this error by allowing Laos and Cambodia to become sanctuaries for North Vietnamese troops and supplies, and Kennedy’s regime change call that encouraged a South Vietnamese military junta to replace elected South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. The junta unfortunately murdered Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu. This threw South Vietnamese civil government and military leadership into chaos for over two years, which the Communists exploited to the fullest, forcing a huge expansion of American commitment and troops. This regime change was the greatest mistake of the war.  President Carter’s failure to support the Shah of Iran, long-time U.S. ally, in the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the Obama/Hillary Clinton backed Arab Spring involving Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria in 2011 were repeats of this media-pleasing liberal ideological error.

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Mistake #3 – the Biggest Mistake of the War  - Part 2

On November 1, 1963, the Kennedy Administration encouraged and abetted a military overthrow of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. As a consequence, Diem and his brother and chief political advisor, Ngo Dinh Nhu, were killed the next day. This led to more than two years of unstable government and military leadership in South Vietnam, which was fully exploited by North Vietnam’s Communist leaders and led to more extensive commitments of American manpower to save South Vietnam. President Johnson, who succeeded to the presidency after Kennedy’s own assassination on November 22, later called the overthrow of Diem the biggest mistake of the Vietnam War.  President Nixon, writing in 1985, agreed that it was one of the three greatest mistakes of the war.

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