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Petraeus Looks To Vietnam Act 2 For Policy Direction In Iraq

Petraeus, in fact, has borrowed some of his tactics from another military expert, Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak. Gen. Krulak, who was also the father of a former Marine commandant, came to similar conclusions during his tours in Vietnam. Krulak understood that you needed to keep troops in a neighborhood cleansed of rebels, just as Petraeus is doing now in Iraq.
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) March 30, 2007
The United States cannot succeed with the development of an Iraqi force unless the Iraqis can be persuaded to achieve political conciliation between Arab Sunnis, Arab Shiites and Kurds, a leading military scholar told a House Armed Service Committee on Oversight and Investigations.

Anthony Cordesman, who holds the Burke Chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, cited Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and many other senior U.S. officers as having said that "the key to security is not military but political."

Petraeus, in fact, has borrowed some of his tactics from another military expert, Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak. Gen. Krulak, who was also the father of a former Marine commandant, came to similar conclusions during his tours in Vietnam. Krulak understood that you needed to keep troops in a neighborhood cleansed of rebels, just as Petraeus is doing now in Iraq.

"Any successful efforts to truly transfer responsibility to an independent ISF -- or an Iraqi security force -- will take years beyond January 2008," said Cordesman.

This finding is the result of a formal statement and analysis of the development of Iraqi security forces prepared by Cordesman for a presentation delivered to the House Armed Services Committee on Oversight and Investigation on Wednesday. In the brief, Cordesman describes the issues involved in "the development of various elements of these forces," which he describes as "complex" and "filled with many uncertainties and problems."

Cordesman compares what is happening in Iraq today to Vietnam in the 1960s. "We are now dealing with the legacy of neoconservatives, and a badly planned gamble with the lives of 27 million Iraqis," said Cordesman. "We have again lied and exaggerated our progress in political development, security efforts, economic aid and the development of host country forces. For the second time in my life, we may well be seeing a failed president and a failed administration preside over a failed war.

"Nearly half a century ago," said Cordesman, "I saw the same tendency in that war to downplay the risks and threats, and internal divisions in the nation where we fought that I see in the way that this administration treats the Iraq War today.

"I also saw a shift from reliance on our own forces to what we called 'Vietnamization,' and then our withdrawal from a nation where we had created the government and military forces that remained dependent upon us -- for money, for vast amounts of weapons and supplies, and for the threat that North Vietnam would be bombed if it invaded," he added.

Now isn't that an all-too-familiar tune!

"I saw a subculture build up that exaggerated our successes in introducing democracy, in using foreign aid, and in bringing security to the people," said Cordesman, referring to Vietnam. He might as well have been talking about today's Iraq.

Cordesman said he found it hard to forget those experiences. "I cannot forget the problems we created by exaggerating our successes in training Lebanese forces in the early 1980s, or the mistakes we made during our first five years in Afghanistan. We have been where we are in Iraq before, and we have done great damage to other countries in the process. ...

"Much of the official reporting on Iraqi force readiness, and progress in Iraqi force development, is the same tissue of lies, spin, distortion, and omissions I saw in Vietnam," said the expert.

Cordesman said there was "no integrity" in the reporting on number of units in the lead. Progress and successes have been distorted and exaggerated "to the point of absurdity." And creating effective regular military forces, police and government services "have been misreported or ignored."

He says the powers that be have "downplayed present and future degree" of the Iraqi and U.S. militaries, as in Vietnam. "We have downplayed just how dependent Iraqi forces are and will remain on U.S. air power, armor, artillery, embeds and partner units, and support."

According to Cordesman, the United States military has "rushed undertrained, underequipped and inexperienced units into combat and missions for which they were not ready."

And on the home front, too, there are flashbacks of the Vietnam War, with the public caught in "the middle of an ever more bitter partisan debate over U.S. withdrawal from Iraq."

The irony for Cordesman is that the United States may well be rushing to get U.S. forces out of Iraq "years before Iraqi forces are fully ready, and with far too little regard for the human cost to Iraq and to our strategic position in the Gulf."

"The administration increasingly seems to want a cosmetic victory in Baghdad, to declare victory and to leave," said Cordesman.

He added the United States may have to leave. "Civil war, failure at conciliation, the inability to provide security and ethnic conflict may leave us no choice," said the CSIS expert.

Real progress takes patience, resources, persistence and time, said Cordesman. Alas, patience is not a common commodity in a country that lives on four-year electoral cycles.

Cordesman concludes: The ISF and Iraqi people should no more have to pay for the mistakes of American neoconservatives than the ARVN and Vietnamese people should have had to pay for the mistakes of American neoliberals.

Source: United Press International

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