Friday, July 13, 2007

Republicans. What a maroon.

Vietnam is justifiably thought of as "Johnson's War", but the US had cast its die there before he, or even Kennedy, had assumed office. Today's Republican obsession is with "the War on Terror". In the fifties, it was Communism. Way back then, they led us down a road that looked like this:

Honoring the identity and the special heritage of each nation in the world, we shall never use our strength to try to impress upon another people our own cherished political and economic institutions.

~ First Inaugural Address
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
~ Tuesday, January 20, 1953

28 August 1953


Subject: The Navarre Concept for Operations in Indochina.

1. In a memorandum for you, dated 21 April 1953, subject: "Proposed French Strategic Plan for the Successful Conclusion of the War in Indochina," the Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out certain weaknesses in the LeTourneau-Allard plan, but felt that it was workable. During the visit of the U.S. Joint Military Mission to Indochina, Lieutenant General Navarre submitted in writing to Lieutenant General O'Daniel, Chief of the Mission, a paper entitled "Principles for the Conduct of the War in Indochina" appended hereto, which appears to correct these weaknesses and which presents a marked improvement in French military thinking concerning operations in Indochina.

2. In his report Lieutenant General O'Daniel stated that, in his opinion, the new French command in Indochina will accomplish under the Navarre concept the decisive defeat of the Viet Minh by 1955 and that the addition of two or more French divisions from outside of Indochina would expedite this defeat. Additions other than in divisional organization would be in error since it is the divisional team, with its combat proven effectiveness, which is sorely needed in Indochina. Lieutenant General O'Daniel further reported that French military leaders were most cooperative with the mission, that several agreements were accomplished to improve the effectiveness of the proposed military operations, and that repeated invitations were extended to the U.S. mission to return in a few months to witness the progress the French will have made.

3. Based on past performances by the French, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have reservations in predicting actual results which can be expected pending additional proof by demonstration of continued French support and by further French performance in Indochina. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are of the opinion that a basic requirement for military success in Indochina is one of creating a political climate in that country which will provide the incentive for natives to support the French and supply them with adequate intelligence which is vital to the successful conduct of operations in Indochina. If this is accomplished and if the Navarre concept is vigorously pursued militarily in Indochina and given wholehearted political support in France, it does offer a promise of military success sufficient to warrant appropriate additional U.S. aid required to assist. U.S. support of the Navarre concept should be based on needs of the French Union Forces in Indochina for additional equipment necessary to implement the organization of the "Battle Corps" envisaged by the Navarre concept and necessary support of the planned expansion of indigenous forces, such needs to be screened by the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Indochina. In addition, to improve the chances of success, this support should include continued close liaison and coordination with French military authorities together with friendly but firm encouragement and advice where indicated.

4. In furtherance of the O'Daniel Mission the Joint Chiefs of Staff are receiving Progress Reports from Indochina. Information received from Indochina indicates the French are not pursuing agreements reached between General O'Daniel and General Navarre (including the Navarre concept) as vigorously as expected by General O'Daniel and as contemplated by him in his report. Progress reports state that (a) the French have "no plans for a general fall offensive beyond limited objective operations designed to keep the enemy off balance," (b) reorganization into regiments and division-size units "is still in the planning stages," (c) there is "no sense of urgency in the training of senior Vietnamese commanders and staff officers," (d) the organization of a training command is awaiting the solution of "political problems" and (e) the "organization of the amphibious plan has not gone beyond the planning stages."

5. In light of the apparent slowness of the French in following up the Navarre concept and other agreements reached between General Navarre and General O'Daniel, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that additional U.S. support should be conditioned upon continued implementation of French support, demonstration of French intent by actual performance in Indochina, and continued French willingness to receive and act upon U.S. military advice. Further, the French should be urged at all levels to support and vigorously prosecute the Navarre concept to the maximum extent of their capabilities.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Joint Chiefs of Staff.

~ The Pentagon Papers

By 1954, consequently, American aid accounted for nearly 80 percent of French expenditures on the conflict, and the compulsion to win created the illusion of imminent success. Admiral Arthur Radford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, assured a congressional committe on the eve of France's defeat at Dienbienphu that France had arrived at "a favorable turn in the war".

~ Vietnam: A History
~ Stanley Karnow

Dien Bien Phu was the straw that broke the camel's back. Two months later, on 20 July 1954, a formal cease-fire between the French and Viet Minh was negotiated at Geneva. This agreement ended an eight year war which produced over 75,000 killed for France's Expeditionary Force. (1:367) This cease-fire was never advanced beyond a military truce, and the lack of a political settlement left the door open for the next Indochina war.

The first and perhaps central principle of war is the objective. [US Army Warfighting Manual] FM 100-5 describes the objective, "Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective." The objective is translated into the commander's intent which governs the conduct of an operation. The French objective at Dien Bien Phu was neither clearly defined nor attainable.

The French government by this point [1954] in the long war was interested in stabilizing the situation in Vietnam so that peace talks could begin. A military victory was no longer the objective as the French sought an honorable way out of the war through negotiation.

The Viet Minh objectives, in contrast to the French, were clear, consistent, and certainly attainable.

From the strategic angle, as already mentioned, the government tended to let the generals run the war without providing much assistance in resources or guidance.

Other officers expressed misgivings to General Navarre, and he listened to all the arguments against the operation including hard intelligence depicting a significant enemy threat. However, General Navarre listened to no one but himself

The French may have avoided defeat by recognizing the folly of undertaking Operation Castor and calling the whole thing off before they launched it. Once they did commit forces to this operation, the French effort was highlighted by operational and strategic blundering which staunch bravery by the fighting men could not overcome.

~ An Analysis Of The French Defeat At Dien Bien Phu
~ Major Harry D. Bloomer, USA

Diem became president of the newly formed Republic of Vietnam in the South. France had withdrawn all of its troops from South Vietnam by 1956. The United States remained the only foreign power supporting Diem. But in 1956, both the United States and South Vietnam refused to honor a key provision in the Geneva Agreement that called for national elections to be held that year to reunify the country. They feared the communists would win and gain control of South Vietnam, upsetting the balance of power with China and Russia. That refusal marked the beginning of the second Indochina War. Giap would repeat his Dien Bien Phu strategy against the United States...

~ Battle of Dien Bien Phu Shaped Southeast Asia
~ George Esper
~ LA Times
~ 1994

In those days, we didn't learn from other people's mistakes. We have now advanced to not learning from our own.

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