Vietnam and Desert Storm:

Learning the Right Lessons from Vietnam for the Post-Cold War Era

by Col. Joseph P. Martino, USAF (Ret)


It has been widely proclaimed that the success of U.S. arms in the Gulf War ended the �Vietnam Syndrome.� According to this view, the United States has at last recovered from the psychological trauma of Vietnam and is again willing to consider the use of force in pursuit of national objectives. However, this will be true only if the proper lessons are learned from both Vietnam and the Gulf War. Post-Cold-War applications of military force, such as Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti, may turn out to have more in common with Vietnam than with the Gulf War. This paper will examine the differences between Vietnam and the Gulf War, and compare the two with the types of wars the U.S. may find itself involved in now that the Cold War is over. Introduction

It is often said that military leaders want to fight the last war over again, instead of adapting to new conditions. That is, the assertion is made that they learn the lessons of the previous war all too well. However, the opposite also happens: military leaders fail to learn the lessons of a war, repeating what failed the last time (�We practice our mistakes until they become doctrine.�). Clearly there is no hard and fast rule about learning lessons.

In fact, leaders should be careful about learning the wrong lessons. One of the clear lessons of World War I, from the fiasco in the Dardanelles, was that it was impossible to project power over the beach; that amphibious operations were no longer possible. Fortunately that �lesson� was ignored in World War II, not to mention Korea.

Learning the right lessons from past wars is thus very important. The problem, of course, is that you may not be sure whether the lessons you have learned are the right lessons until after the subsequent war is over. Despite that, I will try to abstract some lessons from the experience of Vietnam, the Gulf War, and even from the Bosnian operation.

Comparisons: Vietnam and the Gulf War The following table provides a brief comparison of the two wars on some significant factors:





Heavily Populated


Enemy forces

Hard to identify

Clearly defined

Base area security

Insecure (SVN)

Secure (Saudi Arabia)

Logistic support

Nearby (Japan, Philippines)

Distant (Europe, East Coast of U.S.)

Buildup time


Adequate (early units vulnerable)

Threat to supply lines

None external to country

Mines in Gulf

Allied government

Dubious at best

High (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia)

U.S. Popular support

Initially high, declining as
war dragged on

High, never had time to decline
(�Baghdad Air Show�, 100-hrs war)

Enemy propaganda
directed at U.S.
support for war

High level, highly effective

Little effort, virtually no effect

Enemy �Center of Gravity�

Off limits (Hanoi government,
Haiphong Harbor)

Directly attacked (C&C, air defenses, government)

Enemy economic

Avoided (no bombing of dikes)

Directly attacked

Strategy for use of force

�Signaling,� bombing halts, graduated escalation

Overwhelming force from outset

Civilian casualties

High, and politically important

Small, but politically important


Many, highly emotional issue

Few, highly emotional issue

Political objectives of
the war


Clearly stated (Iraqis out of Kuwait)

Publicly perceived success of American arms

Perceived as failure,
despite battlefield victories

Perceived as spectacular success: �Nintendo War�

U.S. troops

Mostly draftees

Volunteer force

From this table, it's clear that many features were the same for both wars. There were some significant differences, however. It would be erroneous to attribute the differing outcome to such things as the differences in terrain. However, some of the differences, such as degree of domestic support, and the perceived legitimacy of the allied governments, clearly had a positive effect on the outcome. However, many of these differences represent things not under the control of the U.S. We can't decide to fight only in the desert, despite the fact that we'd probably do better there than in a jungle. Hence we need to look at those things which are to some degree under our control. Where are the wars We need to look at where the wars are, if we are to decide where our focus should be in drawing lessons. Here are some of the places currently in the headlines:

Bosnia Burma Golan Heights Haiti North Korea Somalia Sri Lanka Sudan Taiwan Yemen

None of these sites involve large conventional armies, with the exception of North Korea and Taiwan. If the U.S. is involved in fighting, then, it will most likely be the kind of fighting exemplified by these headline spots. Thus it is particularly important to draw lessons pertinent to the likely kinds of fighting the U.S. might be involved in.

In what follows, I will try to assess lessons we seem to have learned, lessons we haven't learned, some questionable lessons, some lessons others have learned, and some unresolved issues. Lessons learned These are lessons which we definitely seem to have learned, based on changed equipment, doctrine, or tactics since either or both of Vietnam and the Gulf War. Here is my estimate of the lessons we seem to have learned, not in any order of importance. Aerial Refueling The Air Force pioneered mid-air refueling in the 1920s, but it wasn't perfected until after World War II. It was developed by Strategic Air Command as a means of achieving intercontinental range for its bombers. It is effective in that role, as evidenced by the B-52 strike in the Gulf War which originated at Barksdale AFB in Lousiana, flew to the war zone with the aid of aerial refueling, and returned to base after 35 hours in the air.

One of the surprises of the Vietnam war, however, was the utility of aerial refueling in tactical air operations, not so much to extend range as to achieve greater time on station. One KC-135 tanker crew received the Mackay Trophy in 1967 for saving 8 aircraft in a single flight, including two F-104s, two Navy KA-3s, two Navy F-8s, and two Navy F-4s.( ) Now tankers are routinely included in tactical air planning, as was demonstrated during the Gulf War. Collateral damage from air operations World War II saw bombers used in direct attacks on cities as such, that is, the attacks were directed at destroying the cities, not just at destroying specific targets within the cities. The obliteration bombing of Dresden, the fire-bombing of Tokyo, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are only the most extreme examples. Not only was this choice of targets arguably immoral, it was not effective. Destroying civilian housing and non-military targets had little or no positive effect on the outcome of the war.

By the time of the Gulf War, the Air Force carried out the kind of precision bombing that was merely a hope during World War II. Of course advances in technology had much to do with this, but it must be recognized that the technology was developed because there was a demand for it. The Air Force wanted to be able to do precision bombing. The Air Force is now properly sensitive to the detrimental effects that indiscriminate bombing will have on public support, and has the technology to conduct discriminating attacks.( ) For instance, in Baghdad, bombing successfully knocked out the Ministry of Defense, the communications center, and the secret police headquarters, without extensive damage to surrounding areas.( ) Graduated Escalation

This phrase is apparently out of the American military vocabulary for good, and good riddance. We tried this in Vietnam and it didn't work. Bui Tin, a former North Vietnamese colonel who served on the North Vietnamese general staff, and who received the surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975, was interviewed on how our actions looked from the other side. Here is an excerpt from that interview:( )

Q. What of the American bombing of North Vietnam. A. If all the bombing had been concentrated at one time, it would have hurt our efforts. But the bombing was expanded in slow stages under Johnson and it didn't worry us. We had plenty of time to prepare alternative routes and facilities. We always had stockpiles of rice ready to feed the people for months if a harvest were damaged. The Soviets bought rice from Thailand for us. If the Gulf War demonstrated anything, it was that we had learned the lesson that graduated escalation, with bombing halts and other attempts to �bring the other side to the peace table,� doesn't work. The other side must be bombed to the peace table, or his forces overrun and defeated in the field.

In this sense, Somalia was an aberration. Whatever the initial intentions, it was another attempt to achieve a diplomatic solution to a military problem. In Bosnia, we seem to have learned that even in a so-called peace-keeping operation, we must enter in force. One hopes this lesson has been learned for good. Snipers Prior to World War II the Army emphasized marksmanship for the infantry, and even provided sniper rifles for a limited number of troops. Nevertheless, the art of sniping had to be rebuilt during the Vietnam war. Initially there were no snipers among the troops sent to Vietnam. Moreover, even when troops were designated as snipers, commanders failed to make proper use of them.

Ultimately, however, the situation was reversed. As Senich notes:

Of all the armed conflicts U.S. combat forces have been involved with in this century, the war in South Vietnam marked the first time in American military history that trained snipers, special rifles, telescopic sights, ammunition, and noise suppression were brought together and employed successfully in a combat environment.( ) This lesson has emphatically been learned. Today, snipers are deployed routinely with both the Army and the Marines. As one commander on the ground has put it, �In recent years, all the conflicts we've been in, the lesson learned is that snipers are worth their weight in gold.�( ) Intelligence Information It appears that we have finally learned that intelligence information must be provided to the war-fighter promptly, if it is to be of any value. Current claims are that at the time Capt. Scott O'Grady was shot down, the lag from acquiring information to providing it to the troops was of the order of 12 minutes,(i) but by now has been reduced even further.( ) Maps, text, photos, and videos are made instantly available even to small units in Bosnia. Breaking the intelligence community's stranglehold on information represents a big step forward, and a lesson well learned.

(i)This doesn't seem to have been fast enough, but was already much better than the hours of the Gulf War and the days of Vietnam

Lessons Not Yet Learned Under this category I put things which we should have learned, in the sense that the lessons are obvious, but which we demonstrate we haven't yet learned. Psychiatric Casualties In World War II, no more than 800,000 U.S. ground forces saw direct combat. However, 1,3l93,000 men suffered psychiatric symptoms serious enough to keep them out of action for some period of time. In the Army alone, 504,000 men were permanently lost to fighting for psychiatric reasons. Of these, 330,000 eventually received discharges for psychiatric reasons. A total of 596,000 received treatment for weeks or months at medical facilities for psychiatric problems.

A total of 1,587,000 soldiers served in Korea. Of those who saw combat, 17% were killed. Over 24%, however, became psychiatric casualties serious enough to require treatment of some duration.

A total of 2.8 million men saw service in Vietnam, but only 280,000 of these are considered to have engaged in actual combat. Of those combat forces, 16% were killed by enemy action (about 10,000 died from non-combat causes). Psychiatric casualties were 12.6% of the troops.

In every war fought by American forces during this century, the chances of being a psychiatric casualty were at least as great (Vietnam) or greater (WWII, Korea) than the chances of being killed by the enemy.( ) This situation is not unique to U.S. forces. During the 1973 Yom Kippur war, 30% of the casualties suffered by the Israeli Defense Forces were psychiatric casualties.

By now we should know this is going to happen, and be prepared for it; prepared not only in the military, but in society at large. We needn't indulge in stereotypes of the crazed veteran to recognize that some significant percentage of the people we send into battle are going to come home with psychological damage. Rain and Bad Weather The U.S. armed forces have a long history of being unprepared for bad weather. In the post-World War II era, we have encountered bad weather in every military engagement, and the troops have suffered for it. A typhoon swept over Okinawa right after World War II, leaving many of the occupation troops without shelter. In Korea, right after troops were rushed in, another typhoon collapsed the tents the troops were living in.( ) In Vietnam, it was not unusual for troops to have to wade through high water after a rain, simply to get into their quarters.

Despite this experience, we saw a repetition of the problem in Bosnia, when a levee broke and flooded a camp area. Other troops were wallowing in mud.

Obviously we cannot control the weather. Surely, however, we can learn that bad weather will come, and prepare for it ahead of time. This is a lesson which has yet to be learned. Cold Weather Equipment During World War II, cold injuries ( especially frostbite) were the second leading cause of American casualties in Europe. During the battles to retake Attu island in the Aleutians, cold caused more deaths than battle wounds. In Korea, by contrast, the development of insulated boots allowed Marines fighting in mountainous areas to survive sub-zero temperatures with few or no frostbite injuries.

Unfortunately, this lesson seems to have been lost. Troops sent from Germany to Bosnia were not initially equipped with cold-weather boots. They wore the standard leather boots, in which they had to walk through snow and slush. Only by March of this year were proper cold-weather boots being issued to the troops. Even then, the boots were in short supply. Unit commanders decide which troops will get the boots, depending on mission and terrain. It shouldn't be necessary to relearn this lesson every time troops are sent into cold-weather areas. After all, our experience with the effects of inadequate cold-weather equipment goes all the way back to Valley Forge.

Incidentally, those �Mickey Mouse� boots used in Korea provided moderately effective protection against land mines as well as the cold. One more lesson that shouldn't have to be relearned in every war.

Questionable Lessons Here I discuss some �lessons� which the military services claim to have learned, but about which I have doubts. Information War The new buzz phrase seems to be �information war� (March 1993, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum of Policy Number 30 ). This is defined as controlling an adversary's access to information while protecting one's own information � and capitalizing on the difference. The idea is that dominating the information spectrum will become as important as occupying land or controlling air. It is asserted that if you can analyze information, act on it, and assess results faster than your adversary, you will win.

Along with this use of information goes precision attack: precise target acquisition, munitions, and weapons delivery. Andrew W. Marshall, Director of Net Assessment Office, has stated: �[L]ong-range precision strike weapons coupled to very effective sensors and command-and-control systems will come to dominate much of warfare. Rather than closing with an opponent, the major mode will be destroying him at a distance.�(ii)

(ii) Tell this to the Bosnians

The elements of information war are purported to be: infiltration (gathering information from enemy systems), attacking (making enemy systems unusable), and defending (against enemy infiltration and attack).

In one sense, one can hardly argue with this notion. Outwitting the enemy through good intelligence has been a staple of good generalship at least since the time of Sun Tzu. Unfortunately, the idea that by clever maneuver one can minimize fighting and casualties is at least as old as Jomini. Elevating the idea of using good intelligence and speedy action to the level of a new kind of war may owe more to Jomini than to Sun Tzu. Whether �information war� amounts to something real, or is simply another fad, remains to be seen. As Clausewitz argued, however, it is a bad idea to think that clever maneuver can eliminate the need for fighting. Mobility For years the Army has talked about mobility, about �shoot, move, and communicate,� about artillery employing �shoot and scoot� tactics Yet in Vietnam we ended up with stationary firebases, and in Bosnia we apparently are doing the same thing. Despite all the talk of mobility during peacetime, �When the guns begin to shoot,� as Kipling put it, there seem to be good reasons for holding fixed positions. This will probably always be the case. Lessons Others Have Learned We are not the only ones learning from our experiences. Other people are observing us, and learning things we might just as soon they didn't learn. Here are some lessons other people appear to be learning. Don't Go Head-to-Head with the Americans Prior to the Gulf War, we were told about Saddam Hussein's �fourth largest army in the world,� and about his �battle-hardened troops,� and how they would be a tough nut to crack. I don't wish to denigrate the excellent performance of the ground troops in the Gulf War by downgrading the Iraqi troops. They indeed were there in large numbers, many did have combat experience (probably a higher proportion than in the U.S. Army), and they occupied well-dug-in defensive positions. However, the technology and training of U.S. joint forces wrapped them up in short order, especially after prolonged bombing had crippled their communications and logistics.

The lesson which will be drawn by other international miscreants is, don't try that again. Either gain your objective before the U.S. can get on the ground, or use some other method of gaining your objective. Potential enemies will not contest us on our strengths. Instead, they will attempt to exploit our weaknesses.

Terrorism is clearly one of the possible alternatives. The recent Chinese observation that we won't defend Taiwan because we don't want to lose San Francisco is yet another harbinger of things to come. Our potential opponents will be looking for ways to get around our proven capabilities. They won't be contesting them directly. Technology as Force Multiplier The U.S. is not the only nation which can use technology as a force multiplier. Although China can outnumber any army in the world, if it chooses, it has come a long way from the days of Korea and �human wave� attacks. The Chinese are buying amphibious capability, and are developing heliborne tactics. The sheer size of its forces may soon be multiplied by the kind of air-land operations U.S. forces have heretofore thought of as their own specialty.

Moreover, U.S. forces may in the future face technology at least as advanced as our own, bought from arms exporters. For instance, the French IR-guided Mica has range longer than any IR air-to-air missile in the U.S. inventory. Two thousand of these have already been ordered by forces in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. They will be in service by 1997.

Of the 267 nations in the world, only 30 now lack SAMs. There is expected to be a five-fold increase in the number of countries having AIM-120 class air-to-air missiles by 2005.

The problem is not only new vehicles. Older airframes with updated avionics -- look-down, shoot-down capability � are becoming widely available. Seven countries are currently marketing upgrade kits for F-5s. Up to 700 Mig-21s could be upgraded by 2000. While these airframes are inferior to the best U.S. vehicles in dogfighting capability, their avionics upgrades can make them the equal of U.S. aircraft for beyond-visual-range combat. They would be well suited for the types of tactics used by the North Vietnamese Air Force during the Vietnam War, and would be ideal for knocking down JOINT STARS aircraft.

Other technological aids are also readily available to other nations. Satellite imagery and use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) are available to everyone. They can no longer convey an advantage to our forces. Moreover, other nations can obtain these aids directly instead of going through us (as the British during the Falklands war against Argentina). Sophistication at using these aids may be the only edge we can muster. Unresolved issues Here are some issues which presented problems in either or both of Vietnam and the Gulf War, which clearly haven't been resolved. They represent potential lessons, but it's not yet clear what we need to learn from them. Objectives One of the major problems throughout the Vietnam War was the lack of well-defined objectives. Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara has admitted that in 1964 the Joint Chiefs of Staff had told him the US had not defined a �militarily valid objective for Vietnam.�

Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger defined a set of criteria for U.S. entry into a war:

· Is a vital US interest at stake? · Will we commit sufficient resources to win? · Will we sustain the commitment? (he notes the initial Cold War consensus among academics, journalists, Congress, and the public) · Are the objectives clearly defined? · Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation? · Have we exhausted our other options?

It is interesting to note that these criteria are essentially identical with the Just War criteria for Jus ad Bellam. However, they may be very difficult to meet (which is the intention of the Just War criteria). Will we enter a war without meeting all of them, then find ourselves unable either to get out honorably or to pursue it to a satisfactory conclusion? Setting objectives for a war, including an exit strategy if we find the original objectives are too expensive to meet, is an issue which we must resolve. Casualties Given America's concern with casualties, an enemy need not defeat us; he need only stay on the battlefield until we give up. To a large extent, this is what happened in Vietnam. The idea is not a new one. Sun Tzu put it well:

Victory is the main object in war. If it is long delayed, troops become demoralized and their strength exhausted. When this happens, your enemy will take advantage of our state. So, though there may be blundering swiftness in war, there is no clever operation that was protracted. If we are to defeat an enemy whose primary strength is staying power, we need to find ways of doing it quickly. A long war for limited objectives, with its steady stream of body bags, will not be supported by the American people. Prisoners of War I don't wish to get involved in debating whether we �left men behind.� I do wish to point out that this is a politically sensitive issue. There is some evidence that American troops captured by the Red forces in Siberia in the 1920s were never returned. There is also some evidence that men known to have been in German POW camps, subsequently captured by the Russians, were never returned. There are lingering questions about whether all the POWs from Korea were returned. I hardly need mention the controversy over Vietnam POWs.

My point here is that this is an issue which is going to come back to haunt us again and again, unless we come to some resolution of it. Unless we outright win a war and occupy all the enemy homeland, we are dependent upon the willingness of the enemy to release all POWs at the conclusion of the fighting. Moreover, as the WWII experience shows, even that might not be good enough if part of the enemy homeland is occupied by a dubious ally. We need to figure out what we are going to do about POWs in any future wars. Ballistic Missiles The loss of several hundred Americans to a single SCUD missile should have brought home the need for some means of dealing with this threat. There are now 26 countries which have short or medium range ballistic missiles, and a few which have missiles capable of reaching the United States.

This issue has become so involved in domestic politics that it is hard to see a way out. Nevertheless, it is an issue which is not resolved, and which must be addressed. Small Wars Guerrilla fighting is not something new to the United States. Rogers' Rangers in the Revolutionary War, and Mosby's Raiders in the Civil War, gave us plenty of experience on the partisan side. We also had considerable small wars experience on the counter-insurgency side, including the experience of the Marines in Nicaragua. We also should have been able to draw on the experience of the British in Malaya and the French in Indochina. Unfortunately, we ignored all this experience when we went into Vietnam.

We seem to have learned at least part of the lesson. Applying the lessons of Vietnam worked in El Salvador:

· deploy small units, with restrictions on firepower; · economic, political, psychological operations must be used to enhance the legitimacy of the local government; · the U.S. must not assume control of the conflict.

These lessons worked, but at a cost of over $1 million per resident of El Salvador. It's not clear we can afford many more victories of that kind.

Will these lessons apply in future counterinsurgency operations? In Vietnam, and in El Salvador, we ware faced with opponents trying to take over the government. Separatist groups may be common in the future, as opposed to groups trying to take over the country. We may also face commercial insurgency, i.e., quasi-political, quasi-bandit groups (Robin Hood is the classical example). The current alliances between anti-government insurgents and narcotics traffickers in South American may be a harbinger of more to come. We may also be faced with camouflaged insurgency, with hidden links between �legitimate� groups with apparently genuine grievances and armed rebels. In this scenario, the underground group destabilizes government, then the above-ground group takes power, possibly by election, or possibly by threat of a coup such as brought Mussolini to power.

We need to take the issue of small wars seriously. The Air Force's First Special Operations Wing has seen more combat in the past ten years than any other Air Force unit. This is already a problem which is not getting the attention it deserves. Chemical & Biological Warfare

Under the proper circumstances, biological and chemical weapons can be very deadly. Moreover, as John Holum, of the Arms Control & Disarmament Agency has put it, �They are not that difficult to make, so I think we have to anticipate a very high risk of these things being more widely available.( ) In effect, they may well be the �poor man's atomic bomb,� as they have been called.

However, while these weapons may be cheap to manufacture, they are not necessarily cheap to deliver. SCUDs are not exactly things you build in a garage. Nevertheless, these weapons do present a threat we have yet to figure out how to combat. Protective clothing hampers the wearer's performance, which may well be part of the enemy's goal anyway. Moreover, once you're inside a contaminated protective suit, you may have a tough time getting out of it in a combat situation.

The problems for civilians are even greater. Recall the pictures of Israeli civilians huddling in their apartments, with gas masks on their faces and duct tape around the doors and windows. Use of chemical or biological warfare agents against a society which isn't as well prepared as Israel could have horrendous results. The �lesson learned� here is that we don't yet know how to deal with this issue. The Press Quite frankly, it did my heart good to see the pressies and their stupid questions skewered by the intelligent, articulate Public Affairs Officers during Desert Storm. As far as I was concerned, it was payback time.

The exact role of the press in the American defeat in Vietnam is still being debated. What cannot be debated, however, is the fact that the press stopped being reporters and became participants in the �story� as early as 1963, with various reporters' decision that Diem had to go.

The news media also served as a conduit for enemy propaganda. In Vietnam, this started with Harrison Salisbury's guided tour of Hanoi. The news media also gave credence to the reports of Wilfred Burchett, whose collaboration with communist forces goes back to Korea. It didn't end with Vietnam, either. Recall the �baby milk factory� in Baghdad.

I was a student at the Armed Forces Staff College during the siege of Khe Sanh. What I and my fellow students knew about the battle was only what the news media reported. One day our guest speaker was the Army Chief of Staff. During the question period, a student asked about the battle, and the dismal prospects of our forces, as described by the media. The General's reply was, �You are all military professionals. You can read a map. What do you think?� That was the problem. We could read a map, and we knew that as long as the airstrip remained operable and U.S. forces had control of the air, Khe Sanh could hold out indefinitely. What we couldn't understand was why the press reported just the opposite.

The misreporting of the Tet Offensive, especially the failure to report Viet Cong atrocities in Hue, still sticks in the craw of many Vietnam veterans. Today the media have reported fully on the atrocities committed by the Serbs. Yet nothing the Serbs have done wasn't also done by the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army. The media at that time kept silence on VC/NVA atrocities.

The failure to report the true nature of the enemy, and the misreporting of U.S. victories, all contributed to the public's sense of the war's futility. Even if it is argued that the news media's failure to report the war properly had no effect on the outcome, that doesn't change the fact that the media failed in their job

Despite the failings of the news media in Vietnam, and whatever the reasons for the behavior of the reporters, however, there is a serious problem here. The American people are entitled to know what is happening when their family members, friends, and neighbors are sent to do battle in some distant land. Clamping down on the press to prevent misreporting doesn't guarantee accurate reporting. It may result only in a news blackout, or in the reporting of trivia. The Desert Shield reporting came awfully close to trivia, because the access of the media was limited and controlled. Lack of reporting, especially during a long war, may lead the people at home to suspect that disasters are being hidden from them. This may lead to loss of support for the war effort.

In Bosnia, it is impossible to control access by the media. Instead, the Army is trying to control what the troops say. They are provided with a Media Reference Card which gives the following instructions:

· �Don't make �off the record' statements to reporters. · �Never lie to the media.� · �Don't allow yourself to be badgered by the media. If necessary, politely end the interview and contact your commander or the PAO.� · �If [an unescorted] reporter comes to your unit, refer them to the Joint Information Bureau.�

They are also provided with the following canned �nonresponses� which they can give a reporter:

· �We are trained, ready and fully prepared to conduct peace enforcement operations.� · �We are a disciplined and trained force. We understand our mission and the rules of engagement.� · Our forces are confident in our trained and competent leaders. We have pride in our leadership, from the president on down, and full trust in their decisions.�( )

Clearly these nonresponses aren't the solution either. Dealing with the news media, in anything less than an all-out war situation similar to World War II, is a problem we haven't yet resolved. Domestic Dissent Dissent from the war didn't begin with Vietnam. The Copperheads in the North opposed the Civil War. Several New England states threatened to secede from the Union during what they called Mr. Madison's War, otherwise known as the War of 1812. And the Revolutionary War was as much a civil war as it was a war of independence. Some estimates go as high as a third of the population opposed the war for independence.

Nevertheless, domestic opposition to the Vietnam war is something that sticks in everyone's mind. We now have a view from the other side, in that same interview with Bui Tin quoted earlier

Q. Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi's victory? A. It was essential to our strategy. Support for the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses. We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war and that she would struggle along with us. Q. [Why] did the Politburo pay attention to these visits? A. These people represented the conscience of America. The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor. America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize the will to win. While we need not attribute North Vietnam's victory solely to domestic dissent in the U.S., we need to recognize that such dissent poses some unresolved issues. Clearly in a democracy, the government shouldn't be able to mold public opinion. Dissent against an unwise or immoral war is a necessary part of democratic society. In some way, however, it must be possible to counter dissent which involves collaboration with the enemy. We must not allow the enemy to intervene in our domestic politics, even under the guise of dissent. However, this issue has yet to be satisfactorily resolved.

Summary We have clearly learned some lessons from Vietnam and the Gulf War, as demonstrated by our use of force in Bosnia. However, it is clear we still have some lessons to learn. Moreover, others have learned lessons as well, and will be attempting to find ways around our capabilities.

Officially, we are currently maintaining a Two-regional-war strategy. However, it is not clear that this strategy can actually be carried out. Can we really deal with both North Korea and China/Taiwan while bogged down in Bosnia? If we have to intervene in Korea, can we expect other nations, such as China or Iran, to take advantage of our preoccupation by creating mischief elsewhere?

Simply increasing the resources devoted to defense is not necessarily the only answer. It is worth recalling that during the lean years between World War I and World War II, our military forces made some excellent preparations:

· The U.S. Navy invented dive bombing; · The Marine Corps perfected CAS; · The Army Air Corps invented strategic bombing; · The Army Signal Corps invented radar.

These accomplishments were carried out in a time of tight budgets, through construction of prototypes and war gaming. True, we were still unprepared in terms of adequacy of forces at the outbreak of war. Nevertheless, we knew what kinds of forces were needed, and had the ability to muster and equip them quickly.

The trick now is to combine the lessons learned from Vietnam and the Gulf War with our demonstrated ability to be very innovative even in a time of tight budgets, and do this while maintaining sufficient ready forces that potential enemies will be hesitant to test our will. Notes

About the Author: Dr. Joseph P. Martino is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Dayton Research Institute. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1953 through 1975, retiring in the grade of Colonel. His assignments included the Air Force Armament Laboratory, Air Force Avionics Laboratory, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Air Force Office of Research Analyses, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency R&D Field Unit in Bangkok, Thailand. He served for several years as chairman of the Special Warfare Working Group of the Military Operations Research Society.


1. Frisbee, John L., "Tribute to Tankers," Air Force Magazine, January 1966, p. 49.

2. Crane, Conrad C., Bombs, Cities & Civilians, University Press of Kansas, 1993, p. 158 ff.

3. Hallion, Richard (Air Force Historian), interview in Air Force Magazine, April 1996, p. 15.

4. Young, Stephen, "How North Vietnam Won the War," Wall Street Journal, Thursday, August 3, 1995, p. A10.

5. Senich, Peter R., The Long-Range War, Paladin Press, 1994, p. v.

6. Lt. Col. Mike Scaparotti, U.S. Army, quoted in Wall Street Journal, October 25, 1995

7. Asker, James R., "Washington Outlook," Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 22, 1996, p. 19.

8. Gabriel, Richard, No More Heroes, Collins Publishers, 1987.

9. Biteman, Lt. Col. Duane E., USAF (Ret.), "Unsung Heroes of the Korean War," Military, February 1996, p. 6.

10. Holum, John, director, U.S. Arms Control & Disarmament Agency, quoted in Bill Gertz, "Horror Weapons," Air Force Magazine, January 1966, p. 44.

11. Soldier of Fortune, May 1996, p. 8

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