Friday, May 05, 2006

Another perspective on Iraq and U.S. army bases.

(And since we're on the topic, a guest post by reader T. Holland, with which I'm not taking a position either way, I'm just sharing it. I'm betting Dave from TGB might have an opinion or two.)

One of the things outsiders don't understand about the Vietnam War is that the U.S. Army won it. We confined the Navy to a small and insignificant area in the northernmost part of South Vietnam, and then inserted an Army Division — the Americal — into Marine Corps territory to show the marines how to run a modern war. (For you Canadians who might not know, the Marine Corps is a small infantry force that belongs to the Navy. Well, it's not that small. It's bigger than the Canadian Forces. But it's small in comparison to the Army.) As far as the Air Force was concerned, the Air Force just rode the Army's back in Vietnam and wasn't a real player.

Vietnam was to be the Army's second foothold on the Asian mainland. This was a really important issue because the Pacific had been a "Navy Lake" since Commodore Perry had opened up Japan, so long ago that no one alive today can remember when. It think it was around 1875.

Permanent bases in Vietnam were part of the conquest. We started building them in 1966 or earlier. It was part of "Empire Building." Each major and, for that matter, minor segment of the Army saw the Vietnam War as an opportunity to grow, while the Army as a whole won territory from the Navy.

The war in Iraq has been different to date because it was driven by politicians rather than professional soldiers trying to build empires. While the Air Force supported the Iraq invasion from the start, and appears to be supporting an attack on Iran, the Army consistently has been negative on Iraq, due to lack of respect for Our Beloved Leader and his henchpersons and their wisdom. All these complaints from retired Army & Marine Corps generals about the way the war in Iraq was run is really about how Our Beloved Leader and his henchpersons want to run the war in Iran. But they can't say that because everything about Iran is classified.

Unfortunately, the politicans took the Vietnam war away from us and the Pacific remained a Navy Lake. The Navy ended up getting everything back by default.


Vigilante said...

I think I get it.

The Vietnam war was the moral equivalent of a Army-Navy football game. Ho Chi Minh was the referee who went home during half-time? And the spectators rushed onto the field before the game could be completed?

(What I like best about this blog is the photo of the blogmeister. Outstanding!)

Dave said...

Like vigilante said.

I've never heard Viet Nam (the conflict) put in that sort of context. And, I would have to say I disagree.

The US Marines do not belong to the US Navy. They are a distinct and separate branch of the service, although they have a relationship with the USN and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, an equal member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reports to the Secretary of the Navy.

My guess is the post is written by a former US Army soldier who seems to have bought into some form of inter-service rivalry. There almost appears to be a jealosy about the USN's control of the Pacific. That would be the MacArthur/Nimitz rivalry surfacing and, for what it's worth, MacArthur, the ARMY general, won his bid to invade the Phillipines and eventually occupied Japan.

How does one view the navy as in charge in that instance?

This reduces the Vietnam war to little more than a pissing contest between services. Yes, there were some, but not over who was running the show. It was being run from McNamara's desk, which is why it was so fucked up. Elmo Zumwalt, USN Chief of Operations, wanted out of Vietnam. It was sucking up his fuel budget.

The permanent bases in Vietnam were less permanent than those now established in Iraq. Basically, they were Da Nang, (combined services), Long Bin (Army), Ton Son Nhut (Air Force) and Saigon. Everything else was plywood and tar paper.

As for the Air Force, I would submit that Operation Rolling Thunder was an Air Force show all the way. They weren't riding anybody's back.

The concentration of troops in Viet Nam did not occur in any way remotely similar to that described in the post. The (Americal) 23rd Infantry Division was there, along with all of these divisions, brigades and units. The manpower on the ground in Vietnam, at it's peak, was almost 500,000 troops, an equivalent to 40 divisions. In fact, from 1965 to 1971 there were 18 fighting divisions in Vietnam - not just one.

The reason the generals have been negative on Iraq is because they're right. Rumsfeld is just replacing McNamara. Honestly, if you give them a war, they'll fight it, but they expect to be given the proper tools. So far that hasn't happenned.

Toward the end I see that the poster claims Iraq is now an Air Force show. OK. Show me how.

As for Iran, there would be little choice but to use air power without boots on the ground. The US Army is already stretched way too thin. To have a large enough army available, Bush would have to re-institute a (shudder) draft.

That would be the tactical view. The strategic view is that the US would be in a world of hurt if they took on Iran.

Find a different way to deal with them.

As for the final paragraph... until soldiers learn to walk on water, oceans will always remain the domain of navies. It works better that way. And I wouldn't be calling the Pacific a lake unless I had enough seatime to know how to find my way around it.

CC - You did this to me on purpose, didn't you.

CC said...

Yes, Dave. It's what I live for. :-)

The Seer said...

If Dave cannot figure out why I think the US Air Force won the war in Iraq, he cannot read the subtext on the flight deck.

Before we get to the subtext on the flight deck, we have to deal with the “loyalty” issue, because “loyalty” is one of Our Beloved Leader’s most beloved traits. It wasn’t the Navy that let George W. Bush fly state-of-the-art jet aircraft during the Vietnam era, yet here was the President of the United States delivering the most important message in the history of air power from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. I’ll grant you, W didn’t leave the Air Force on the best of terms, but that wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of the Air Force. Maybe Our Beloved Leader, like Dave, missed the subtext on the wall?

The subtext on the flight deck was that for the first time in history, air power won a war. In three weeks.

Did I mention Rummy flew for the Navy?

The reason they didn’t need all those extra troops those generals were obsessing about is that air power was going to win the war in Iraq and all they needed the Army and the Marines for anyway was the Humpty Dumpty number.

Maybe Rummy set this whole flight deck thing up and forgot to share the whole script with Our Beloved Leader.

What’s more, like Dave says, air power’s gonna win the war in Iran. No way they’re gonna send ground forces into Iran cuz they haven’t got the troops. Lessen it’s the only way Our Beloved Leader can get those troops out of Iraq. With honor.