Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Over-Pessism at Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch is alarmed at the situation in Iraq, mainly that the Pentagon (and the milblog supporters) is overoptimistic on the security situation. I concur that the Pentagon - Rumsfeld in particular - often commits the sin of declaring victory too soon - or exagerate the readiness of the Iraqi Security Force. But Greg is committing an equally grievous offense, over-pessimism.

His most serious offense is his lack of faith in the Iraqi Security Force, which he compares to the Vietnamization program (he considers it to be ill-fated). (His two posts on the subject is here and here). It is certainly true that despite the Pentagon claims of 150,000 the Iraq Security Force “train and equip,” they are far from ready to take on the responsibility themselves. But perhaps if Greg takes a closer look at the Vietnamization, he will find that it actually worked. I hate to compare Iraq to Vietnam because of they are vastly different in circumstance, conditions, and development. But there is aspect of Vietnam which we can draw lessons from. A comparison of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the New Iraqi Army (NIA)

January 1963, The ARVN was soundly and embarrassingly defeated by the Vietcong at Ap Bac. The embarrassing part it that the ARVN force at the battle outnumbered the enemies at least seven to one (by some account 10 to 1), and they had armored and artillery support. The US lost confidence in the ARVN resulted in the increase US involvement in Vietnam. At Ap Bac, the ARVN was showed to be incompetent and incapable. The Vietcong appeared to be invincible.

Five years later during the Tet Offensive, the ARVN fought with valor and skill against the Communist onslaught, this time both from the locally Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The battle of Hue, the 1st ARVN Infantry Division performed admirably, winning the admiration of US forces. By 1972, during the Easter Offensive, the ARVN proved to be capable of winning battle on their own. They held off against a much stronger foe that were better armed, better equipped, a more numerous. From a force that was easily beaten, The ARVN grew and matured through combats.

By comparison, the NIA has done reasonably well. They had not lost any battle as embarrassing as Ap Bac. My personal experience of the Iraqi Security Force in Iraq (at least until the end of 2004) shows that their quality varies from unit to unit. There are excellent units that are capable, competent, and motivate. And there are units that we were better without. But it is important that we remember that the NIA is in its embryonic stage. We started with a blank slate. There are lessens that cannot be taught on the training ground, but must be learned on the battlefield. Mistake will be made, and there will many to be made. But the ingredient for success is there, 150,000 of them. Time, patience, and hard work is require to turn them into a cohesive fighting force. They will grow and mature, but only in combat. The ARVN was 9 years old when they tasted their bitter defeat at Ap Bac. The NIA is barely 1 year old. If Vietnamization is a predictor for Iraq, then there is every reason to be hopeful.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dymphna said...

Your posts are wonderful. Finally, I have someone I can ask: what books about the Vietnam War would you recommend? In English of course!

~D

9:06 PM  
Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes said...

Merry Christmas, Minh Duc!

7:57 PM  

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