Algeria and Iraq: Yes, There Are Parallels





Mr. Morgan is the author of My Battle of Algiers: A Memoir (Smithsonian Institution Press).


In my book, My Battle of Algiers, I tell the story of my military service as a second lieutenant in the French army. After four months in a combat unit south of Algiers, I was assigned to help write and edit an army-run weekly newspaper called RéalitésAlgériennes. Thus I lived through and took part in the Battle of Algiers.

There is no strict analogy between the wars in Algeria and Iraq. Algeria was considered part of France, and the 400,000 French troops who were sent there to put down a nationalist rebellion that began in 1954 were not “fighting a war” but “maintaining order.” The word “war” was never used in government documents. The French were there to protect the lives and interests of one million settlers (known as pieds noirs or black feet), who formed a powerful lobby, a settler tail wagging the French government dog, in order to keep down the nine million Moslem Algerians. In addition, there was no radical Islamist element to the Algerian FLN (National Liberation Front) that was conducting the war. They simply wanted their independence.

There are, however, several similarities between the wars in Algeria and Iraq. The first is that both wars are unwinnable. It took the French eight years to realize that. They had some success with sealing the borders with Algeria’s neighbors, Morocco and Tunisia, but men and weapons still came through. They mounted a number of well-run military operations, but there were always rebel bands in the mountains harassing them. Gen de Gaulle, who came to power in 1958, was convinced after several visits to Algeria that the best he could get was a draw. He could occupy the cities and the coastal area. But he could never obtain a surrender, and would have to maintain a high level of troops. There was no end to it and the war was draining the budget and dividing the nation. So he got out.

In a war between nations, one side usually surrenders to the other, but neither Algeria nor Iraq are wars between nations. In Iraq, as in Algeria, the insurgents, both home-grown and imported, are supplied with a steady stream of funds, weapons and manpower. They are able to sustain intolerable levels of carnage. The radical Moslems and the Baathists want to kill Americans, so the paradox is that as long as our troops are on the ground, they provide a magnet for new recruits. The situation reminds me of Peter Arnet’s quote from an officer in the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” But this time we are destroying an entire country.

Thus, the departure of American troops may be the only hope for a negotiated solution. Once there are no more Americans to kill, the Iraqi government might be able to negotiate with the insurgents. Some of the guerrilla groups could convert into political parties, as Hamas has done in the Gaza strip. But it may be too late, in view of the growing civil war that further destabilizes Iraq. Here again, the Algerian experience is instructive. For as soon as the French left Algeria in 1962, the Algerians started fighting among themselves. Civil strife was interrupted by long periods of authoritarian rule. The French left behind a corrupt democratic model, that is, an electoral process that was stacked so the French minority could govern the Arab majority. The incoming rebel leaders, now governing the country, embraced this debased French model in order to maintain their authoritarian regimes.

This led to nearly 30 years of dictatorship under the guise of democracy. In the ‘90’s a violent Islamic revolution erupted, and the country became a killing field. Though Algeria is finally making some progress, more than 40 years after independence it is still not a stable democracy. If history provides any lessons, the United States has two choices: Keep troops in Iraq for many years to come. Or pull out and let civil war lead to more destruction and eventual fragmentation in three parts, like Caesar’s Gaul. Here is the final link between Algeria and Iraq: This month, the Algerian government announced it has completed the release of about 3000 jailed Islamists. One can only wonder how many of these freed Islamists are now fighting in Iraq.

Related Links

  • Shawn McHale: Torture Didn't Work for the French in Algeria Either By

  • Sheila K. Johnson: Why Algeria Should Be on the Minds of the Pentagon Generals


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    More Comments:


    cam j earl - 2/20/2007

    .. I'm currently in high school and have read over this and have to say... :) this is going to help me by far!!, I think that there are alot of vaild points but there are also facts. In witch facts will always be the truths over any points of views and opinions I personally think that the Vietnam war was a "Joke" (Only in the matter of the United States getting involved). Like the Iraq war we have no business to be there. Now we are rebuilding.? "No point" if you ask me. Here the U.S.A is sticking there nose in everything. Like the vietnam war. There is reasons to go into war. But for the reasons the U.S.A has entered is just pointless and is just causing problems and we are losing life's everyday in iraq. For what cause? to rebuild a iraq and make a new america? Don't get me wrong i do care for my country but for the causes of these two wars.. I personally do not support. this is my opinion.. -Camden.


    cam j earl - 2/20/2007

    .. I'm currently in high school and have read over this and have to say... :) this is going to help me by far!!, I think that there are alot of vaild points but there are also facts. In witch facts will always be the truths over any points of views and opinions I personally think that the Vietnam war was a "Joke" (Only in the matter of the United States getting involved). Like the Iraq war we have no business to be there. Now we are rebuilding.? "No point" if you ask me. Here the U.S.A is sticking there nose in everything. Like the vietnam war. There is reasons to go into war. But for the reasons the U.S.A has entered is just pointless and is just causing problems and we are losing life's everyday in iraq. For what cause? to rebuild a iraq and make a new america? Don't get me wrong i do care for my country but for the causes of these two wars.. I personally do not support. this is my opinion.. -Camden.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Thanks Justin... Good save... I knew something wasn't right as Bill is our sites best poster/debater regardless, of the cane I raise with him...

    Sorry Bill... and thanks for the great HC article on Vietnam...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Bill,

    Many of us are reading these posts with keen interest and Mr. Rodden's suggested reading list, which is greatly appreciated by the way, does not even come close to the History Channel bibliography you provided and state he cut & paste into his post... In fact, none of the titles match... I appreciate a good debate as much as anyone but, you seem to have slipped your chain from it's sprocket on this one...


    Bill Heuisler - 3/31/2006

    Mr. Furnish,
    The article neatly slipped Arnett into the discussion and then began talking about removing troops.

    Seems to me the author brought up VN
    - making a third parallel, so to speak. And Arnett annoys me.
    Bill Heuisler


    Timothy Furnish - 3/29/2006

    Gentlemen,
    I enjoy an experience-based rhubarb about Vietnam as much as the next vet, but...can we get back to whether Iraq is Algeria redux?


    Jonathan Dresner - 3/27/2006

    Mr. Heuisler was a victim of the HNN comment system, which often has difficulty with converting long URLs to proper hyperlinks. I've fixed his link to what he intended, and the bibliography on that page is indeed the one that Mr. Rodden included.

    What Mr. Heuisler hasn't acknowledged is that Mr. Rodden might indeed have read those books (I've been known to cut and paste material instead of recreating it from memory and typing it myself), and that they are high-quality histories and entirely relevant to the discussion.


    Bill Heuisler - 3/26/2006

    Mr. Rodden, you wrote,
    "I have done extensive reading and research about this conflict for the past 20 years. If you have not read Herring's great book, do so. I would also recommend..."

    Your sentence speaks for itself. The attempt to exhibit great scholarship failed when I merely selected all of your list and (amazing!) it came up on google already prepared by others.

    Nixon ran on peace with honor. His opponent, McGovern ran on an anti-war ticket. Nixon won in the largest landslide in US history. Since you don't seem able to grasp the point, the American voters rejected those anti-war protestors in almost every state in the US and continue to do so every time there's an election on the issue. The anti-war movement is an attempt to reverse the democratic decisions of the voters through mob action. Get the point yet?

    Never mind. Too complex for you. Go find me another list on another web site to show off your erudition.
    Bill Heuisler




    Glenn Rodden - 3/26/2006

    BH:

    I was trying to direct you to some good books about the Vietnam War, but you obviously want to avoid any facts that do not agree with your warped views of the world. That is you choice. I will leave you to live in your fantasy world.

    And know I do not agree with you about Nixon's two campaigns for president. In 1968, he ran on a platform of a secret peace plan to end the war, not to continue the war indefinitely. That is a fact. In 1972, Nixon ran on a platform based on Vietnamization, not continuing the war. That is a fact. You can continue to ignore facts that you do not like (just like the Bush) administration or you can start dealing with the real world.

    "Many similar prolix Leftist phonies who hate this country and President, have enough real education to pull off a scam like yours, but you don't have the sophistication."

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here and at this point I do not care. I leave you with this advise. Try reading a couple of the books I cited in my previous post about why the US supported the French in 1949 to re-establish colonial rule in Vietnam. If you cannot understand US policy in 1949 you will never understand the rest of the US war in Vietnam.


    Bill Heuisler - 3/26/2006

    Rodden,
    Who are you trying to impress ?
    When you cut and paste a reading list, at least change a few things.

    http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/...word=VIETNAM%20WAR&enc=49620

    Each of your long-winded harangues agreed with me on specifics, but replaced reality with inept opinion. Nixon anti war? "the Chinese said so more than once...? Where was this?
    Opinions without facts/references or sources only betray inexperience.

    Many similar prolix Leftist phonies who hate this country and President, have enough real education to pull off a scam like yours, but you don't have the sophistication.
    Bill Heuisler


    Glenn Rodden - 3/26/2006

    BH. You obviously have some left over issues from the Vietnam War that you are attempting to work out on this forum. I suggest you get help and stop making a fool out of yourself.

    You keep claiming that the US went to war in Vietnam to promote democracy, but we did just the opposite. The Truman administration supported the French effort to re-impose colonial rule in Vietnam in 1949 and in 1954 the Eisenhower administration blocked UN supported elections that would have unified Vietnam under the Vietminh. Ike then supported a corrupt puppet government that was dependent on US support.

    BH: "Truth is, you don't know diddley squat about, "facts on the ground in Vietnam". Your Left Wing slant on every issue drives that point home repeatedly. For instance, Tet was a huge victory and was reported as a setback by people like Cronkite."

    When all else fails, blame the media. The fact is that the US public stopped supporting the US war effort after the Tet Offensive because they realized that they were being lied to by American officials.

    BH:

    "Public opinion in '68? A majority of Americans suppported the war in 1972 when RMN was elected by a landslide. You're dead wrong again. Proof is the 1972 election. Where do you get such bad information? School?"

    Now that is some revisionist history that misrepresented the position Tricky Dicky. Nixon actually ran twice against the war. Nixon ran in 1968 and won by saying that he had a secret plan to END the war in Vietnam and in 1972 he won again by saying that he would withdrawal US troops under a negotiated settlement that brought us "Peace with Honor." He was able to beat McGovern because McGovern argued for immediate withdrawal. But the point is that both candidates ran against the war because they knew it could not be won and because public opinion had turned against the war.

    BH:

    "War with China is the biggest piece of speculation since Attila was called the Wrath of God. The NVA kicked the Chinese out of Laos with little trouble after the war and the Nixon Kissinger talks were opening new avenues the Chinese considered more valuable than Annam or Ho."

    I have no idea what you are trying to say here, but it is clear to me that the Chinese would not stand for a US invasion of North Vietnam and would have entered the conflict if we had invaded. How do I know? Because the Chinese said so more than once and because the had a history of following through with such threats. See the Korean War.

    BH:

    "Mr. Rodden, read McNamara's book"

    I have read McNamara's book on Vietnam. In that book he says that he regrets advising LBJ to escalate the war. I don't see how that supports you argument that the US could have won the war. BTW, you have never defined what victory would hhave meant.

    "and books by men who fought there like Westmoreland, Webb, North and Dye. McNamara tells how the strategy was flawed because they didn't want to unleash units like the 2nd Marines."

    You obviously misread McNamara's book. How many more Vietnamese did you want to kill? Two million was not enough for you?

    "The others earned the right to tell about our betrayal by politicians and by unelected anti war protestors who celebrated our casualties and rejoiced in our final retreat."

    Blame the media, blame "politicians", blame protestors, etc. As I stated before, I blame the policy-makers from both parties who sent US forces into the jungles of SEA for reasons that they could not explain.

    BH:

    "You are truly ignorant about the war in Viet Nam"

    You are wrong again. I have done extensive reading and research about this conflict for the past 20 years. If you have not read Herring's great book, do so. I would also recommend F. FitzGerald, Fire in the Lake (1972); D. Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (1972); G. Lewy, America in Vietnam (1978); R. Komer, Bureaucracy at War (1985); W. S. Turley, The Second Indochina War (1986); B. Diem, In the Jaws of History (1987); R. B. Smith, An International History of the Vietnam War (2 vol., 1987); N. Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie (1988); O. Lehrach, No Shining Armor (1992); J. L. Plaster, SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam (1997); M. Lind, Vietnam: The Necessary War (1999); F. Logevall, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (1999); R. S. McNamara et al., Argument without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (1999); L. Sorley, A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam (1999); A. J. Langguth, Our Vietnam: The War, 1954—1975 (2000); C. G. Appy, ed., Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (2003); D. Maraniss, They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October, 1967 (2003).

    That should keep you off the streets for a while and that is a good thing.


    "and each post compounds that ignorance combined with the obvious relish you take criticizing this country and President Bush."

    Bush is an idiot and he proves it every time he holds a press conference and stutters all over the room. The US public has turned against the Iraq War for the same reasons that they turned against the Vietnam War.

    BH:

    "Advice?"

    Oh boy. Free advice.

    "Bush will be gone in a few years,"

    With any luck he will be impeached and gone in a year.

    "but Islamofascism will be here for decades or generations."

    You have been reading too much Christopher Hitichens. No one is buying this nonsense any more.

    "US weakness and anti-war protestors have already encouraged Saddam OBL, Zawahiri and Zarqawi to persevere."

    When was the last time you talked to any of these people and what does any of it have to do with the War in Iraq?

    "They have written as much. Or do you want to blame that on Rove too?"

    So, you have gone from believing in communist propaganda to fascist propaganda. Good night.

    "Debate with facts."

    Advice that you should take.

    "Reread your last post. Herring was the only fact or source you produced."

    Look a few paragraphs above. That is a short list of books that I have read on the Vietnam War. Do you want the long list?

    "Like I said, your opinions don't mean anything to me or to most who read HNN and are interested in history and facts."

    Your ego is out of control when you start speaking for other people. You would not know a fact if one bit you in the butt.


    Bill Heuisler - 3/25/2006

    Mr. Rodden,
    Yes, I am one of my primary sources.
    Bravo Company, Ist Battalion 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division. My serial number is 1695349, I saw some, got some and carry around a small steel souvenir in my scapula.
    Your armchair platitudes would be comical if the subject weren't so serious and important to the US.

    Truth is, you don't know diddley squat about, "facts on the ground in Vietnam". Your Left Wing slant on every issue drives that point home repeatedly. For instance, Tet was a huge victory and was reported as a setback by people like Cronkite.

    Public opinion in '68? A majority of Americans suppported the war in 1972 when RMN was elected by a landslide. You're dead wrong again. Proof is the 1972 election. Where do you get such bad information? School?

    War with China is the biggest piece of speculation since Attila was called the Wrath of God. The NVA kicked the Chinese out of Laos with little trouble after the war and the Nixon Kissinger talks were opening new avenues the Chinese considered more valuable than Annam or Ho.

    You cannot disregard Giap and Tin as to their reception of the anti-war people and their effect on their own strategic policies. Their words are testament. They have no reason to lie about something so obvious. You should give sources/facts to counter the words, not childish name-calling.

    And "victory" in VN at its worst would've been the same as the set piece truce in Korea. That's what LBJ and JFK had said they wanted and that's what Giap and Tin said they were ready to accede to after the Tet disaster where they lost some 100,000 Viet Cong irregulars and control of four provinces.

    Mr. Rodden, read McNamara's book and books by men who fought there like Westmoreland, Webb, North and Dye. McNamara tells how the strategy was flawed because they didn't want to unleash units like the 2nd Marines. The others earned the right to tell about our betrayal by politicians and by unelected anti war protestors who celebrated our casualties and rejoiced in our final retreat.

    You are truly ignorant about the war in Viet Nam and each post compounds that ignorance combined with the obvious relish you take criticizing this country and President Bush.

    Advice? Bush will be gone in a few years, but Islamofascism will be here for decades or generations. US weakness and anti-war protestors have already encouraged Saddam OBL, Zawahiri and Zarqawi to persevere. They have written as much. Or do you want to blame that on Rove too?

    Debate with facts. Reread your last post. Herring was the only fact or source you produced. Like I said, your opinions don't mean anything to me or to most who read HNN and are interested in history and facts.
    Bill Heuisler


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 3/25/2006

    BH:

    "Your being a vet makes your words even more tragic. This is a history site. Your claims and opinions may be possibilities, but they are certainly not history."

    I fully realize this is a history site, but I wonder if you do. You typically treat this site like right-wing radio.

    BH:

    "The anti-war movement weakened our resolve, lengthened the war (as evidenced by statements of Gen. Giap and Col. Tin you conveniently ignore)resulted in more US casualties and convinced the majority Democrats to renege on our treaty with South VN. That is reality."

    You are staking your argument on the memoirs of a colonel who did not make policy in North or South Vietnam. No historian that I know would make such grand conclusions from such limited evidence. If you want to read good histories of the American War in Vietnam, start with George Herring's AMERICA'S LONGEST WAR. Herring actually uses primary source material from US archives.

    BH:

    "The anti-war movement weakened our resolve, lengthened the war (as evidenced by statements of Gen. Giap and Col. Tin you conveniently ignore)resulted in more US casualties and convinced the majority Democrats to renege on our treaty with South VN. That is reality."

    That is your opinion, not reality. The facts on the ground in Vietnam turned US public opinion against the war. What weakened our "resolve" was that after the TET offensive in 1968, the US public realized that the Vietnam War unwinnable. The US military also reached that conclusion in 1968. Again I would encourage you to read some of the excellent books on this subject.

    BH:

    "Will you deny my statements? Do so.
    But present arguments instead of tiresome Leftist talking points."

    Yes I will. You have not presented any arguments. You have only repeatedly nonsense that you have gleaned from right-wing media.

    BH:

    "We won every battle. We bled without the political will for victory."

    This is typical right-wing thinking. What would have been "victory" in Vietnam? Invading North Vietnam, as you suggested, would not have brought an end to the conflict. It would have brought China in the war and led to the deaths of millions of more people in Southeast Asia. How many deaths are enough for you?

    "We died to take ground, only to abandon it."

    No kidding. We completely misunderstood the nature of the war.

    "We wanted to invade the North, but were not allowed."

    Who is this we? Were you on the ground in Vietnam? I don't know many US soldiers who wanted to invade North Vietnam.

    "We wanted to destroy the enemy, but civilian leaders did not have the will."

    Again. The body count was not high enough for you?

    "Do not send Americans unless you mean to win. That's the lesson of Vietnam."

    Again. What constituted victory in Vietnam? The destruction of the North Vietnamese government? The complete annihilitation of the Vietnamese people? What? The lesson of the Vietnam War is not to invade other countries based on lies. The current Bush administration has yet to learn that lesson.

    BH:

    "Anti-war ideologues oppose the US in each war and they seek US defeat. To defend them is to defend our enemy."

    Thank you Karl Rove.


    Bill Heuisler - 3/24/2006

    Mr. Rodden,
    Your being a vet makes your words even more tragic. This is a history site. Your claims and opinions may be possibilities, but they are certainly not history.

    You use the term, "impose their will" when JFK, LBJ and RMN quite obviously were trying to prevent the imposition of the Northern Communist
    "will" of Ho Chi Minh. Believe their words or not, but yours is a very decidedly minority opinion. In your world, the NVA were correct to kill and imprison people who didn't share
    their poisonous ideology. Were you correct, hundreds of thousands of people would not have been killed and imprisoned trying to flee a Communist takeover.

    To say, "right-wing mythology blames the peace movement for the war itself." is not only false, but misstates the so-called "mythology".

    The anti-war movement weakened our resolve, lengthened the war (as evidenced by statements of Gen. Giap and Col. Tin you conveniently ignore)resulted in more US casualties and convinced the majority Democrats to renege on our treaty with South VN. That is reality.

    Will you deny my statements? Do so.
    But present arguments instead of tiresome Leftist talking points.

    We won every battle. We bled without the political will for victory. We died to take ground, only to abandon it. We wanted to invade the North, but were not allowed. We wanted to destroy the enemy, but civilian leaders did not have the will. Do not send Americans unless you mean to win. That's the lesson of Vietnam.

    Anti-war ideologues oppose the US in each war and they seek US defeat. To defend them is to defend our enemy.
    Bill Heuisler


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 3/24/2006

    Mr. Heuisler:

    I do not think that the US war in Vietnam was a joke. I am a US Army veteran myself and I do not think that the mis-use of military force is a laughing matter.

    The Vietnam War was a tragic mistake made by uninformed leaders in this country who thought they could impose their will on a country in Southeast Asia that they knew nothing about. We are repeating the same mistake in Iraq today.

    I am aware that current right-wing mythology blames the peace movement for the war itself. That is a ridiculous argument that is made to support the current war in Iraq. The Vietnamese have a long history of resisting foreign domination and they did not need any encouragement from the US anti-war movement. Prior to the US war in Vietnam, the Vietnamese had fought the Chinese for 1,000, the French for 100 years and the US for 30 years.



    Bill Heuisler - 3/24/2006

    Mr. Rodden,
    Mr. Grimsley asked. I answered with the best information available.

    If NVA Colonel Bui Tin is not a source you consider serious, please provide me with better sources and information on the North Vietnam Army than him and General Giap. If you cannot, then please respond with a more substantive comment.

    Or better, buy his Book.
    "From Enemy To Friend: A North Vietnamese Perspective on the War"

    Book Description from Amazon:
    "Introduction by James Webb. In a question and answer format that simulates an in-depth interview, Bui Tin, a former colonel in the North Vietnamese Army shares his insights into many aspects of the Vietnam War. Once a presidential palace guard for Ho Chi Minh and a participant in the decisive battle of the French-Indochina War at Dien Bien Phu, he later served as a frontline commander and war correspondent in the fighting against the United States. In 1973 Colonel Tin was an official spokesman for the North Vietnamese delegation that arranged the return of American POWs and rode a tank onto the presidential palace grounds in Saigon to accept the South Vietnamese surrender. In September 1990, he left Vietnam to reside in Paris, where he has become a leading critic of the Hanoi leadership.
    Believing that a dialogue between old enemies is both desirable and necessary for the well being of the two nations, Bui Tin is open-minded and candid in his views about the policies and operations of the Vietnamese and U.S. governments. In the book he addresses such matters as the performance of U.S. military forces, varying strategies that might have yielded different outcomes, and the degree of involvement by the Soviet Union and Communist China along with a thought-provoking analysis of the long struggle that eventually brought his side victory but, ultimately, personal disappointment and alienation. To enhance the dialogue, some of his views are supported and others are challenged in a stimulating foreword by the Emmy Award-winning writer, former secretary of the Navy, and outspoken Vietnam War hero, James Webb. The result is a book that offers a rare glimpse into the mind of an enemy we never fully understood."

    You may think the US experience in the Vietnam War is a joke or a well-deserved defeat, Mr. Rodden, but the experience has left scars and the anti-war movement has much to answer for. Do you disagree? Well, perhaps Colonel Tin can provide some of the answers and you can make fun of him.
    Bill Heuisler


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 3/23/2006

    Mr. Morgan:

    Thank you for an insightful article. I agree with your initial assumption that the Algerian and Iraq wars are both unwinnable. Both are civil wars that cannot be "won" by foreign armies.

    Mr. Thomas thinks otherwise. He writes:

    "The Algerian matter was handled poorly by the French, and so they lost."

    What do you mean by "handled poorly"? The French forces inflicted between 300,000 to one million casualties on the Algerians. Should they have killed more?

    "But they had no modern intel nor weaponry to rely upon,"

    This is nonsense. The French Army was superior to the Algerian guerrilla forces.

    "no Sunni-Shia-Kurd-Assyrian ethnic divide, etc."

    How many ethnic divisions are in Algeria? Do you have any idea?

    "Can you imagine how long the bands of Algerian horsemen in the hills would have lasted if the French side had IR satellites, armed drones, C-130 gunships, etc?"

    What makes you think that Algerians all fought on horseback? What is your source for this information?

    "But even without those advantages, the French lost for a particular reason: they gave up."

    But why did the French "give up"? How long did the French fight the Algerian nationalist movement and why did they fight that movement?

    "You are proposing that we act just like the French,"

    You are missing Morgan's point. He is telling us that we should learn from the past and not draw only the anaolgies that we want. For example, the Bush administration keep comparing the Iraq War with WWII and its aftermath in Europe. Morgan has provided us with a more accurate parallel.

    "who have not exactly covered themselves with glory in recent warfare. If we do that, of course we will lose."

    Morgan is telling us that we are acting like the French by attempting to suppress a nationalist movement through force in Iraq.

    "What I see of your article appears just more peaceniky, silly non-sequiturs."

    When you get over your infantile name-calling please consider what Morgan is actually writing about.

    "You far too quickly come to the decision that the only way is US withdrawal,"

    What is the alternative? Is the Bush administration planning on remaining in Iraq forever?

    "which would lead to real civil war,"

    What do you call what is happening in Iraq today? Neo-civil war?

    "not the inept effort to jump start one which the Sunni minority and the imports now so weakly put forth."

    If the insurgency is so weak then why are some 140,000 US forces still in Iraq and why is there no timetable for their withdrawal?

    "Want 5 million dead settling this thing? All that is needed is to pull us out."

    During the last round of sectarian violence, US troops were ordered to remain on their bases, so how is their presence avoiding a civil war.

    "It would be a real French solution, like the Revolution."

    I suspect you are writing about the French not the American revolution.


    Glenn Scott Rodden - 3/23/2006

    So, now you believe communist propaganda?


    Bill Heuisler - 3/23/2006

    Mr. Grimsley,
    Check Saturday, May 1, 2004 on Reuters News Service

    "Celebrating the 29th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the North Vietnamese general who led his forces to victory said Friday he was grateful to leaders of the U.S. anti-war movement, one of whom was presidential candidate John Kerry.
    'I would like to thank them,' said Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, now 93, without mentioning Kerry by name. 'Any forces that wish to impose their will on other nations will surely fail,' he added."

    Recall this was during our Presidential campaign.

    In an interview with the Wall Street Journal after his retirement, North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin - who served under Gen. Giap on the general staff of the NVA and received the South's surrender in 1975 - explicitly credited leaders of the U.S. anti-war movement, saying they were
    "essential to our strategy."
    "Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9AM to follow the growth of the antiwar movement," Col. Tin told the Journal. Visits to Hanoi by Kerry anti-war allies Jane Fonda and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and others, he said, "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." he said. "Through dissent and protest (America) lost the ability to mobilize a will to win," Col. Tin concluded.

    Reuters and the WSJ. Good enough?
    Bill Heuisler


    Mark Grimsley - 3/22/2006

    Could you cite evidence re NVN leaders ready to throw in the towel in 1969 but for US protesters?

    Also, what do you make of the fact the US policymakers at the highest levels conducted a thorough review of US policy in SVN after Tet and concluded gradual disengagement was the only viable solution? This policy was continued by the Nixon administration, which stayed the course, despite growing popular disenchantment with the war, until the Paris Peace Accord in January 1973. In other words, however objectionable US protesters may have been to you--and I can certainly imagine how difficult it must have been to feel thus unsupported--I do not see a compelling case that the protests were a major factor, one way or the other.


    Frederick Thomas - 3/21/2006


    Thanks for a good post. As one who was there and experienced a total allied victory and peace within my 4 province AO in RVN, to be all thrown away later, I have a number of painful memories to consider.

    The leaders of the North have all said afterward that they were ready to throw in the towel in 1969, but were encouraged by the support for them in the US to continue.

    The results were another million Vietnamese killed, plus another 15,000 Americans, plus after the war another million killed in purges and reeducation, followed by the failure of collective farming and socialism generally, which was quietly dumped about 10 years ago.

    This is a large bill, which should be placed at the feet of the former idealistic protestors, who have no clue what a stupidity they have committed. There are thousands of deaths on the head of each protestor, and many years of enslavement of an entire nation. I would not like that on my head.


    Mark Grimsley - 3/21/2006

    It may be that the French could somehow have won their war, but I agree with Morgan insofar as he believes the United States cannot win the war in Iraq. That's because, in the nature of the case, we have deliberately -- and, to be fair, unavoidably once we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom -- ceded winning or losing the conflict to the post-Saddam era Iraqi government. In this respect, I think the closer parallel is to the Vietnam War.

    In Vietnam, nothing the United States did could offset the weaknesses of the RVN government. The Iraqi government may prove more successful, but the best the U.S. can do is to assist. Situations like this may sometimes be unavoidable, but I sharply question whether a nation should deliberately choose to undertake a war in which success or failure ultimately lies in the hands of another entity.

    My father once told me, "Never place a bet unless you can control the odds." Change "place a bet" to "go to war" and it's still good counsel.


    Frederick Thomas - 3/20/2006

    Mr. Morgan:

    Your first comparison says much:

    "The first (point) is that both wars are unwinnable."

    If you were in court, the opposing attorney would object that you are making a presumption of facts not in evidence, ie a non-sequitur.

    The Algerian matter was handled poorly by the French, and so they lost. But they had no modern intel nor weaponry to rely upon, no Sunni-Shia-Kurd-Assyrian ethnic divide, etc. Can you imagine how long the bands of Algerian horsemen in the hills would have lasted if the French side had IR satellites, armed drones, C-130 gunships, etc? But even without those advantages, the French lost for a particular reason: they gave up.

    You are proposing that we act just like the French, who have not exactly covered themselves with glory in recent warfare. If we do that, of course we will lose.

    What I see of your article appears just more peaceniky, silly non-sequiturs. You far too quickly come to the decision that the only way is US withdrawal, which would lead to real civil war, not the inept effort to jump start one which the Sunni minority and the imports now so weakly put forth.

    Want 5 million dead settling this thing? All that is needed is to pull us out. It would be a real French solution, like the Revolution.

    By the way, in Vietnam we called guys who had your job "Saigon Cammandos." There was a song about them:

    "The Saigon Cammandos all wear the Bronze Star

    They got it for writing reports on the war

    They've never been shot at or seen a VC

    But you know that they earned it-

    They worked for MACV!"

    I would loved to have read a detailed, insightful post, and invite you to try again. I have studied the Algerian COIN and believe that a proper explanation of the outcome needs a lot of grunt work to be useful.


    Bill Heuisler - 3/19/2006

    Mr. Morgan,
    Quoting Peter Arnett ruined a rather interesting article. He is very anti-American and has been caught in many lies and embellishments that tend to help those on the Left of a conflict and hurt those resisting despotism.

    Use of that infamous quote gave me pause and made me wonder about your sources and judgement. Destroying what you're trying to save is so moronic...and yet fits your thesis so well. Arnett has often been asked to verify that putative quote, but has never been able to produce the American Officer's name. Couldn't you have found another more reliable defining quotation?

    Arnett was the on-air reporter of the 1998 CNN report that accused American forces of using sarin gas on a Laotian village in 1970 to kill U.S. defectors. The report was found to be completely false - made up to injure the United States. Two CNN employees were sacked and Arnett was reprimanded over the report, which the station later retracted. Arnett ultimately left the network.

    Why pick him? Do you admire his work?
    Bill Heuisler

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