Petraeus's dissertation on Vietnam posted online
A liberal blogger has posted the Princeton PhD dissertation of US commander David Petraeus. The dissertation, dated 1987, concerned,"The American military and the lessons of Vietnam: A study of military influence and the use of force in the post-Vietnam era."
Blogger Brian Beutler quotes this section of the dissertation:
[M]any in the military believe that the United States armed forces can win small wars if allowed to do so. Those who hold this view tend to believe that Vietnam was less an illustration of the limitations of American military power than an example of what happens if that power is limited and not used to best advantage. This feeling springs from a conviction that the U.S. military in Vietnam were so hemmed in by restrictions that they could not accomplish their mission. The lesson for those of this persuasion, therefore, is that the military must be given a freer hand in future military operations. Even among the most fervent believers in this logic, however, there is a new recognition that the world is more intractable, and intervention with U.S. troops more problematic. Even those who remain confident that the U.S. could win a protracted small war, if allowed to do so, are acutely sensitive to what General Maxwell Taylor has described as thegreat diffiiculty in rallying this country behind a foreign issue involving the use of armed force, which does not provide an identified enemy posing a clear threat to our homeland or the vital interests of long time friends....
[W]e should beware of literal application of lessons extracted from Vietnam, or any other past event, to present or future problems without due regard for the specific circumstances that surround those problems. Study of Vietnam--and of other historical occurrences--should endeavor to gain perspective and understanding, rather than hard and fast lessons that might be applied too easily without proper reflection and sufficiently rigorous analysis.
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