08/30/07 - vietnamization

In today's encore excerpt - Republican Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense and successor to Robert McNamara under Richard Nixon from 1968 forward. Laird was the architect of 'Vietnamization' -- the ceding of the military burden to South Vietnam and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. Two years ago, in the influential journal Foreign Affairs, Laird led the plea for immediate withdrawal from Iraq in this unheeded article -- arguing that the very presence of U.S. soldiers was what fed the insurgency:

"... in Iraq, the United States should not let too many more weeks pass before it shows its confidence in the training of the Iraqi armed forces by withdrawing a few thousand U.S. troops from the country. We owe it to the restive people back home to let them know there is an exit strategy, and, more important, we owe it to the Iraqi people. The readiness of the Iraqi forces need not be 100 percent, nor must the new democracy be perfect before we begin our withdrawal. The immediate need is to show our confidence that the Iraqis can take care of Iraq on their own terms. OUR PRESENCE IS WHAT FEEDS THE INSURGENCY, [emphasis added] and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency. ...

"For each round of troop withdrawals from Vietnam, the Joint Chiefs suggested a miserly number based on what they thought they still needed to win the war. I bumped those numbers up, always in counsel with General Creighton Abrams, then the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. Even Nixon, who had promised to end the war, accepted each troop withdrawal request from me grudgingly. ... I never once publicly promised a troop number that I couldn't deliver. President Bush should move ahead with the same certainty."


Melvin R. Laird


'Iraq: Learning the Lessons of Vietnam'


Foreign Affairs


November/December 2005


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