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Commentary ::
FOX News expert says US handling of Iraq is like Vietnam
08 Apr 2004
"the American civilian leadership in Baghdad seems determined to pretend that failure is success. That's what happened before, back in 'Nam."
Vietnam war tactic might work in Iraq
Dodge City Daily Globe Online, April 8, 2004

The United States can win every battle and still lose the war. Those words will sound familiar to those who remember Vietnam -- and who think ahead to Iraq's future.

One who knows both wars well is Bill Cowan, who spent two decades in the Marines, including 31/2 years in Vietnam at the peak of the fighting. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1985, bringing home three Purple Hearts and 14 personal commendations. He has worked in the counterterrorism field ever since; he also is a military analyst for the Fox News Channel (where I, too, am a contributor).

So what does he think about the situation in Iraq right now, as Americans confront insurgents all over the country? "The bad news offsets the good," he answers. Applying his warrior's wisdom, Cowan is particularly critical of Sunday's military operation in Baghdad, in which U.S. troops shut down the offices of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In the fighting, seven Americans were killed and an additional two dozen were wounded.

"It was a big mistake to send Americans to directly confront the Iraqis. If you send Americans into situations like that, you will create more enemies than you destroy. You have to use Iraqis against Iraqis."

But isn't that what we have been doing? After all, according to the Coalition Provisional Authority, some 75,000 Iraqi police are now on the job. "But if you look at the Pentagon's own report," Cowan observes, "only about 3,000 are fully trained. Most of the rest are just simply on the payroll."

Some might wonder whether any Iraqis are reliable allies. For months now, reports have trickled back here that Iraqi cops have betrayed, even murdered, Americans. And over the weekend, on-the-payroll Iraqis in Baghdad and Basra openly sided with the Shiite insurgents.

Cowan acknowledges that locals aren't always reliable. Which is why he advocates utilizing Iraqis in a completely different way -- not as stand-alone, stand-apart units, but fully integrated with Americans. Reaching back to his own experience in Vietnam, he calls for a revival of the Kit Carson Scouts program, which used Vietnamese as scouts and paramilitaries right alongside U.S. forces.

The idea was to patiently train and encourage locals for the new task -- all the while watching them closely. And while it wasn't foolproof, the program worked well, the Marine veteran recalls: "They knew the language as natives, they knew the culture."

Cowan's idea is to do the same thing in Iraq. It's Kit-Carsonized Iraqis who should be leading the way into Fallujah, for example. But Cowan stipulates that they must work closely with Americans: "With our guys by them, they will get good intel, good communication, air support, and that will inspire them to do a good job in rooting out bad guys."

Can such operations be brutal? Cowan shrugs, saying in effect that all war is hell. But, he insists, being culturally simpatico is the key to success: "Iraqis will accept brutality from other Iraqis, but not from foreigners."

Some might protest that the United States was not successful in Vietnam, to which Cowan responds that the war was lost at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield. That's a debate that's raged for three decades now -- but in the meantime, it's hard to argue that the current Iraq plan is working well.

So why hasn't the Kit Carson program been revived? Cowan blames the American administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer. "He has total disdain for the U.S. military. He rejects any program that goes back to Vietnam, no matter how successful." Instead, Cowan continues, Bremer has been busy "trying to instill a utopian democracy" in Iraq. But, nothing good will happen, the veteran concludes, without gaining security first.

Cowan knows combat and counterinsurgency firsthand. So when he warns against the current tactics in Iraq, one might expect the war hawks to pay him heed. Unless, of course, he is correct in his assessment of the American civilian leadership in Baghdad, which seems determined to pretend that failure is success. That's what happened before, back in 'Nam.
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FOX News Sucks!
08 Apr 2004
Re: FOX News expert says US handling of Iraq is like Vietnam
09 Apr 2004
Why are you so obsessed with Vietnam.

Are you hoping that the deaths of American troops will lead to defeating Bush like it did with Nixon?

yea!!! Now you can rejoice with Corporado Kerry at the helm... yeah, yeah, yeah. Three more cheers for John Kerry, yeah, yeah, yeah.