You say To-MA-to, I say, To-MAH-to...
"You say po-TA-to, I say, po-TAH-to,
Let's call the whole thing off"
Let's call the whole thing off"
I believe it is a mistake to look to the Vietnam experience as the template for the guerilla-type of war being conducted in Iraq. I have commented previously on this site that the Iraq experience is closer in tone to the IRA campaigns in Northern Ireland.
It would be wise for the U.S. military trainers to resurrect and mine Carlos Marighella's Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla for concepts that are relevant to Iraq. The U.S. government will not admit it, but a guerilla war is what we're fighting in Iraq.
We won't accept that guerillas are trying to evict the U.S. occupying forces. We prefer to call the fighters insurgents or terrorists, who are trying to overthrow the Iraqi government, but this cannot be proven to be true. It adds legitimacy to our project to imply that the fighters are simply the occasional irregular band, a fire which can be doused with assiduous application of force.
However, we err in not correctly applying defining terms. An insurgent is attempting to topple a legitimate government. If the Iraqi fighters are insurgents, then they are aiming to topple a puppet government they see as installed at the behest of the U.S. regime.
If they are guerillas, they are trying to expulse the foreign occupiers, i.e, the U.S. forces. Either way, we are implicated as the enemy. It is not a good scenario for the U.S. fighting man, either way you cut it.
The mistaken stereotypical western military thinking is that insurgencies or guerilla wars can be won by building roads, airfields, hospitals and schools, and creating large police forces and armies. The Republic of Vietnam had a large, well-equipped police force and military apparatus. The U.S. built schools, hospitals and even bowling alleys, but this did not address the key issue.
The driving force behind guerilla and insurgent movements in the third world is pride. Yes, national or religious pride, which cannot be pimped off with dollars. North Vietnam preferred bombing to U.S. domination. The Viet Cong accepted horrendous casualties to battle a foreign invader (first France, then the U.S.) The Vietnamese even resisted Japanese occupation when the Vichy French wholly cooperated with the Japanese.
The fact is, nobody likes an invading, conquering army, even if it builds bowling alleys. So much for the hope of a placated, Arab Dude Lebowski. In fact, the term guerilla was coined by Spanish fighters resisting the overwhelming combat power of Napoleon's invading army. History is replete with examples of guerillas fighting and dying, often to the last man, even though the odds againts them are hopeless. The resistance in Russia and France to Nazi occupation are instructive case studies.
With the guidance of T. E. Lawrence, the primitive Arab guerilla forces humbled the great army of the Ottoman Turks. Although this was an advanced stage of guerilla warfare, it illustrates, the resolve and determination of the present generation of Iraqi guerillas. Today's Iraqi guerillas are every bit as motivated and tenacious as their forefathers.
I doubt that roads, schools or hospitals will remove their will to dominate the affairs of their nation. In the new paradigm of asymmetrical warfare, you are dealing with underdogs who will enlist any resource, including traditional combat. America used to understand the underdog.