By off-site request, the CENTCOM commander’s 1987 “The American Military and the Lessons From Vietnam: A Study of American Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era,” is now posted at Little Alex in Wonderland.

On Facebook, Professor Gary Chartier posted a great article from The Nation by Nick Turse from earlier this week, “The Pentagon Book Club“. I highly recommend anyone with a conscience read it.

Prof. Chartier notes Mr. Turse’s comment toward the end:

There’s a moment in Petraeus’s dissertation when he pauses to take stock of the “impact of America’s longest war” and its fallout. He devotes not a word to Vietnamese civilians. There’s no mention of women with shrapnel still lurking beneath their skin, or the men with faces melted years ago by incendiary weapons, or the inconsolable people still grieving for mothers, fathers, siblings and children gunned down decades ago. Instead, Petraeus wrote, without apparent irony, that “the psychic scars of the war may be deepest among the Army and Marine Corps leadership.”

General David Petraeus is the Commander of U.S. Central Command, the center theater-level command unit of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Middle East, Egypt and Central Asia. In 1987, early in his career, he received a Ph.D. in international relations from Princeton University, while an assistant professor of international relations at West Point.

A Mr. Wilson asked if the dissertation, “The American Military and the Lessons From Vietnam: A Study of American Influence and the Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era,” was online and the link I provided to the National Defense University library had a broken link. Luckily, I had a copy on a drive, so I uploaded it here if anyone wants to read it, use it as a reference, check context or whatever. To view it in your browser as a .pdf, click here; for direct download, right-click here and click ‘Save Link As’.

Gen. Petraeus’ dissertation, composed for his Ph.D., is a description of crisis and organizational decision-making by military hierarchy in Korea, Indochina, Laos and Vietnam with their impact on the processes used during operations from Yom Kippur (1973) through Lebanon (1982-84), Grenada (1983) and Central America (1981-87) among others; the impact of public opinion and the separation of powers in the U.S. government on military action; and ‘lessons’ from this 40-50 span.

Don’t let the 343-page .pdf deter you, though. It is double-spaced and heavily footnoted (duh!). One could easily bang it out in a weekend, a Realpolitik wonk-dork like me (and likely you) in an afternoon. If you want a quality cheat sheet, The Washington Post printed key quotes here in 2007, but an even better short realist report was compiled by Andrew Bacevich, for The Atlantic, called “The Petraeus Doctrine” [.pdf]

I knee-jerk responded, late last night, to the post:

It’s the sick truth that [not] devoting a word to civilians’ well-being is common. You see it in every study and the reason is clear: that it’s clear to academics/the intellectual class that the civilians of the countries invaded are irrelevant to the interests of those controlling the U.S. end of the wars. That is unless they’re in the way of the actual interests and need to be ‘convinced’ their interests must conform. “Winning hearts and minds” isn’t as poetic as its made out to be. It isn’t about appealing or being a positive force in people’s lives. The phrase is much more literal: the imperative isn’t justice, security, etc. The end result of a successful COIN operation is a U.S.-friendly government that has recurring elections, but enough power [in] the [institutional] authority to continue serving those interests–the power to exclude election candidates that would threaten the master’s interests and the force capacity to deter dissent from a significant portion of the domestic population.

COIN theory is to literally win by submission, knockout if necessary. Things don’t play out as they do by accident. The atrocities of COIN operations are exactly the purpose of COIN: use terrorism to gain a client state.

Mr. Wilson asked if I had read it and yes, I have. First, in ’08 as a consultant during the election season and again, last year, as a junior researcher on the Council task force “Religion and the Making of American Foreign Policy“. He “wanted to see whether the claim” in Mr. Turse’s article “is true, and two, whether the comment about the exclusion is within the scope of the dissertation”, which is extremely fair, so I noted:

My general comment on COIN kinda’ answers what you might be wondering—about whether the social costs of Vietnamese being within the scope of the dissertation; they’re not. Of the many “Lessons of Vietnam”, it’s that the military used state-on-state methods to fight a state-on-nonstate irregular (SNSI) war. The commonly accepted method for SNSI is COIN, which is heavily pushed by Petraeus in the dissertation. The social costs of civilian populations are not in the COIN algorithm and trust me, every COIN algorithm looks like a labyrinth of variables as it is. When they invade the algorithm, the efficiency approach is to not to change the conditions of the population but a way for that condition to not be *your* cost, maximizing the shift of equity in said cost to *them*.

  1. […] fact is that the operations in Afghanistan revolve around modifications of the Petraeus Doctrine of COIN. Another fact is that COIN is a complex, multi-faceted effort to ‘save’ a ‘failed […]

  2. […] on insurgency, Iraq, Afghanistan, David Petraeus, and war fighting in general. I then proceeded to Google Petraeus’ dissertation and downloaded it. Maybe sometime I will get around to reading the nearly 300 page .pdf […]

  3. […] is the guy who with not one day of combat experience developed the United States military “Use of Force in the Post-Vietnam Era” policy. In doing so, he of course completely ignored every tenet of warfare dating back to Sun […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s