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Unformatted text preview: inforcem ents and m ade it difficult to
find s tranded units . Soldiers felt they were on their own.
More im portant, by altering the way the war was fought, the Viet Cong s tripped the United States of its belief in
the inevitability of victory, as it had done to the French before them . Morale was high when thes e arm ies firs t went to Vietnam . Only after m any years of debilitating and dem oralizing fighting did Hanoi launch its decis ive
attacks , at Dienbienphu in 1954 and agains t Saigon in 1975. It s hould be recalled that in the final pus h to victory
the North Vietnam es e abandoned their jungle guerrilla tactics com pletely, com m itting their entire arm y of twenty
divis ions to pus hing the South Vietnam es e into collaps e. This final battle, with the enem y's arm y all in one
place, was the one that the United States had des perately wanted to fight in 1965. When it did com e out into the
open in 1975, Was hington had already withdrawn its forces and there was no pos s ibility of re-intervention.
The Japanes e early in World War 11 us ed a m odem form of the indirect attack, one that relied on s tealth and
s urpris e for its effect. At Pearl Harbor, in the Philippines , and in Southeas t As ia, s tealth and s urpris e were
attained by s ailing under radio s ilence s o that the navy's m ovem ents could not be tracked. Moving troops
aboard s hips into Southeas t As ia m ade it appear that the Japanes e arm y was als o "invis ible." Attacks agains t
Hawaii and Singapore s eem ed, to the Am erican and Britis h defenders , to com e from nowhere. In Indones ia
and the Philippines the Japanes e attack was even fas ter than the Germ an blitz agains t France in the Wes t.
The greates t m ilitary s urpris es in Am erican his tory have all been in As ia. Surely there is s om ething going on
here beyond the purely technical difficulties of detecting enem y m ovem ents . Pearl Harbor, the Chines e
intervention in Korea, and the Tet offens ive in Vietnam all cam e out of a tradition of s urpris e and s tealth. U.S.
technical intelligence â€“ the location of enem y units and their m ovem ents was greatly im proved after each
s urpris e, but with no noticeable im provem ent in the Am erican ability to fores ee or prepare what would happen
next. There is a cultural divide here, not jus t a technical one. Even when it was pos s ible to track an arm y with
intelligence s atellites , as when Iraq invaded Kuwait or when Syria and Egypt attacked Is rael, s urpris e was
achieved. The United States was s tunned by Iraq's attack on Kuwait even though it had s atellite pictures of Iraqi
troops m as s ing at the border.
The exception that proves the point that cultural differences obs cure the Wes t's unders tanding of As ian behavior
was the Soviet Union's 1979 invas ion of Afghanis tan. This was fully anticipated and unders tood in advance.
There was no s urpris e becaus e the United States unders tood Mos cow's world view and thinking. It could
anticipate Soviet action alm os t as well as the...
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- Summer '14