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Military Assistance Command, Vietnam: The Imperative of Pol-Mil Unity. ACSC Quick-Look 05-12

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Composition. The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam MACV, was established in 1962 to support a more active U.S. operational effort in the war against communist insurgents in South Vietnam. Two years later, MACV absorbed the Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Vietnam MAAG, when General William Westmoreland assumed command. The MAAG continued to assist the development of the South Vietnamese Armed Forces, but the command change fragmented its operational efforts among the MACV staff. By 1965, MACVs responsibilities were considerable, consisting of Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, nine Army advisory groups, and coordination with the South Vietnamese Armed Forces. MACV was supposed to unify the operational and advisory efforts under a single command, but unity of effort in the Vietnam War required a consolidation of power at a higher level. Ironically, proposals to centralize power within MACV threatened to increase its span of control beyond the point at which it could be effectively managed. Military and political command were never adequately coordinated. For instance, if the ambassador and the commander of MACV could not agree on a policy issue, their only recourse was to refer the matter to their superiors in Washington, DC. The pacification effort ought to have been unified under Westmoreland and MACV, but Ambassador Robert Komer ran this vital counterinsurgency effort as a separate war. In fact, Westmoreland was happy to have only the shooting war to worry about. President Johnson forced MACV to take responsibility for the pacification effort in 1967. The author documents the strategic failure of the effort to unify military operations and political advisory efforts through the MACV. He contends that civilian leadership of the theater by the U.S. Ambassador in Saigon would have resulted in better coordination of political goals with military operations. Implications of the MACV experience for Iraq are presented.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Unconventional Warfare

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