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Pacification: The Overall Strategy in South Vietnam

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Continuing U.S. failure to bring about a satisfactory settlement in South Vietnam points to the need for examining the in-country objectives and the strategy for achieving them. This essay reviews the current pacification strategy in South Vietnam to lay out its components and to examine its adequacy. Pacification is not a new scheme cooked up by high-level strategists especially for the Vietnamese struggle. Instead, pacification is an accepted strategic concept that has been tested many times in a variety of insurgency situations. Pacification was introduced in South Vietnam by the French shortly after World War II. Since then it has undergone a drastic process of forced evolution. By examining each watershed in this process, key concepts are isolated and principal reasons for a lack of complete success are revealed. A brief inspection of concurrent pacification campaigns successfully conducted in Malaya and the Philippines reveals concepts and techniques that may be suitable for South Vietnam. Under the guidance of the Lao Dong Party, the enemy forces in Vietnam are carrying out their armed struggle using the well-documented strategy of the peoples war. The enemys objective is to win the support of the people in the countryside, and to use them to surround and eventually take over the urban areas. An appropriate counter-strategy is to hold and strengthen the populous regions and then gradually extend control over the rural areas. This is what the current version of the pacification strategy -- rural construction -- seeks to accomplish. Its success depends on destroying Viet Cong-PAVN combat potential by land, air, and sea attacks against the enemys military and political structures. This essay concludes that the current pacification strategy can work, but it must be accepted by all components of the friendly forces and applied with skill, determination, and attention to detail.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Unconventional Warfare

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