Defining victory

The biggest problem turned out to be agreeing on exactly what “victory” was.

The army and marines have a long history of success fighting guerillas. Even Vietnam, which conventional wisdom counts as a defeat, wasn’t. The conventional wisdom, as is often the case, is wrong. By the time the last U.S. combat units pulled out of South Vietnam in 1972, the local guerilla movement, the Viet Cong, was destroyed. North Vietnam came south three years later with a conventional invasion, sending tank and infantry divisions charging across the border and conquering their neighbor the old fashioned way. [Victory In Iraq And Vietnam]

The traditional war was between structured armies whose goal was to occupy territory. All else was secondary. Dealing with counterinsurgency (COIN) was just a nuisance. Vietnam marked a turning point in goal measures as it was mostly an effort to quell the Viet Cong and invasion – territory occupation – was held politically incorrect. That resulted in using body counts to measure success and that, in turn, lead to the political opposition’s use of that measure in inappropriate ways. That then lead to the army avoiding body counts in Iraq and later efforts. Even the occupation of land has been used as a contemptuous goal with the ‘imperialistic’ type labels.

The problem is that, as in the Vietnam case, the occupation of territory by force to extend an empire didn’t bother the other side.

A good note on this problem is a post by Richard Tomkins – Sadly Missing From Media’s Iraq War Roundup: U.S. Troops’ Humanity. It is like those who, living in the security and comfort of the United States, can express sympathy and compassion at the death of the North Korean dictator or can only count bodies and death. They cannot see that what the U.S, leaves behind in its ventures is something ever more potent and ever more valuable.

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