To the Editor:Another letter writer points out that we had 500,000 troops in Vietnam, at its peak. This number may or may not be accurate, but it gives us some perspective on containing an insurgency with 130,000 troops (and does that number include the 22,000+ dead or wounded already?)
David Brooks has been seduced by the myth of pundits like Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr. who write about counterinsurgencies and the Vietnam War: that the war could have been won if the United States had adopted the oil-spot strategy.
This myth is built on certain historical "lessons" or "models," like the British in Malaya. But if you look at the case of Malaya, you will see a context that is radically different from Vietnam and, more important, present-day Iraq.
The example of Malaya is often cited by those who believe that there is a template to follow for "winning" in Iraq. Such reductionist templates are seductive because they offer easy-to-understand solutions for complex problems.
Is the oil-spot template feasible for the United States in Iraq? It sounds nice, but what number of American troops would be required to carry it out?
One can argue, counter to the facts, that Vietnam would have been winnable if the United States had deployed, say, two million to three million troops to carry out the oil-spot strategy. But was this ever politically realistic for the United States in Vietnam? Is such a rise in troop numbers and time commitment realistic today in Iraq?
(Lt. Col.) Gian P. Gentile
Fort Hood, Tex., Aug. 28, 2005
Maybe its time to consider the lessons of St. Francis: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace...."