Unconventional Conflicts in a New Security Era: Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam

By Sam C. Sarkesian | Go to book overview

argue that comparisons cannot be made is not only incorrect but ignores the comparative method and basic principles of counterrevolutionary and revolutionary conflicts characteristic of Malaya and South Vietnam. This is not to suggest that the British experience in Malaya can be applied automatically to South Vietnam. As Mockaitis has written, "Those who have viewed the Malayan campaign as a model to be imitated and those who have seen it as a unique event, never to be repeated, suffer from the same short-sightedness."3

It is important to emphasize that lessons learned or not learned from unconventional conflicts cannot be fully assessed by studying only the U.S. experience. Relying solely on the American experience not only skews an analysis but ignores strategic options and operational guidelines experienced by other states that may have proved more effective and relevant in the long run. Further, a comparative approach promises a more critical and penetrating focus on U.S. strategy and force posture in unconventional conflicts. For all these reasons, this book undertakes a comparative study of U.S. involvement in unconventional conflict based on the conviction that unconventional conflicts are likely to be the most challenging for the United States and are the least likely to be understood and the most difficult to reconcile with the American psyche.

This study uses both primary and secondary sources (published and unpublished) and also relies on participant-observer assessments. These sources include directives and regulations of the emergency government in Malaya and the author's personal knowledge of some U.S. military efforts in Vietnam. This was an outgrowth of the author's brief visit to Malaysia and a longer stay in Vietnam during the war. Over the course of the past two decades parts of this study have been discussed with a number of colleagues. During that same period, some parts were published as journal articles and were included in earlier books by the author. 4 In any case, the final assessments and conclusions are solely the author's.


NOTES
1.
The label Third World is used throughout this book to make a distinction between most states in the Southern Hemisphere and those in the Northern. The label is used only as a convenient way to develop continuity between the past and the present. However, it is recognized that Third World is not an accurate description of all the states in the Southern Hemisphere or of all states that have been termed "developing." As will be discussed in later chapters, there are varied cultures, political systems, and levels of development as well as geographic and demographic differences among states in the Southern Hemisphere.
2.
See, for example, the brief but succinct discussion in Thomas R. Mockaitis, "The Origins of British Counter-Insurgency", Small Wars/Insurgencies, vol. 1, no. 3 ( December 1990), pp. 209-25. See also the discussion in R. W. Komer, The Malayan Emergency inRetrospect: Organization of a Successful Counterinsurgency Effort

-xi-

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Unconventional Conflicts in a New Security Era: Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xi
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - Conflict Analysis: The Comparative Framework 3
  • Notes 22
  • Part II - Comparative Analysis 25
  • 2 - The State of the Nation: Great Britain, the United States, and Unconventional Conflicts 27
  • Notes 53
  • 3 - Military Posture and Nature of Conflict: Malaya 55
  • Notes 76
  • 4 - Military Posture and Nature of Conflict: The Diem Period in Vietnam 79
  • Notes 93
  • 5 - Military Posture and Nature of Conflict: The United States and the Second Indo-China War 95
  • Notes 119
  • 6 - Nature of Indigenous Systems: Revolutionary Systems 123
  • Notes 136
  • 7 - Nature of Indigenous Systems: Counterrevolutionary Systems 137
  • Notes 161
  • 8 - Conclusions: Malaya and Vietnam 165
  • Part III - Conclusions: What Needs to Be Done 183
  • 9 - The United States and the Emerging Security Agenda 185
  • Notes 198
  • Selected Bibliography 201
  • Index 217
  • About the Author 227
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