Revolutionary wars and insurrections, both Communist dominated and nationalist, broke out with such frequency in the 1970s and 1980s that it left United States defense planners little time to assess the reasons for our failure in Vietnam even if they had wanted to. Indeed, as Hanoi's Soviet-built tanks were knocking down Saigon's presidential office gates, much of the Third World was coming under revolutionary seige. As Indochina was collapsing, a major Soviet-Cuban airlift and sealift occurred, carrying 20,000 Cubans across the South Atlantic to combat in Angola 6,000 miles away. Angola was followed by Marxist takeovers in Mozambique, Guinea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and South Yemen; attempted coups in Sudan and Somalia; a probable Soviet-influenced assassination in North Yemen; increased Soviet military assistance and ties to Libya, Syria, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia; and, as Nicaragua collapsed, the emergence of a Soviet-Cuban beachhead on the mainland of Central America.
While all this was happening, the U.S. army published its long awaited, and revised, post-Vietnam War doctrine manual. Titled “Operations” and dated July 1976, Army Field Manual 100-5 concentrated exclusively on how to repel a Soviet/Warsaw Pact invasion of West Europe. The manual did not mention either the Vietnam War or the Army's 20-year experience in Indochina. The Air Force and the Navy also declared themselves ready to concentrate on strategic deterrence and high-technology conventional warfare.
Within the defense and foreign affairs community, however, a small group of determined officers and analysts refused to join the head-in-the-sand school of Vietnam “dropouts”; instead, they sought to probe the Vietnam experience thoroughly. Colonel Harry Summers is one of those iconoclasts. Another is Colonel John Waghelstein, a decorated Vietnam veteran and a soldier-scholar who commanded the U.S. military assistance team in El Salvador prior to taking command of the Army's 7th Special Forces Group. In his essay, “Countersurgency Doctrine and Low-Intensity Conflict in the Post-Vietnam Era, ” that fol-