Lessons we pretend we never learned
Groundhog Day: The U.S. military writes a new counterinsurgency manual, and the reporter covering it pretends that such a thing hasn't happened since Viet Nam:
The distaste for counterinsurgency can be traced, like so many other things in the military, to the residue of Vietnam. After more than a decade of crushing failure, the generals vowed, more or less, never to get mixed up again in a guerrilla war. Hoffman says war colleges across the country literally purged their libraries of books on fighting guerrilla warfare ... Then came 9/11.
I've written about this phenomenon before:
[George Packer:] "the Army’s most recent field manual on the subject is two decades old."
That would be the manual with which they ran the counterinsurgency war in El Salvador. By the mid-1980s, the United States funded 90% of the Salvadoran national budget. U.S. military "advisors" (many more than the 500 legally allowed or acknowledged, and many of whom were in combat) directed that war in detail. That level of involvement lasted for a decade.
The Newsweek writer is even more dishonest or clueless than Packer, who at least acknowledged that there was a counterinsurgency manual in use twenty years ago (though he was no better at drawing any inferences from that fact).
The recurring pretense that nothing like this has ever happened before, where 'this' is torture, or counterinsurgency, or domestic repression, makes me crazy. If a search for 'El Salvador' comes up empty in an article on U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, even just reading it makes me feel as if I'm participating in airbrushing history.
Maybe I should institute a regular feature like the "Letters We Never Finished Reading" fillers in the New Yorker of old. Well, maybe not; a better move would be to maintain the one regular feature already promised. This Monday, garden blogging for sure...