Yes, Unfortunately, Sometimes Militaries Must ‘Destroy the town to save it’

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

Fifty years ago this week, during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, a US Army major famously remarked to a journalist, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” Pilloried for its callousness, one fellow officer who claimed to have been present even said it went “down in history as an example of some of the insanity that was Vietnam.”

Myself an Army major, I know how crazy it sounds to most people. And, yet, while I am on the record as strongly opposed to empty platitudes like “the purpose of the military is to kill people and break things” (the military’s purpose is to protect and defend), I also know this infamous quotation from fifty years ago reflects one of the harsh, paradoxical realities of war: sometimes, unfortunately, militaries must destroy in order to save. Continue reading “Yes, Unfortunately, Sometimes Militaries Must ‘Destroy the town to save it’”

How the US ‘Goliath’ can win against it ‘David’ adversaries

*Note: This essay was published in the Los Angeles Times print edition on January 30, 2018. It can also be found online here.

Fifty years ago, the stunning Tet Offensive shattered the American war effort in Vietnam. But its impact wasn’t limited to Vietnam — it created a shadow that has darkened American military strategy ever since.

On Jan. 31, 1968, 84,000 North Vietnamese troops attacked 100 cities across U.S.-backed South Vietnam, including the key targets of Hue, Da Nang and Saigon. They aimed to spark a widespread uprising, which didn’t happen. Continue reading “How the US ‘Goliath’ can win against it ‘David’ adversaries”

On Killing for Peace

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

“Killing for Peace is like F**king for Chastity.”

I came across this Vietnam War-era anti-war slogan while reading recently.  Aside from its obvious shock value, which is considerable (I mean, wow), I wondered about the slogan’s truth. To address this criticism head-on seems vital to the military’s raison d’etre, and, in my estimation, there are at least three objections: practical, human, and philosophical. Continue reading “On Killing for Peace”