Pacification / Edition 1

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During the Vietnam War, the United States embarked on an unusual crusade on behalf of the government of South Vietnam. Known as the pacification program, it sought to help South Vietnam's government take root and survive as an independent, legitimate entity by defeating communist insurgents and promoting economic development and political reforms. In this book, Richard Hunt provides the first comprehensive history of America's "battle for hearts and minds," the distinctive blending of military and political approaches that took aim at the essence of the struggle between North and South Vietnam. Hunt concentrates on the American role, setting pacification in the larger political context of nation building. He describes the search for the best combination of military and political action, incorporating analysis of the controversial Phoenix program, and illuminates the difficulties the Americans encountered with their sometimes reluctant ally. The author explains how hard it was to get the U.S. Army involved in pacification and shows the struggle to yoke divergent organizations (military, civilian, and intelligence agencies) to serve one common goal. The greatest challenge of all was to persuade a surrogate-the Saigon government-to carry out programs and to make reforms conceived of by American officials. The book concludes with a careful assessment of pacification's successes and failures. Would the Saigon government have flourished if there had been more time to consolidate the gains of pacification? Or was the regime so fundamentally flawed that its demise was preordained by its internal contradictions? This pathbreaking book offers startling and provocative answers to these and other important questions about our Vietnam experience.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is a major look at the so-called other war: the combined efforts of the U.S. and Saigon governments to win the allegiance of the South Vietnamese populace in the struggle against the Viet Cong. Hunt describes how various pacification efforts were put under a single authority in 1967 with the creation of the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), headed in turn by Robert Komer and William Colby. He reveals that the Phoenix Program, centerpiece of the effort to dismantle Viet Cong leadership, was originally a system for pooling information from South Vietnamese intelligence agencies. Hunt shows how the program hurt not only the enemy but also the allies. ``There remains a profound ambivalence about the Phoenix Program,'' he writes, for ordinary Vietnamese citizens were caught in the dragnets that killed the Viet Cong. His authoritative study provides a clear account of the pacification effort in each of the four military-political regions of South Vietnam, essential to an understanding of the war itself. One odd shortcoming: the short shrift given to the Marines' Combined Action Platoon (CAP) program. All pacification programs failed in the end, but the CAP was arguably working the best at the time of the U.S. pullout. Hunt is director of the army's Oral History Program. Illustrations. (May)
Library Journal
Vietnam war literature is heavily weighted toward traditional military history: campaign histories, battle studies, weapons analysis, officer's memoirs, soldier's narratives, and political and diplomatic treatises. It is also notable for the almost complete lack of accounts by South Vietnamese participants and scholars and the scarcity of works on American assistance in nation-building and pacification. The pacification program is expertly detailed by Hunt, the director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History Oral History Program. This exhaustive study will stand as a benchmark in research on U.S. civil and military initiatives in countering NVA and VC insurgency. This account of the pacification program is certain to be of interest to students of the conflict. The several counterinsurgency efforts are clearly presented, and the evaluation of their effectiveness is supported by extensive research. An essential addition to academic Vietnam collections.-John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.
Hunt (Center of Military History, Washington, D.C.) concentrates on the American role in the pacification program in South Vietnam during the 1960s. He describes the search for the best combination of military and political action and analyzes the controversial Phoenix program, explaining the struggle to unite military, civilian, and intelligence organizations to serve a common goal and assessing the operation's successes and failures. Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813334592
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 2/6/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard A. Hunt received his Ph.D. in history at the University of Pennsylvania. He works at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Acronyms
Introduction 1
1 An Insurgency Begins 4
2 Insurgency Unchecked, 1961-1965 16
3 The War and the "Other War," 1965-1966 31
4 Not by Force Alone: The U.S. Army in Pacification 45
5 The Search for Solutions 63
6 Unifying American Support of Pacification 82
7 The Early Days of CORDS, May-December 1967 99
8 Leverage: CORDS's Quest for Better Performance 121
9 The Tet Offensive and Pacification 133
10 What Next? 144
11 Abrams in Command: Military Support of the APC 172
12 The Impact of the APC 193
13 New Directions 208
14 One War or Business as Usual? 221
15 The Phoenix Program: The Best-Laid Plans 234
16 The Ambiguous Achievements of Pacification 252
17 The End of an Experiment 269
A Note on Sources 281
Notes 283
About the Book and Author 335
Index 337
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    An excellent source on a vital but less familiar aspect of the U.S. effort in Vietnam. Its few shortcomings lie in addressing some strategic and organizational issues, which may call more for another book than for this one to be any different.

    This is an exceptionally well-researched and -documented history of the military-civilian organization the U.S. Government created to address the complex of activities collectively denominated the "pacification program" during the 1964-1973 hostilities in Vietnam. This reviewer served two years, 1968-1970, as a civilian with CORDS in the Mekong Delta, departing after having been a District Senior Advisor. The book's author also began his career in Vietnam, with a tour at MACV headquarters before joining the Center for Military History.

    The book's discussion of the process by which generally unwilling U.S. civilian and military agencies were combined in a way unprecedented for the U.S. Government (and with a degree of integration that has never been matched, or even seriously attempted, in later situations that many of us consider analagous to what CORDS was organized to do) is notably thorough, balanced and objective. The one slight shortcoming I found in this discussion may arise from the author's excellent credentials as a military historian. CORDS, he correctly notes, was organized as a rather autonomous organizational element of MACV. He also correctly notes that "Although the army's participation in CORDS was the sine qua non of CORDS's existence, pacification remained a minor part of army activities in South Vietnam." The organizational shape of CORDS as an element of MACV seems assumed, mainly because many officials in Vietnam and in Washington assumed that an institution responsible for this many aspects of an armed conflict had to be run by the military for anything to get done. This is one of several points in which the U.S. experience with CORDS might offer helpful organizational and strategic experience relevant to circumstances other than armed confrontation between conventional military forces of sovereign governments. This book provides an invaluable historical basis, but does not itself offer more substantial analysis of the fundamental strategic and organizational issues that were engaged by CORDS's establishment and operation. This perhaps really calls more for another and a different book, beyond this excellent military history of a military-civilian organization responsible for the complex of activities other than fighting the conventional war on which the army concentrated.

    As a former member of a CORDS District Advisory Team, I was also slightly disapppointed that more description and discussion was not offered on the manner in which we civilian CORDS officers interacted with our military colleagues, and they with us. Civilians, especially civilians working for agencies other than the armed forces, have only rarely and in exceptional circumstances been formally in the military chain of command. While the presence of civilians in a combat zone was a source of perplexity to at least some of our military colleagues, on the whole the unconventional organization worked tolerably well in most instances. Here again, lessons learned from this appear at least to this reviewer potentially relevant as the U.S. Government recapitulates the experience of trying to organize its civilian and military capabilities to manage nonconventional aspects of armed conflict. Here again, this perhaps suggests a need for another book, rather than really being a criticism of this one.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in the U.S. experience in Vietnam.

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