The more they stay the same. In 1967, General Westmoreland gave a report on the progress in Vietnam. It's almost eerie how similar it sounds to what we've been fed by the administration and in General Petraeus's op-ed from 2004.
From the article:
Now for phase IV - the final phase. That period will see the conclusion of our plan to weaken the enemy and strengthen our friends until we become progressively superfluous. The object will be to show the world that guerrilla warfare and invasion do not pay as a new means of Communist aggression.
I see phase IV happening as follows:
Infiltration will slow.
The Communist infrastructure will be cut up and near collapse.
The Vietnamese Government will prove its stability, and the Vietnamese Army will show that it can handle Viet Cong.
The Regional Forces and Popular Forces will reach a higher level of professional performance.
U.S. units can begin to phase down as the Vietnamese Army is modernized and develops its capacity to the fullest.
The Military physical assets, bases and ports, will be progressively turned over to the Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese will take charge of the final mopping up of the Viet Cong (which will probably last several years). The U.S., at the same time, will continue the developmental help envisaged by the President for the community of Southeast Asia.
You may ask how long phase III will take, before we reach the final phase. We have already entered part of phase III. Looking back on phases I and II, we can conclude that we have come a long way.
I see progress as I travel over Viet-Nam.
I see it in the attitudes of the Vietnamese.
I see it in the open roads and canals.
I see it in the new crops and the new purchasing power of the farmer.
I see it in the increasing willingness of the Vietnamese Army to fight North Vietnamese units and in the victories they are winning.
Parenthetically, I might say that the U.S. press tends to report U.S. actions, so you may not be as aware as I am of the victories won by South Vietnamese forces.
The enemy has many problems
He is losing control of the scattered population under his influence.
He is losing credibility with the population he still controls.
He is alienating the people by his increased demands and taxes, where he can impose them.
He sees the strength of his forces steadily declining.
He can no longer recruit in the South to any meaningful extent; he must plug the gap with North Vietnamese.
His monsoon offensives have been failures....
Lastly, the Vietnamese Army is on the road to becoming a competent force...
We are making progress. We know you want an honorable and early transition into the fourth and last phase. So do your sons and so do I.
It lies within our grasp - the enemy's hopes are bankrupt. With your support we will give you a success that will impact not only on South Viet-Nam but on every emerging nation in the world.
But the lesson we need to learn from Vietnam is that we would have won had we just stayed the course and not changed (or left). Perhaps some more research needs to be done - lest we forget what happened the last time those we were fighting were in "their last throes."