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By the time the Vietnam War ended, between 2 and 3 million Vietnamese lay dead, while they had killed 58,000 Americans. Yet it was the U.S that had lost the war! This was not the way it was supposed to have happened. The little brown Vietnamese, clad in pyjamas and straw hats, were expected to have laid down dead, or surrendered. But they refused to play it by the rules. Instead of dying and surrendering they decided to fight back. Had the U.S generals read their history they would have known that Vietnamese had been fighting invaders for a better part of the last 2000 years. Had they known this they might have avoided going into Vietnam, or been less surprised at being defeated by them.  The huge majority of U.S frontline troops, the draftees called “grunts”, were drawn from the dregs of society–the blacks, the poor white, and the unemployed latinos. And though they were semi-literate, nevertheless they had the gumption to ask the one vital question which really mattered i.e what the hell were they doing in Vietnam? The highest ranked officers whom the grunts were in touch with, and of whom they could ask this question, were captains who were as confused as they were, and so could not answer them. So very early on this war became very unpopular with those doing the actual fighting.

But where were the majors and above?

Short answer: as far away from the action as possible. Why? Because of a new concept of prosecution of war had been resorted to by the U.S high command. This concept envisioned war as running a production facility. Majors and above saw themselves as managers. These managers saw frontline troops as labour. And body count of dead Vietnamese were seen as “production” figures. In this system each higher headquarters, beginning with the Corps, allotted “production quotas” i.e weekly requirement of dead Vietnamese, to the unit below, till it reached the infantry company in the field where the actual “production” took place i.e where the grunts killed the Vietnamese and died doing so in the process themselves. The commander of each unit which met its “production quota” was acknowledged as “efficient”. Each such report took him closer to the next promotion. Thus there was incentive for every officer who could do so, to avoid the frontline, live another day, and inch further towards a higher rank. This brought about an end to a U.S army tradition of officers taking pride in leading their troops in battle and suffering and dying with them. But it did not stop there. It bred hatred among the grunts for their officers egging them on to engagements in order to fulfill the “kill quotas” allocated to them, smoothening their way to promotions, with the grunts dying in the process. By 1969 the grunts began “fragging” the seniors they most despised. “Fragging” was the term which came into use to describe the killing of seniors by grunts using fragmentation grenades. And just as “fragging” began, so did the efforts of the army to cover up these incidents, and the outright denial of their existence. This also increased the distance, both physical and moral, between the fighting men and their officers. The U.S ultimately lost the war in Vietnam because the bond between officers and their men broke. Increasingly the officers refused to lead their men, and the men were no longer willing to fight and die for senior officers whom they seldom saw. The army had been successfully reduced to resemble a production unit. Pakistan today is again being threatened by terrorism. This war is likely to escalate at a rate faster than the last such outbreak. Burgeoning poverty and an all- embracing domain of social injustice may be increased the ranks of potential recruits willing to join the terrorists. The common man’s stake in the state has fallen. Increasingly the state has come to represent the enemy. (The factor of religion of Islam may become tolet these terrorist goagainst the Islamic state). The last time round the performance of our army during anti-terrorist operations was very good, and often heroic. But that performance is least likely to be repeated today. It took the Vietnam War a couple of years for it to become unpopular, and for “fragging” to begin. In our case the very thought of operations has become unpopular even before real shooting has begun. The reasons for this are that the our behavior  has lost much by way of respect and support among the people, while within the people there is much disquiet among the people of Pakistan. The denial of existence of these sentiments by the latter ensures that there is no chance of corrective action being taken to mend the situation. The root cause of this ailment lies in the regime change brought about by some authorities. Public anger against this lies not so much on account of any erstwhile popularity of the PTI, but in the hatred which the people have for sitting government. Instead of acknowledging the root cause of the ailment, the supporter of the government denying its existence. Instead of a substantive course correction they have sought instead only a correction “by narrative”. This narrative is a spate of lies so naked that they are spotted immediately as they issue from a forked tongue. A lie which is immediately spotted loses any value that its speaker may expect to derive from it, and serves only heap discredit on the speaker, and an insult on the audience expected to believe it. What the authorities needs to acknowledge is that no one has ever won an unpopular war in politics or otherwise. All struggles of politics which are unpopular at the level of the people, are also unpopular at the level of the ranks of files of organizations.  To meet the challenge which lies ahead, the concerned must affect an immediate course correction; acknowledge the unforgivable blunders into which they have snared the country; and withdraw it from the quagmire into which they have driven it. Denial of truth is not the solution. It never was. And denial of obvious truth serves only as an insult to those who are expected to believe the lie masquerading as the truth.

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