Why the Daschle Doctrine is Wrong
The new Mel Gibson movie, “We Were Soldiers,” depicts the 1965, 1st Battle of the Ia Drang in which elements of the 1st Air Cavalry Division and elements of the 9th North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Division battered each other in that war’s first meeting engagement between U.S. and North Vietnamese ground forces. For those who have never experienced actual combat, “We Were Soldiers” comes close.
The 1st Battle of the Ia Drang was the first time that the B-52 bomber was used successfully in a tactical fire-support role. That battle gave us one of the great lessons of the Vietnam War.
Prior to the 1st Battle of the Ia Drang, infantry troops were supposed to do four things. We called those four things the Four-F Formula: Find ‘em, Fix ‘em, Fight ‘em and Finish ‘em. But the 1st Battle of the Ia Drang led to a major modification. The Finish ‘em part was left to the U.S. Air Force and its B-52 bombers. That reduced the formula to three Fs.
In 1967, in the 2d Battle of the Ia Drang, that formula was reduced to two Fs: Find ‘em and Fix ‘em. Yes, there was some fighting. But it was done more to “fix” the enemy in position than to close with and kill or capture the enemy. In the 2d Battle of the Ia Drang, the NVA lost over 2,200 of its best troops. While any losses on our side are too many, we lost 67 men – a much better result than at the 1st Battle of the Ia Drang.
Now, we have seen the lessons learned at the 1st and 2d Battles of the Ia Drang applied in Afghanistan. Our U.S. Army Special Forces and Special Operators from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been used, in conjunction with coalition forces, to Find ‘em and Fix ‘em. The Fight ‘em and Finish ‘em part was done with smart bombs and missiles and by B-52 carpet-bombing. As a result, our casualties were remarkably light – so far even lighter than they were in the 2d Battle of the Ia Drang.
Hopefully, our military commanders in the field will keep these lessons in mind and will only put enough of our forces on the ground as needed to Find ‘em and Fix ‘em. And, hopefully, the bureaucratic pressures to allow all of the various types of forces currently deployed in Afghanistan to have a “piece of the action” will be set aside. But having served 20 years in the military, I know some defense planners are thinking that Congress will cut the funding for the forces not used in Afghanistan and give those funds to the types of forces that are being used. That is the kind of thinking that can cause needless casualties.
The thinking of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is another problem. He claims the war against terror will not be won until Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are taken dead or alive. If the Daschle Doctrine is taken at face value, caves cannot be bombed in advance of our ground attacks lest the bodies of bin Laden and Omar become unrecognizable. The Daschle Doctrine means sending men into dangerous caves just to find two men. The Daschle Doctrine runs counter to the lesson of sending bombs, not men.
This war is not about two evil people. It is not even a war to take and hold terrain. It is a War of Annihilation against thousands of evil people who mean us harm and who must be found, fixed, fought and finished. The best way to do that is to find ‘em and fix ‘em with troops and then fight ‘em and finish ‘em with bombs.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist who was an infantry company commander during the 2d Battle of the Ia Drang, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about terrorism in Colorado’s high country.
©2002. William Hamilton.