By Guenter Lewy
1978 publication on the United States in Vietnam.
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Additional info for America in Vietnam: Illusion, Myth and Reality
96 The instability and inefficiency of the Kahnh regime undermined the implementation of most of the actions expected of the South Vietnamese. S. had 21,000 military personnel in Vietnam and the earlier withdrawal plans had been shelved. On 20 June Deputy Commander Gen. William C. Westmoreland became commander of the United States Military Assistance Command (COMUSMACV), replacing the overoptimistic Gen. Paul D. Harkins. Both Westmoreland and Lodge favored some new vigorous American military commitment such as air strikes against Laos or North Vietnam in order to put new confidence into the South Vietnamese leadership.
77 Actually, as was to be expected, these measures of coercion further alienated the population. The strategic hamlet program, like its predecessor the agroville idea in 1959, thus drove a wedge not between the insurgents and the peasants, but between the rural population and the government. The final result was less rather than more security in the countryside. Senator Mansfield, who was back in Vietnam at the end of 1962 for the first time since 1955, upon his return expressed his deep concern over the trend of events.
As a precaution against the formation of cliques in the armed forces, troop commanders were rotated constantly. Cautious generals, fearful of casualties, conducted operations in areas where the VC were known not to be. Frustrated by a ubiquitous enemy, the troops often behaved brutally toward prisoners and the rural population. Kennedy's belief in the importance of Indochina and Southeast Asia to the free world went back as far as 1954. S had to stand by its commitment to the area was reinforced by Nikita Khrushchev's speech on 6 January 1961, promising support to "wars of national liberation" in the developing world, including Vietnam, and by the Russian leader's bellicose threats to renew the blockade of Berlin made during his meeting with Kennedy in Vienna in June 1961.