What The Pentagon Papers Didn’t Know

I have come to the part of The Pentagon papers that discusses the Strategic Hamlet Program in Viet Nam in 1961 to 1963.

Finally, the physical aspects of Diem’s program were similar if not identical to earlier population resettlement and control efforts practiced by the French and by Diem. The long history of these efforts was marked by consistency in results as well as in techniques: all failed dismally because they ran into resentment if not active resistance on the part of the peasants at whose control and safety, then loyalty, they were aimed.

Another summary sentence concluded

The weight of evidence suggests that the Strategic Hamlet Program was fatally flawed in its conception by the unintended consequence of alienating many of those whose loyalty it aimed to win.

In a previous post Pentagon Papers – Mistakes of Ho Chi Minh i mentioned something that I read in a book that came out long after The Pentagon Papers were written.

“Perhaps the most intriguing case of espionage involved Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao, whose mission was to destabilize the anti-Communist government of South Vietnam. …”

“Thao became one of the strongest advocates for agrovilles, self-contained modern villages aimed at separating insurgents from the rural population by moving peasants into large, well-defended villages that would allow the government to protect them. Thao knew the program would alienate peasants, and that is why he became its strongest proponent.

What the authors of The Pentagon Papers probably had no way of knowing was that the programs like the Strategic Hamlet Program had the intended consequence of failing.

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