Don Carlson: Bin Laden may have followed Giap’s blueprint
Did the conceptual father of Osama bin Laden (and now his followers) die last Friday? When I heard and then read about the death of General Vo Nguyen Giap, who ousted both France (1954) and the United States (1975) from Vietnam, it rekindled my long-standing curiosity about Giap’s long-term, historic, global significance.
I do not pose to be an expert in military, intelligence or foreign affairs. At best, I have always tried to be a well-read observer as well as an informed voter.
At the center of my curiosity: Was Osama bin Laden a (self-motivated) student of Gen. Giap’s thoroughly documented strategy and tactics? As we all know, bin Laden was from a family of extraordinary wealth and was provided considerable time to leisurely and studiously inquire. Thus, he could have utilized every opportunity to learn and evaluate the historic successes and failures of Gen. Giap.
Most noteworthy to me, then, are some critical and consequential Giap/bin Laden personality, strategic and tactical parallels. First, both were intense nationalist, well-educated and charismatic figures (read: very able to motivate others).
Strategically, both were adherents to the motivating operational concept about loyalty being more significant than land. Loyalty, as a deeply internalized belief, is the foundation for the never-ending and relentless sacrifice—expected and enacted.
Significantly, our American bred-and-born recognized “whiz kid,” Robert McNamara, who developed the systems analysis model — which propelled him originally into the deanship of Harvard Business School — never could include in his application as secretary of defense, how to measure the “will” (read: loyalty) of the “enemy” (followers of Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap in Viet Nam).
Giap was known to have studied the tactics of Chinese Chairman Mao about guerrilla-based terrorism achieving a successful revolution. France, and even more so the United States, had by far greater and obvious measurable military physical superiority. However, Giap saw, understood and concluded that was the “invader’s” major weakness, rather than its significant strength. Hence, he planned accordingly.
Bin Laden modified the Giap model with ongoing, developing technology. Is this “techy-based” terrorism an even greater challenge to our (U.S., Britain, France, etc.,) greater security needs? My sense is that the belief motivating the continuing, relentless sacrifice by bin Laden followers is clearly spreading to even more numerous places and to even more young people.
Shouldn’t we recall and reconsider the “Arrogance of Power” thesis (1966) of Sen. J. William Fullbright (then-chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee)? Giap knew then, as well as bin Laden followers understand today, that any military “over-reach” (read: civilian casualties/fatalities) by the invaders revalidates loyalty over land.
Don Carlson has resided in Carson City for nearly four decades.