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According to a 1939 US Army Field Manual the ultimate objective of all military operations is the destruction of the enemys armed forces in battle Decisive defeat in battle breaks the enemys will to continue fighting and forces him to sue for peace1 This doctrine served the US well in World War II but by the 1960s the teachings of Mao Tse-Tung Lin Piao and Che Guevara became relevant to an understanding of the nature of peoples wars or wars of national liberation The most effective strategy for opposing communism in wars of this type was of a dual nature The destructive phase would address the conventional military threat while the constructive phase was concerned with the political economic social and ideological aspects of the struggle The Marines understood this duality well According to British counterinsurgency expert Robert Thompson Of all the United States forces in Vietnam the Marine Corps alone made a serious attempt to achieve permanent and lasting results in their tactical area of responsibility by seeking to protect the rural population2 This appreciation of the value of pacification was part of the historical baggage that the Marines brought with them to Vietnam The Americans and South Vietnamese seemed to understand the importance of the relationship between the government and the civilian population but were unsuccessful in translating this understanding into practice With the Communists their self-interest demanded that they impose severe controls on the use of violence toward the population Robert Thompson claimed that Normally communist behaviour towards the mass of the population is irreproachable and the use of terror is highly selective3 To a much greater degree than the American and South Vietnamese GVN troops the Communists depended on the goodwill of the Vietnamese rural population In February 1965 the US began Operation Rolling Thunder the sustained bombing of North Vietnam Many of the USAF and South Vietnamese aircraft making those attacks were based at
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