Escalation: “If Force Doesn’t Work, Use More Force”

A.K Gupta Jan 13, 2007

According to journalist Uri Avnery, there is a typically Israeli maxim: “If force doesn’t work, use more force.”

Israel is hardly alone in this phenomenon. It’s the M.O. of occupiers throughout history, and the United States is no exception. It may seem perplexing to the public, which just voted for an end to the Iraq War, that the Bush administration is now going to escalate the war by increasing the troop levels. But escalation was also the hallmark of U.S. policy during the Vietnam War. From 1950 to 1954, the United States gave $3.6 billion in military aid to France, meaning the U.S. taxpayers pretty much funded France’s failed effort to hang on to Vietnam.

The next stage of escalation would come during the Kennedy administration with the realization that the dysfunctional South Vietnamese state was falling apart. The response was to increase U.S. military “advisors” from 600 in 1961 to 11,000 in 1962 and 23,000 two years later.

Then came the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, in which U.S. forces instigated a minor naval dustup with North Vietnam. Within days, President Johnson had a blank check to escalate the war. Over the next four years, as U.S. forces poured into the country and bombs poured on the countryside, the U.S. grip weakened. Despite some 500,000 soldiers in Vietnam, the public, Pentagon and Johnson administration were shocked by the scale of the 1968 Tet Offensive.

While troop levels would be drawn down by the Nixon administration, it escalated the war by conducting horrific bombing campaigns against the civilian population in North Vietnam and widening the war to Cambodia.

The later actions were taken after the public had turned overwhelmingly against the war. It’s akin to the Iraq War in which the Bush administration turns to the use of more force where force has failed before.

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