Many Americans remember the political leader of North Vietnam from the Vietnam War--Ho Chi Minh. The other titan of North Vietnam, who may have been far more deadly and destructive to the American cause in the war, was the general named Vo Nguyen Giap. Giap was an avowed communist in then Indochina, present-day Vietnam. Minh and Giap fought during World War 2 to eradicate French colonial rule from Indochina. Due to France's situation in Europe, it had to essentially abdicate its rule in Indochina and allow the country to fall to Japan. After the war, France returned in force to Indochina to reestablish rule. Giap and Minh moved into southern China to gain support from the new government of Mao Tse Tung. War with the French authorities soon began. Giap understood the situation on the ground and developed a highly complex insurgent strategy in order to abolish French control.
As described by Bernard Fall in Street Without Joy, Giap's strategy for the "Indochina war consisted of three stages. First was that of the initial retreat of the Viet-Minh forces until they had time to re-train and consolidate. The second phase would begin when the French, failing to destroy the Viet-Minh guerilla forces, would allow them to re-equip themselves with the help of the Chinese Communists, to eliminate slowly but surely most of the small French posts in the Viet-Minh base area. The third stage was to be the total destruction of the French troops."
Giap said, "The enemy will pass slowly from the offensive to the defensive. The blitzkrieg will transform itself into a war of long duration. Thus the enemy will be caught in a dilemma: he has to drag out the war in order to win it and does not possess, on the other hand, the psychological and political means to fight a long draw-out war."
Giap further stated, "Our strategy early in the course of the third stage is that of a general counter-offensive. We shall attack without cease until final victory, until we have swept the enemy forces from Indochina. During the first and second stage, we have gnawed away at the enemy forces; now we must destroy them. All military activities of the third stage must tend to the same simple aim--the total destruction of French forces."
"We shall go on to the general counter-offensive when the following conditions have been fulfilled: (1) superiority of our forces over those of the enemy; (2) the international situation is in our favor; (3) the military situation is in our favor. We will have to receive aid from abroad in order to be able to carry out the counter-offensive, but to count solely upon it without taking into account our own capabilities is to show proof of subjectivism and lack of political conscience. But on the other hand we cannot deny the importance of such aid."
"When we shall have reached the third stage, the following tactical principles will be applied: mobile warfare will become the principal activity, positional warfare and guerilla warefare will become secondary."
Napoleon is quoted as saying that those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. When one looks at the current trends of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, one can see some similarities as those used by Giap in the Indochina wars.
History does not and more importantly, should not have to repeat itself.