COIN calls for deep cultural understanding of the country where fighting is taking place, encourages political rather than military means to subdue an insurgency and seeks a unity of effort between military and civilian forces. COIN has been used during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with varying degrees of success.
In 1966, General Wilson took control of military and civilian forces in rural Long An Province in South Vietnam and began applying those principles there. Villagers in the province, he found, felt forgotten by what they saw as the inept, corrupt South Vietnamese government and often harbored Viet Cong guerrillas.
He imposed restrictive rules of engagement to reduce violence and emphasized cooperation and communication between South Vietnamese and American forces, in part to help create a stable, effective local government.
“The farmer lives and works in hamlets and villages,” General Wilson told the columnist Jimmy Breslin in 1965. “That’s where there is no government influence. Our job is to bridge the gap and put something in there.”
His approach came to fruition in an operation to recapture the village of Long Huu, which had served as a Viet Cong base since 1963. On March 7, 1966, two battalions, one American and one South Vietnamese, retook Long Huu.
“Within seven hours after the operation began, the entire village and its 11,000 inhabitants were back under GVN control — without a shot being fired,” a now-declassified memo to President Lyndon B. Johnson reported, using initials for the South Vietnamese government.
A similar, though ultimately unsuccessful, approach to pacification — the latest iteration of the Johnson administration’s “hearts and minds”…