Hearts and Minds (Vietnam)

Hearts and Minds (Vietnam) or winning hearts and minds refers to the strategy and programs used by the governments of Vietnam and the United States during the Vietnam War to win the popular support of the Vietnamese people and to help defeat the Viet Cong insurgency. Pacification is the more formal term for winning hearts and minds. Military, political, economic, and social means were used to attempt to establish or reestablish South Vietnamese government control over rural areas and people under the influence of the Viet Cong. Some progress was made in the 1967–1971 period by the joint military-civilian organization called CORDS, but the character of the war changed from an insurgency to a conventional war between the armies of South and North Vietnam. North Vietnam won in 1975. Pacification or hearts and minds objectives were often in diametric opposition to the strategy of firepower, mobility, and attrition pursued by the U.S. from 1965 to 1968. Rather than the search and destroy strategy the U.S. followed during those years, hearts and minds had the priority of ‘hold and protect’ the rural population and thereby gain its support for the government of South Vietnam. The phrase ‘hearts and minds’ was first used in the context of counter-insurgency warfare by British General Gerald Templer in February 1952. Speaking of the conflict known as the Malayan Emergency, Templer said that victory in the war ‘lies not in pouring more soldiers into the jungle, but in the hearts and minds of the Malayan people.’ The British in Malaysia, in addition to military actions against the communist guerrillas undertook a number of social and economic programs to protect the populace, isolate the rural population to reduce their supply and support of the insurgents, gather intelligence about the insurgents’ organization and plans, and ensure that government services were provided to rural dwellers. … Referring to Vietnam, President Johnson used some version of the phrase ‘hearts and minds’ a total of 28 times. In ten of these instances, Johnson inverted the words and used the phrase ‘minds and hearts.’ … In 1966, Johnson appointed CIA official and National Security Council member Robert W. Komer (‘Blowtorch Bob’) as his special assistant for supervising pacification in South Vietnam. Komer’s challenge was to unite the U.S government agencies—the military, Department of State, CIA, and the Agency for International Development— involved in pacification projects. …”
counterpunch – Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds

Komer (left) meeting with President Lyndon Johnson.

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This entry was posted in CIA, Henry Kissinger, John Kennedy, Lyn. Johnson, Nixon, R. McNamara, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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