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Vietnam War Dictionary

Pacification

The process of countering an insurgency.

Theory
Insurgencies, like the Viet Cong, use the population as a source of recruits, food, intelligence and taxes. In order to gain the cooperation of local people they employ a combination of popular appeal and fear, in the form of reprisals, threats and acts of terrorism.

Rather than focusing on the destruction of enemy forces, pacification seeks to counter the insurgency by cutting off its' access to the population. To achieve this, several steps must be taken:
  1. Army units must drive out the enemy's main guerrilla forces from the area.
  2. The Army must remain in the area to hold it whilst training paramilitary / territorial forces to perform counter insurgent operations such as night patrolling and ambushing. These local security forces must be able to call on quick reaction Army troops when under attack from main force guerrilla units.
  3. The local police force must then be resurrected in order to weed out the insurgent's political infrastructure.

Having established security and freed the people from the fear of retribution, civic action programs must then be implemented to convince the people that the government can deliver future prosperity.

As larger and larger areas become pacified, sooner or later the insurgents will be forced to come out and contest the government's control of the people. At that point, the government's military might can be fully brought to bear against the insurgent main forces.

Vietnam War
In Vietnam, though America strongly supported the ill-fated Strategic Hamlet and Hop Tac efforts, after the introduction of U.S. combat forces in mid 1965 pacification tasks (often referred to as the 'other war') were predominantly performed by the RVNAF, whilst US forces concentrated on the 'main force war'.

However, pacification was re-emphasized in May 1967 with the formation of CORDS (Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support), an umbrella organization for all US (both military and civilian) pacification advisors. Significantly helped by the decimation of the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive, CORDS' comprehensive programs produced substantial pacification gains, especially in III and IV Corps.

(Pacification was also known as Revolutionary Development or Rural Construction)

See Agroville, CIDG, Hamlet Evaluation System, Phung Hoang (Phoenix) program, Ruff-Puffs, Viet Cong Infrastructure