Rufus Phillips

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The purpose of this case as a teaching tool is to familiarize students with issues related to assisting other countries in stability operations, in meeting the challenges of coordinating between military and civilian personnel, and in creating interagency teams across the military and civilian government spectrum. It is also useful in fleshing out some of the issues associated with force of personality in cooperative leadership and decision-making.

CORDS unified the American pacification effort from top to bottom. The civil-military advisory teams CORDS created were essential to the success, albeit temporary, of pacification in Vietnam. So too were two other factors: getting counterinsurgency doctrine right and having it guide all significant military and civil operations; and having the Vietnamese organized and fully committed to implementing the theory on the ground. If there was a fault, it concerned not giving more time and attention to getting the South Vietnamese ready to take over. That, of course, required a longer period than American domestic politics allowed. The really hard work for the U.S. in stability and counterinsurgency operations is the transition to full host government responsibility. This will require the U.S. to keep in mind T. E. Lawrence’s guidance that, "Better your allies do it tolerably than you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to do it for them." Or as General Abrams put it in 1970, "Sooner or later the Vietnamese themselves have got to settle this thing. We can only help and we can only help so much."