10/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is There Any War McCain Thinks Can't Be Won?

In April of 1969, the commander in chief of American forces in the Pacific, Admiral John S. McCain Jr., sent a cable to General Earle Wheeler, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to General Creighton Abrams, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, with a pressing message. It is past time, Admiral McCain advised, for American units in Vietnam to overhaul their mission: the goal of the military effort in Vietnam should be to protect Vietnamese civilians from Communist insurgents, he wrote, rather than merely to hunt guerrillas in the countryside and then withdraw to the safety of permanent bases.

"The war has had from the outset major political as well as military overtones," Admiral McCain wrote. "All agencies recognize that this is the time to put emphasis on protection of population and special enhancement of civilian security." The South Vietnamese should do the main work of protecting civilians, McCain argued. The "national police should be the spearhead of this effort, and steps should be taken to attain the 120,000-man" South Vietnamese force by the following year.

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