Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support
Development of the Program
CORDS was designed by the National Security Council member Robert W. Komer in 1966, who argued that a pacification success that was desired by President Johnson could only be achieved by integrating three tasks. The first and most basic requirement for pacification had to be security, because the rural population had to be kept safe from the main enemy forces. If this was achieved, the insurgents’ forces had to be weakened both by destroying their infrastructure among the population and by developing programs to win over the people’s sympathy for the South Vietnamese government and the U.S. forces. The third point emphasized by Komer was that the new strategy had to be applied on a large scale in order to significantly turn around the situation.
Organizationally, these goals implicitly required that efforts were concentrated under a single command. Against initial reservations from civilian organizations like USAID, CORDS was eventually implemented under the military’s command. This also had the crucial advantage of bringing massive financial resources to the civilian pacification programs that would not have been available without the military’s involvement.
CORDS was eventually implemented in 1967 in all 44 South Vietnamese provinces, headed by a native province chief who was supported by an American province senior adviser. The advisor’s staff was divided into a civilian part which supervised area and community development, and a military part which handled security issues.
Evaluation of the Program
Regarding the effectiveness of the program in carrying out "pacification" efforts; the insurgents’ numbers had indeed declined. Extant accounts show that it was increasingly difficult for the Viet Cong to gain support from the rural population In light of the eventual outcome of the war, CORDS founder Komer attributes the eventual failure to “too little, too late”. The most probable reason for the eventual failure of the CORDS efforts, however, was the low popularity of the South Vietnamese government and its high dependence on US assistance and resources. “[T]here was nothing to indicate that the 'pacification' program had generated any real enthusiasm for the Thieu government”.
- Andrade and Willbanks 2006: 81
- Andrade and Willbanks 2006: 81 et seq.
- Andrade and Willbanks 2006: 83 et seq.
- cf. Herring 1979: 227
- Coffey 2006: 100
- Herring 1979: 232; cf. also Coffey 2006: 100
- Andrade, Dale; Willbanks, James H. (2006): CORDS/Phoenix. Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam for the Future. Military Review (March/April), pp. 77–91.
- Coffey, Ross (2006): Revisiting CORDS: The Need for Unity of Effort to Secure Victory in Iraq. Military Review (March/April), pp. 92–102.
- Herring, George C. (1979): America's Longest War. The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975. New York et al.: John Wiley and Sons.
- CORDS-related materials available from the USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse (USAID/DEC)