Phi Beta Iota: Laos was both an inspiring success story at the operational and tactical levels, and a massive strategic failure in context. On the one hand, a handful of CIA officers and a very modest amount of money kept entire divisions pinned down or occupied or distracted. On the other hand, in the words of Ted Shackley’s deputy in Laos, we got a lot of people killed with nothing to show for it in the end. Today this would not be possible to achieve by kinetic means because it would be too easy to first spot with commercial imagery, and then cover all of the air strips with covert hides able to shoot down the light airplanes as they landed. However, today there are other means of empowering indigenous peoples, centered on Open Spectrum, Open Source Software, and Open Source Intelligence–the Open Tri-Fecta: Information Operations (Advanced).
I’ve never tried to work up the numbers, but I would be very surprised to learn that the ratio of Hmong soldiers to lowland Lao/other mountain tribe soldiers was greater than 50/50.
Having been a Marine, I’m sure you know the old saying that every Marine squad goes into combat with its own photographer. Merely jealousy, I’m sure, for all the favorable publicity the Marines have had over the years, but not unlike all the favorable publicity the Marines have had (not that they don’t deserve it) the Hmong have been the beneficiaries of a similar favorable publicity to the exclusion of the part the lowland Lao and all the other tribal peoples played in the “Secret War.”