Why Did the Us Lose the War in Vietnam?
Why Did the Us Lose the War in Vietnam?
Answer with reference to the concept of insurgency/guerrilla warfare. The longest war in the history of the United States of America has taken place in Vietnam during the Cold War. “The US fear of a communist Europe led them to intervene in a war that was not seen in a vital importance or that would not be in the country`s interest to gain any advantage” (Bernstein 1987/8, p. 86). One of the main reasons why the US lost the war in Vietnam was the lack of preparation and understanding of the Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese fighters had several advantages due to the countries geographical location and language barrier. Furthermore, the insurgency in Vietnam was almost impossible for the US soldiers to fight off as they rarely encountered any enemy. On the other hand the Vietnamese troops were ready to sacrifice themselves in the name of the greater good for the motherland. Moreover, the US support to the unstable political system in South Vietnam and the media influence over the American society had turned to be the western superpower major drawbacks.
Throughout this essay, the main arguments of why America lost the war and what guerrilla war is, will be evaluated in terms of books and journals. When the French forces were defeated by the army of Ho Chi Minh in the mid-fifties, the American president Dwight. D. Eisenhower refused to accept the peace retreat of France. and the division between South and North Vietnam. The US president chose to help South Vietnam in fighting with the communist movements in Southeast Asia .The US fear of too strong Soviet Union led them to get involved in Vietnam War, with purpose to avoid the communist spread in Asia and then in Europe, what Berman called the “Domino thesis” .In 1950 the US started to support France economically and sent military advisors. Soon after the French troops were defeated, the US took the mission to prevent Ho`s plan of a communist country. In the following years the US involvement escalated and in 1965 the US president Lyndon Johnson sent American troops.
The US government had subsidized and politically simulated the establishment of the state of South Vietnam, to counterbalance the repressive regime, which intended to transfigure Vietnam into a subnational Soviet republic. One of the key points that the war experts in this period did not measure is why France was defeated so significantly. What was the crucial advantage that Minh`s small army had? The Vietnam conflict can be reviewed like unconventional and insurgency war. The Guerrilla warfare was definitely the main Vietnamese benefit. The US battalions faced plenty of difficulties while trying to reach their foe due to the fact that the Viet Cong army had no uniforms, front lines and it consisted of a few hundred men. The biggest issue for the American commanders was not how to defeat the enemy, but how to locate them. The US tactic “search and destroy” puts thousands of American troops searching the Viet Cong army into the jungle. The purposes were to find and destroy as much as possible enemies and capture their resources .By occupying these main points the Americans were able to weaken the foe.
Plenty of the war experts and the officials argued that the western superpower forces should have used counter-insurgency strategy, which allowed to put guerrillas in to a conventional war. Nevertheless, the Vietnamese leaders were fully prepared to withstand the US invasion. The Viet Cong and The North Vietnamese army regulars may not have been supported by an artillery, tanks or aircraft (except in rare instances), but nonetheless they conducted large-scale conventional operations against the US troops. (Rottman G. 2006, p.7) The revolutionary forces had large net of underground tunnels which were located all around the country and were vastly used for distribution of all types of things that were useful for the opposition such as medicines, weapons and food. People were essential for the Guerrilla war as they were bases and suppliers. The Vietnamese army used tactic called “Hit and Run”. They were formed in small groups which were easy to replace in case of casualties.
Their attacks were not aimed to decrease enemy numbers, but to sabotage key figures such as high ranked diplomats, politicians and influential capitalists. The Vietnamese commanders had the crucial advantage because they knew where the American soldiers were. On the other hand the Vietnamese were almost invisible, very well hidden and ready for surprise attacks. This benefit gave the Vietnamese war leaders better positions when it came to choosing the location and the time of the battle. The conventional war that the US was executing did not give them a chance to move fast in the jungle. This slow movement of the US troops gave the revolutionary the opportunity to gain the peasants support with anti-imperialism ideologies or even force. As the war progressed the co-operation between the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese troops became far more organized and structured, thus causing some of the most significant impacts upon the US forces.
The Tet offensive of 1968 was one of the great events of the Vietnam War, a high point military action, and, in all likelihood, the only battle in the war that will be long remembered. (Schandler, 1977 p. xi) On January 31 1968 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese launched a series of simultaneous and coordinated attacks against the major population areas, towns and cities, all around South Vietnam. The offensive was aimed primarily at civilian centers of authority and military command installations. General William Westmoreland, who commanded the US military operations in Vietnam in this period, acknowledged: “The extent of this offensive was not known to us, although we did feel it was going to be widespread. The timing was not known. I frankly did not think they would assume the psychological disadvantage of hitting at Tet itself, so thought it would be before or after Tet. I did not anticipate that they will strike at the cities and make them their targets”. (Schandler, 1977, p.64-75) Another important factor related with the US failure was the unstable political situation in South Vietnam.
Diem`s management was successful in the beginning of the war when the US started to support them economically. In this short period of time improvements were quickly made. Nonetheless, Diem`s leadership shortly turned into a regime which was perceived as a massive repression amongst the people of South Vietnam. Consequently, the domestic support decreased rapidly and the population was easily manipulated from the guerrillas who were “feeding their minds with anti-imperialism and skepticism towards democracy” (Jaimeson L. ,1993,p238).Also, the US efforts to win the “hearts and minds” of the South Vietnamese population were unsuccessful. One other crucial factor because of which the US lost the war was the media. The US leaders faced plenty of protests and anti-war movements.
It was the first war broadcasted on the television. The news could not hide the unbearable truth of the US struggle and failure in the Vietnam war from the audience. Throughout vast variety of sources such as photos, short films and news reports the American public was able to draw its own conclusion of the events occurring in Vietnam. It was obvious for the US society that the war continued without clear direction and objectives. The chaos, the amount of casualties and the destructions in Vietnam decreased the domestic support for the war. In contrast, the continued pounding of a small nation by a superpower gave the North Vietnamese a powerful propaganda tool. (McNamara R., 1996, p.244)
In conclusion, there were plenty of reasons why the US lost in Vietnam. The insurgency war fought was the main benefit of the Vietnamese. In many occasions the western superpower was not able to reach the enemy. Although, the American battalions had an advantage in terms of military equipment and number of soldiers, the Vietnamese managed to counterbalance the superior US troops by the use of the thick vegetation and the guerrilla tactics, which previously worked flawlessly against the French forces. Moreover, the fragile political system of South Vietnam had a crucial role over the outcome of the war.
High levels of corruption and unstoppable propaganda against the western foe, by the Viet Cong, complicated more and more the situation for the American war administration. The financial loses of the US had resulted in long term negative economic consequences. Due to the fact that the war in Vietnam was broadcasted on the television, the people were able to see the real face of the conflict. The public support in the US decreased rapidly and large-scale anti-war protests influenced the American administration. To summarize, the Vietnam War was one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the US, which was based on political lies and poor management decisions.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 October 2016
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