Vietnam War - a different view

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by VersusAllOdds, Aug 9, 2010.

  1. VersusAllOdds

    VersusAllOdds Regular Member

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    Today, it's difficult to shift to the Cold War era type of thinking. Those days were quite different - we were on the brink of a nuclear holocaust for more than forty years. Because of that, at least in my opinion, people describe some Cold War events under present day's critteria, which is wrong.
    Every global power today is fighting mostly for economical gain, because there are no existence-threatening rivalries and economy is the way to go in the peacetime, but back then it was whole lot of different story.

    US were battling USSR, and among other things, Communist ideology. It's well known that Communism itself wasn't the primary target (for example, China and Yugoslavia weren't American enemies), the USSR was, but from time to time Uncle Sam had to show to the world that Communism is bad, whether it was true or not.
    That's why Vietnam had to be taught a lesson. USSR, and China were too powerful to be dealt with militarily, North Korea was dealt with, and the red terror now started spreading to the south - to Vietnam. As far as I know of the appearance of Communism in Vietnam, it wasn't nearly as radical as one in Cambodia, and it had massive popular support, in the north and in the south. It was obvious, that just like in Korea, Communists will in time have the entire country at their rule, and as it was understood by the contemporary US officials - it would lead to a domino effect of Red tide. An example had to be set by the Americans that Communism mustn't be spread any further, and when we look carefully, it never was (apart from Cuba). So given that stopping any serious spread of the Red tide was one of the primary US goals concerning Vietnam, we can conclude that the US were successful, at least on the matter of further expansion.

    I don't want to say US were or are evil. I'm just saying that they did what they believed they had to do, under excuses they thought would be swallowed easily. Americans supported a profoundly corrupt South Vietnamese government, and had a false excuse to enter the war (Gulf of Tonkin). If you do something, and give false reasons for doing that, then it's obvious you've done it for other reasons you didn't want to be revealed. I believe that the reason of US involvement in the Vietnam War wasn't liberation of the Vietnam people, because the Vietnamese were majorly for the Communist Viet Minh movement. It wasn't for self defense, because the Gulf of Tonkin incident was faked. It's purely because matherial interest - they had to to halt the spread of the enemy, whether it was a right thing to do or not. That wasn't an honorable reason, but wars and matter of power and rule never are. It wasn't a battle between good and evil, nor the battle of great ideologies. It was a battle between two rivals in it's rawest form: the USA on one side and the Eastern bloc and it's extensions on the other.
    All that should be understood, before deliberating whether America succeeded or not in it's goals concerning involvement in Vietnam.

    Over the course of the war, around 55000 American soldiers died, along with great material losses (around 3000 aircraft for example), and God knows how much did that war cost. Quite a considerable loss, one would think. On the other hand, the war claimed the lives of around 3000000 (!) Vietnamese, up to 800000 Cambodians, with gigantic and irreversible impact on overall military, economic, industrial, agricultural power. Vietnam was a destroyed country, considering the vast numbers of civilian victims. A great number of American Air Force and Navy aerial sorties intentionally targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure with napalm, cluster bombs, biological and chemical weapons (for example, I remember hearing a transcript of Lyndon B. Johnson administration concluding that civilans and civilian infrastructures had to be targeted in major aerial campaigns). The US have deliberately targeted the softest non-military targets in the North Vietnam to destroy the will of Vietcong fighters.
    So, considering those losses, who won the war? And a more tricky question: with losses like those of the Vietnamese (when compared to the American), is it possible to have victory, in any circumstance? I think it isn't. And I'll tell you why: Vietnam still hasn't recovered from the war that was fought 40-50 years ago. That was the price it paid for defying Uncle Sam, and for wanting to spread the Red colour. The Red tide was stopped fully by this war, and in addition, even though the Communist movement in Vietnam eventually took control of the country, the country it governed became an empty shell, and although alive, left with no chance of real prosperity.

    So, I may conclude now giving my own opinion:
    What were the US goal of the Vietnam war?
    1) To spread the Red tide and the expansion of Communism in the Indochina region, the Asian continent, and eventually the world.
    -That goal was fully fullfilled.

    2) Another goal was to battle and destroy the Communist movement in Vietnam.
    -This goal wasn't 100% fullfilled, but Vietnam was destroyed instead, leaving the Communist rule there harmless to the global American agenda.

    3) We can also say that the goal was to halt the Red tide in Cambodia too.
    -Even though the US haven't hampered the Khmer Rouge directly, they have inflicted massive civilian casualties, and doing so they lowered Cambodian relevance. In addition, the Khmer Rouge movement didn't need help in destroying their own country, for they have done it better than any Cambodian enemy would.

    4) Were the US losses acceptable for the victory, that at least in my opinion was achieved?
    -It is very difficult to know. Seeing that the Vietnam war has very little non-historical significance in the USA today, it is natural to conclude that the price paid was acceptable. It is interesting to remark though, that in America, the public considers American lives lost in Vietnam to be a great loss, while total Civilian losses are very rarely mentioned, even though they were roughfly 30-50 times greater.

    I made this thread to have a discussion. Any feedback will be most welcome!
     
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  3. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Interesting points, VAO, I myself have brooded over these several times. The "Domino Theory" was proven to be grossly exaggerated, since only two other countries (Cambodia and Laos) adopted socialist governments following the Vietnam War. Even though Southeast Asia became firmly socialist, you could say the overall American goal of stopping the global spread of communism was successful to some degree. The Americans made it clear that anyone who opposes them will have to pay immense costs.
    Despite all this, I still regard the Vietnam War as a decisive victory for both the Vietcong and the Eastern Bloc as a whole, for the following reasons:

    1) Prior to entering Vietnam, America had an aura of invincibility. Every conflict it had fought prior to Vietnam resulted in an American victory of some degree. However, when the NVA raised the socialist flag of Vietnam over Saigon in 1975, that aura was shattered. The world realized that even superpowers can lose wars.

    2) As a result of the Vietnamese reunification, numerous other communist movements erupted throughout the world, in Angola, Mozambique, Yemen, Latin America, and Ethiopia, among others. Although not all these movements were successful, they were undoubtedly motivated by the Vietcong victory.

    3) The atrocities committed by American troops against the Vietnamese civilian population greatly increased anti-American sentiment in other parts of the world. In an age where both the USSR and the US were trying to display themselves favorably in front of the world, the US couldn't take this hit to its reputation lightly.

    4) If the American objective in Vietnam was simply to destroy as much of the country as possible, you could say they were successful. But when the Lyndon B. Johnson sent the first significant American combat forces into Vietnam, did he believe that Saigon falling to the communists would be OK? I doubt it. Whether or not America considers the Vietnam War a loss, as long as the majority of the world does, it will remain a loss. America lost on all fronts, materially and psychologically.

    Feel free to rebuke my points and offer feedback!
     
  4. janet986w

    janet986w New Member

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    Thank you so much for the post. It's really informative!
    :emot112:
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  5. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Viet Cong was propped up by both Soviet and China to sustain the war. However, later China and the US's attempt to 'normalize' relationship aroused VN's suspicion over China's possible 'trade-off' with the US. And furthermore during Sino-Russia chasm, VN took side with Soviet. After Viet Cong captured the South it started 'socialism transformation' that resulted in floods of Chinese diasporas (relatively rich and in control of economy) becoming refugees.

    VN and China became enemies soon after the victory - that could be one of 'side effects' of the war.
     
  6. VersusAllOdds

    VersusAllOdds Regular Member

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    1- You're right about the bubble of invinsibility bursting. However, I'm sure that every relevant government of the period, particularly the USSR, had very accurate data on US real capabilities, and vice versa. The loss of that invinsibility may only have affected the common people who, as always, didn't have a clue what is really going on anywhere in the world (just like today). Given that US, logically, never really cared much about how foreign common people view them (it's of no great importance anyway), and that the only people they cared about was their own (and it was thoroughly brainwashed to minimize the effects of loss of reputation), this is another thing that the US lost but didn't really feel it, no matter how it looked to us.

    2- I think that, Vietnam was one of the rare countries that the US couldn't allow to prosper under communist rule, probably because of the sheer size of the Vietnamese people. However, I can't really say that the fact that US didn't attack any more countries apart from Vietnam really fits my view... I try to find a reason why was it Vietnam, and the most logical answer is because of it's size, and proximity to China. Another reason might be to contain further red expansion in Indochina, which is a very relevant region geopolitically, and maybe even India one day. Who knows?

    3- I already mentioned US foreign reputation in point 1-. Also I don't believe they committed atrocities only because they couldn't control themselves, but also partially because they didn't want to control their troops. Sometimes, in war, one side has to do nasty things to achieve it's goals. Killing civilians is common in war (which is the exact reason why wars are so bad), and not only common but a need of at least one side - from that point you may see that the wars are evil to the core, because their purpose is, to an extent, to kill people just because of killing. The US thought they had to attack the Vietnamese civilians - and they did.

    4- Well, I can't say what LBJ and entire American top thought or expected before the war escalated. I know that the US have always been practical and logical - British/Roman school of a how to be a world empire. They sure would be more satisfied with Vietnam being westernized, but when they couldn't do that, they had to find something else to satisfy them - and they did. I think that they knew the possibilities before they involved in the war, and knew how they will respond to them respectively. Even if they didn't evaluate the concequences accurately - they adapted to them later on and dealt with them accordingly.

    Again, these are just my opinions :)
     

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