Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

We Could Have Won Vietnam

with 50 comments

Pursuing a line of thought inspired by yesterday’s post, I think I finally understand what people mean when they say the USA could have won the Vietnam War if we hadn’t fought with our hands behind our backs. That’s the beauty of age and wisdom, if one thinks about other people’s viewpoints long enough and studies the background and history long enough, one can eventually get an inkling of why people think the way they do. People usually have some reason for thinking something, and if one tries to understand another’s point of view, often common ground can be reached. Or at least a better understanding of how the world got to be so messed up

So anywise, I concur. The USA no doubt could have won the Vietnam War in a conventional sense if we had chosen to do so. We could have invaded North Vietnam, captured Hanoi and Haiphong, thus ending the North as a nation state and military power, and pretty much ending its ability to send aid and comfort to the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Some thousands of Americans would have died, but it would have been worth the price as a democratic government would have been installed in North Vietnam as well as South Vietnam. If we had just had the national willpower to carry this out, the Vietnam war would have a legacy of pride instead of a legacy of defeat. Instead, we let defeatism and protesters sway us from our course.

Seems simple enough, why can’t the liberals understand this? Well, they can. There are however a few problems with this rosy scenario. The first being that it assumes China wouldn’t intervene when we escalated the conflict. This is a pretty big assumption. They sent hundreds of thousands of troops to fight us when we invaded North Korea, and there is no reason to believe they would have done otherwise had we invaded North Vietnam. Could we have defeated China in a war? Maybe, but at what cost? By any sober analysis, a war with China was a risky proposition. China had nuclear weapons and millions of troops, winning Vietnam at the cost of a war with China was not a trade to make lightly. Solving one problem by creating a potentially much bigger problem should give anyone pause, it certainly gave Nixon and Johnson pause.

Another rather unpleasant aspect of this is that North Vietnam was not World War Two Japan or Germany, they would not have unconditionally surrendered and prostrated themselves before us. Ho Chi Minh would have just retreated into the hills and continued the fight, and many if not the majority of Vietnamese would have continued to support him. China and Russia would have continued to provide the Vietnamese insurgents with all the weapons and supplies they needed. Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh fought France and Japan for more than a decade, they would not have hesitated to fight the USA for the same.

Could the USA have defeated a determined insurgency that France and Japan couldn’t defeat? France in fact suffered one of the great disasters of the 20th century at Dien Bien Phu, where 12,000 French troops were killed or captured by Ho Chi Minh. The USA had far more firepower than France at its disposal, but firepower doesn’t defeat insurgencies. Hell, the USA dumped more bomb tonnage in the Vietnam War than was dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two, if dropping enough bombs guaranteed victory, winning Vietnam should have been a snap. So basically by choosing to win the Vietnam war in a conventional sense, we would have traded fighting an insurgency in South Vietnam for fighting an insurgency in all of Vietnam. With the significant risk of a war with China (or even World War Three) tossed into the pot as well.

Even if someone makes tries to make the case after hearing these objections that “we should have just persevered,” they are still basically advocating expanding a problem in the short run in order to eventually fix the problem. And logically, this sort of thinking isn’t really logical because this argument could be used to justify any course of action. IE escalation is always an option, but it’s not necessarily a solution. And when the answer to any potential problem is “more escalation,” well, where does it end? Even a cursory examination of history shows that it often ends very badly indeed.

So yes, the USA could have “taken off the gloves” and won the Vietnam War. And while political considerations no doubt did play a role in what Nixon and Johnson chose to do and not do in Vietnam, the idea that the USA could have achieved a military victory if only we had fought with fewer restrictions…is based on some very questionable assumptions and ignores considerable real world risks. Only if one is wearing blinkers would an expanded US war in Vietnam have guaranteed eventual victory, and it’s these risks and considerations that primarily guided Nixon and Johnson.

Does the same apply to Iraq? Here also we are fighting a foreign supported (allegedly) insurgency and trying to install a democratic government? Could we just blast our way to victory in Iraq if we chose to do so? Let’s examine this. Bush has shown he doesn’t give a hoot about popular and world opinion, he’s shown little restraint when it comes to military adventures, and Congress has given him everything he wants. So if victory in war was simply a matter of unleashing the dogs of war, why didn’t he simply issue the orders as soon as he was re-elected? He’s afraid of Code Pink? I rest my case.

(The above image of an abandoned M-41 tank in Vietnam is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, is a low resolution reproduction, and is central to illustrating the post. The use of the image here in no way detracts from the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, arguably the opposite. Credit: Odyssey Tourism and Trading. The M-41 was a fifties era US tank that was supplied to the government of South Vietnam. This one remains in use as a tourist attraction. My American tax dollars at work.)

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Written by unitedcats

May 28, 2008 at 11:20 am

Posted in History, Iraq, War

50 Responses

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  1. Of course if we had persevered in Vietnam, we would not have the current war in Iraq, because we’d still be fighting and dying in Vietnam.

    These people who propose these ‘rosy’ scenarios apparently would be the first to get on their knees and capitulate to any nation that invaded the United States. They seem to think that fighting for your country for decades is something that’s just not done by anyone. Had the Germans ‘won’ WWII, they’d still be fighting guerillas and partisans today all over Europe.

    Ric

    May 28, 2008 at 11:36 am

    • True, but at what cost? Hitler murdered about 6 million Jews and political dissidents despite the fact as you say that there would be partisans and guerrilas still fighting and resisting him had he prevailed. That’s exactly what would happen under the combined evil of Iran, Red China, Russia, and North Korea, all of which are major suppliers, trainers of fighters, and recruiters for terrorism. Don’t be surprised if major drug cartels in Mexico and around the world don’t get drugs from Red China as well as arms. Red China, Russia, and North Korea, as well as Vietnam, which gets a major share of its arms from Red China and Russia, all approve of this because it weakens the U. S.

      Roy Miyamoto

      July 18, 2009 at 5:14 am

    • There is no question militarily we The U.S. won the war in Veitnam, just read General Jeap ( I probably killed his name) he was the overall commander of NVA and the Veit Cong. I take nothing anyway from both but he admitted that we had all his forces beat and only our politicians then due to mounting political adversities at home had our military with draw. Even with the orderd withdraw we left the county in the hands of the South Veitnamese Goverment. I say that the only people that think America lost any war are detractors of America. It did not help that people like pelosi, and swift boat keri were back in the US providing aid and confort to our enemys along with the rest of the protestors. It is a good them people like them were not around in the 40s or we would all be speaking Americanized German. I am an oid Marine and no I did not serve during that war. I do know good folks that did and I also know that our brave men and women that did serve in that war faced ridicule even being spit on and other things when they come home. Those folk along with the draft dodgers should be gatherd up and sent out of this country. An english visitor said during the War between the states that if the union and southern armies ever come together America would had a force unstoppable through out the world. We did and we do and have had for a long time. Now for you people that do not like America, Planes and ships leave here every day to points all over the world. Please go stay in another country for awhile and see if you change your mind.
      God Bless America and all of our service men and women past, present and in the future.
      Remember people you selpt safe last night because brave men and women stood guard for you and that includes Police, Fire, and Medics
      Semper Fi!

      Terry Helms

      April 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm

  2. [...] And frankly the last few decades of listening to fantasy oriented people claiming that “we could have won” in Vietnam has been really annoying. I don’t want to spend the next few decades [...]

  3. Too bad the ping pong diplomacy came too late huh? Otherwise, it will probably a different story for vietnam war.

    Andy

    June 15, 2008 at 11:45 pm

  4. [...] 5. Protesters Lost Viet Nam/We Tied Our Own Hands. I covered this one more or less in my fine and under appreciated post: “We could have won in Vietnam“ [...]

  5. Don’t you think that all wars fought in our century have been about the banking system putting a strangle hold on the economies of the countries involved? In your terms “follow the money” via the New Deal.

    Michael H

    July 24, 2008 at 3:55 pm

  6. I think that much of post WW2 American/European foreign policy, especially the past few decades, has been about forcing countries into the new colonialism, IE the world bank/IMF is allowed to run their economies. It’s certainly not a coincidence that the “axis of evil” were the three most prominent countries who were refusing to allow the IMF etc to tell them how to run their economies.

    unitedcats

    July 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm

  7. Over 50,000 dead Americans and millions of dead Viet Namese for what? We were told it was the domino theory… to stop the spread of Communism. 30 yrs. later and we are billions of dollars in debt to Communist China and Viet Nam is a capitalist society that has taken textile and manufacturing jobs from America… Explain to me again how bombing a country into the stone age was going to win a war and make us safer at home. Wait, are we still talking about Viet Nam or Iraq?

    traceme

    September 14, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    • Like I said before, under Communism there wouldn’t be free speech, no free religion, no free press, and unreasonable search and seizure by the secret police, which I didn’t mention before. I guess most if not all of you rather surrender to evil governments like that rather than resist or put up a fight. Your lives seem more important than your freedoms. How pitiful. Like I said before, one of the founders of our country, Patrick Henry, said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” I’m with the brave Americans who died in all our wars to keep our country free. It was only cowards like the now fat old Christopher Dowd, and other liberal Democrats that cut off our funding so we had to go home. That’s why people say we “lost” the Vietnam War. Hell, we beat them in every major battle in the Vietnam War, except for small skirmishes or minor battles. Plus, the liberal media and schools brainwashed everyone into thinking we should cut and run. We could have blown Red China, North Vietnam and even Russia to bits back then and even now. Sure, we’d would lose millions, but that’s the price in today’s world for freedom, if you care more about it more than your body. And I do. Right now, Red China is spending billions for a massive laser research program. Why? Because those lasers will vaporize our missile warheads once they descend above Red China. Then we’ll be helpless before their demands, like speaking Chinese in every school. And don’t you guys care that Red China is the world’s largest exporter of ILLEGAL drugs in the world? They could require everyone to take illegal drugs to get more “customers”, which would definitely add billions to their massive war machine. That’s right check out everything I say from RELIABLE, EXPERT sources in the government and knowledgeable scientific circles. Then tell me what you people believe. The world is not so easy as burying your head in the sand to escape all the “big bad world.” Oh yeah, Red China, Russia, Vietnam, and North Korea are major weapons suppliers to Iran, Cuba, and other terrorist countries around the world. U. S. troops found a large cave in Afghanistan a few years back stuffed full with Red Chinese weapons. Maybe I should have mentioned that before to make the message more meaningful. Under Iran’s rule, approved by Red China and Russia, of course, women wouldn’t be allowed to work, they would have to be covered from head to toe, men could beat their wives, women could be killed for adultery but not men, and of course, there would be no Bill of Rights, and no fair trials. Torture by the secret police would be common place.

      Roy Miyamoto

      July 18, 2009 at 5:04 am

    • I think one response would have been 4 usa to not engage in the war at all, & let veitnam get
      over run by the commies, & then bomb every military target in N & S veitnam as training exercises!
      with the only losses being ammo! They could have used the air force & navy-warren

      warren

      October 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm

  8. I think you are sad to published such comments as this and I deeply feel sorry for you. Publishers like you are so interested in history and such events that you are forgetting the events that are happening now in the third generation. War is caused by those in political power that are too greedy for this own good blinding myselfs with the thought of being powerful and having such control, when they also forget that they are supose to protect those in the public within a state. Nother the less the creation of the world does not belon to anyone but God. There is always different ways of getting what one desires without the cause of war. It does not matter what colour you are, the value of life is much more improtant than that. You should have known better to publish such an issue, I presume you are one that is narrow minded and I feel sorry for you, you are inflicted with the evil thoughts and I curse the souls of people like you. You can choose to put this up on your page or not but I just wanted my minds to be with you.

    kim nguyen

    November 13, 2008 at 9:24 pm

  9. I believe the previous commenter misunderstood my post. War in general, and the Vietnam War, are terrible crimes. War is the enemy. War is wrong. War is the pinnacle of failure in human endeavour. War sucks. Thanks for dropping by, God Bless.

    unitedcats

    November 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm

  10. Who cares who won or lost Vietnam. Point is, it should never have happened.
    You talk about the pride it would have brought. I don’t think you care what the Vietnamese themselves would have though, or the families of all your dead soldiers.

    “America. We’ll free the sh*t out of you.”

    JSTP

    February 9, 2009 at 4:42 am

    • Did you know that after the Communist North conquered the South, that hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were put in concentration camps and fed wormy rice, beaten and tortured, their women raped, etc. Also, thousands fleeing by boat were killed by pirates, women raped, robbed of everything valuable, etc. If you people don’t know, Red China and Iran have concentration camps. Russia also had Siberin gulags. In some of them one man is forced at gun point to drag a telephone pole through sub zero weather until he drops. Again, torture and beatings are commonplace, sometimes done over several months, if not years. The penalty for robbery and burglary in Iran, Red China, and North Korea is amputation.

      Roy Miyamoto

      July 18, 2009 at 5:27 am

      • Saudi Arabia our best friend and ally (Bush holding hands with the Saudi King?) also practices amputation and beheading. And doesn’t allow bibles into the country. Why don’t we free them?

        Ashley Charleston SC

        January 28, 2012 at 4:34 am

  11. Vietnam war,

    Well I bet that million western people don’t understand Vietnamese or never ever understand them if you don’t have speak their language fluently and read their mind. You don’t know they’ve hated Chinese the most (read their history and read article of Chino War 1979) see how much they kille Chinese 1979 in Chino War. They even don’t like Communismus, the “weir forein” doctrin from old Russian, from a old stupid western desease of Leninismus, Maximus which controversial with Vietnamese heritage in feet to head. They are infact Nationalist like us, American in 17th century. They are farmers, workers like us, American in present day. They don’t like forein ruler as much as we hated British in 17th century. Infact, they are like us in heart and soul. But we, the western, forced them to joint communist China in 1944 (deny supply them guns fighting Japan?) forced them fighting against democracy 1959 (deny nation wide election?). We bombing them, massacre their babies, women, elders (My Lai 1968). We turn Vietnam war (used to believe as keeping democracy) into Holocaust 1939, into Hai Nan Rape 1940…etc. And I bet that Vietnamese are not Chinese communist as we though. See how many young students, workers are applying visa to get out from today Vietnam to come here (western and USA). Among them surely are children, relatives of Vietcong?. So if they like China, why not apply visa to stay in China or learn Chinese techno or even get Chinese dollars as export labors?. We infact, never understand Vietnameses or read their mind. They are like us!.
    Now, you want to bomb them or not?

    Sincerely,
    Nhac Le

    NHAC LE

    March 26, 2009 at 11:47 am

  12. You said in the begining that we could have won it if we invaded North Vietnam but the reason we didn’t was because the U.S. was scared we would get China involved which is a good excuss. China would kill us.

    Bobby

    May 22, 2009 at 8:36 am

  13. In my humble opinion, there is very rarely an unwinnable war, rather there are benefactors of one sides mistakes. Also would China kill us, as the poster before me said. If we went to war with China, even now, we would win, we have superior training, technolgy on our side. If we fought against China then, we might have won, the Russians hate the Chinese. I am not so sure the Chineses would have interfered that much if we invaded North Vietnam, they do not exactly have the best history. Another question, is what caused the change in the civilain mindset. Why did the U.S. populace have such a problem with Vietnam. I am not defending it, but would the “greatest generation” have been so anti-war. Was it that we had just finished WWII in the forties, and Korea in the 50s. What exactly caused the averse reaction to the war, the mass exodus of people avoiding the draft, and the birth of an anti-military U.S. society. Now I don’t have the answer, but the question is rather intruguing.

    lookingforsomethingtofind

    May 29, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    • Read up on the Korean war, which happened not long before the Vietnam war broke out. The Chinese lost enormous casualties against US and allied forces, and they didn’t technology jump that far ahead by the time the Vietnam war occurred, the results would have been the same if the Chinese became involved. There would be two states today, one free, democratic, and economically successful (South Vietnam), and the other unfree, authoritarian, and repressive (North Vietnam).

      Anonymous

      July 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

  14. If I’m not wrong between 1960 and 1975? when the Vietnam War ended, we were vastly superior to China in nuclear arms. We could have blown their million man charges and blown Uncle Ho’s forces hidden in the jungle to bits. We should have used tactical nuclear artillery at Khe Sanh and throughout Vietnam, as well as nuclear bombs. Today, in case of a major conflict, the Red Chinese navy rules the South China Sea, a majorshipping lane. The U. S. Navy once ruled that Sea. We could have finished Red China once and for all if it had joined the War. Today Red China is the world’s largest exporter of illegal drugs according to the IC&E (The Immigration, Customs & Enforcement division of Homeland Security). A Red Chinese colonel said about 2 years ago, “We will destroy you (the U. S.)”. They have a trade surplus with us in the billions, displacing millions of Americans from jobs and businesses that are exported to their country. They are a major contributor to our present “recession”. They are a major “pain in our a__.” A lot of their food is polluted because they don’t have the same regulations or wherewithal to enforce them that we do, in addition to having dirty air and polluted water there. Their massive trade with us opens up a yawning monster for tremendous spy networking. All in all, we’re the loser in relations with Red China. A major top member of their ruling Party said that losing a billion people wouldn’t affect him much because they still have 2 billion more. I believe like Patrick Henry who said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” I don’t mind being blown to bits in a nuclear blast or dying with radiation sickness for whatever number of years it takes. What I do mind is that I can’t write what I want, say what I want, believe what I want, and go to church where I want. I’m willing to die for my rights rather than having Red Chinese or Russian troops marching down the streets of my town and telling me I can’t speak English anymore or I can’t say what I want, or believe what I want. In other words, I’m not a groveling worm to any stinking Commie bastard or any dictator like Castro.

    Roy Miyamoto

    July 18, 2009 at 4:40 am

  15. To Doug’s Darkworld: How do you judge if I’ve said the same thing if I’ve added something new to what I’ve said before?

    Roy Miyamoto

    July 18, 2009 at 5:16 am

  16. I guess you’re prejudiced against my opinion and my right of free speech because I don’t see my comments along with all the others. Are you biased? I’m not. All of you others as well as Doug of his Darkworld have my ear and a right to voice their opinions.

    Roy Miyamoto

    July 18, 2009 at 5:20 am

  17. I didn’t mention penalties that these countries did for crimes before. What are you talking about? Is the truth for you people too painful?

    Roy Miyamoto

    July 18, 2009 at 5:29 am

  18. Had America stayed in Viet Nam and invaded the north, America would have become involved not just with VN. Consider that VC forces were already encamped within Laos and Cambodia. In fact, US bombing raids on the VC forces in Cambodia drove the VC further inland, causing US bombings to come closer and closer to Phnom Penh. In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized control of PP. By 1977 raids by the KR into Vietnam were becoming frequent. Had the Americans stayed, they would have had to fight the North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, Khmer Rouge, and Pathet Lao forces.

    Further China and Kampuchea (Cambodia) were allied against Vietnam and its ally, the USSR. Would China have assisted its then-enemy Vietnam and by extension the USSR? Not likely as China’s friendship with the USA in 1975 may have given them hope of seizing some land in north Vietnam in return for helping the US. More likely, the Soviets would have been the ones assisting VN against an American invasion, not the Chinese.

    samnangp

    July 18, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    • The United States also had the support of South Korea, the Phillipines, Australia, South Vietnam, the Cambodians, Thailand, and secretly the British while in its war against the Khmer Rouge, Pathet Lao, and the North Vietnamese Communists who were aided by the Chinese and Soviets. The US had more than enough allies to combat fighting those sides you mention, and it did directly or indirectly fought the Communists in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos at the time, and was for the most part winning, up until the plug was pulled at home by a misinformed media reporting doom and gloom, and political leaders who bought anything that the media told them.

      Anonymous

      July 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

  19. I wrote a blog refuting this one. Please read it.
    http://radiofreewisconsin.wordpress.com

    TMF

    August 7, 2009 at 10:48 am

  20. [...] stayed in Vietnam, we would have eventually prevailed. Sigh. I’ve covered this topic before: We Could Have Won in Vietnam. There are two things that really annoy me about this myth, the first is that it’s presented [...]

  21. A couple of things need to be pointed out here. First off, China had already sent troops and supplies into Vietnam (from approximately 1965-1970) although they were not relied upon as much as the Soviets. This is important to note as the North Vietnamese relied far more on the Soviet Union at a time when Soviet-Chinese relations had soured. This relationship between Vietnam and the Soviets caused a split between China and Vietnam, a split which would ultimately lead to the Sino-Vietnamese war of the late 1970s. It is also partly responsible for China’s opening up to the U.S. Anyone who claims that the Chinese would have launched a full blown invasion into Vietnam in order to fight the U.S. is ignoring these facts of history.

    conner

    January 18, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    • Well, all good points, and if I said Chinese intervention was certain, I misspoke. Nonetheless, it would certainly be a possibility. And since I wrote this post, I realize that even if the US had invaded and occupied North Vietnam, that’s what it would have been. The Communists would just have retreated into the hills and kept fighting. —Doug

      unitedcats

      January 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      • Misspoke would be an understatement.

        Little known things like nuclear diplomacy prevented outright conflicts between the Soviet Union and the United States throughout the Cold War, although they did at times get close to an exchange. While possibilities are lovely to speculate on, the reality was that the Americans were winning most of the battles of the conflict and even managing to take strides against the North Vietnamese, their war effort collapsing. While it is true that Ho Chi Minh’s rag-tag group would have continued fighting on in the hills, and the possibility of Chinese intervention might be on the table; the end result would have at least been the same as what happened with the Korean war, two different nation states, one of which today would have been a successful economic and democratic powerhouse (South Vietnam, i.e; like South Korea). A more positive outcome would have been that Ho Chi Minh would only have been left to fight in the hills, and that Pol Pot (everyone forgets he was an ally of Ho Chi Minh during the 60s) would have also been prevented from seizing power in Cambodia. I wonder which would have been the more sensible outcome.

        Instead we have a Vietnamese Communist state that arrests people for speaking out against the regime, it has killed around 1.7 million people in a short space of time, and some of its former allies have killed tens of millions more.

        Anonymous

        July 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

  22. I believe that the reasons why we lost the Vietnam War are fairly straightforward. The Vietnamese, a tough people who have suffered under different foreign powers for long periods of time and continued to fight, outlasted us.

    A people fighting for their own country will always fight harder than someone coming in from the outside. I might sacrifice myself to save my family or people if my country is invaded, but I might not fight to subjugate another people. If I am forced to fight were I cannot see the immediate danger to my people, I will probably not fight as hard. There’s a big difference.

    As far as morality is concerned, the US was in the wrong the moment we gave back France her colony in the forties. Ho Chi Minh asked the United States to recognize them as a sovereign nation. We wouldn’t do it.

    An interesting read–

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proclamation_of_Independence_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_Vietnam

    The biggest difference between a reading of Vietnamese’s struggle for indendence, and our own (United States), might be perspective.

    Will E.

    June 2, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    • If Ho Chi Minh was really a George Washington of his country, why didn’t he institute democratic and freedom-based reforms, instead of disastrous Communist ones that resulted in the deaths of more than a million of his own people? If Ho Chi Minh was freedom-minded as people claim him to be, he would have had the full weight and backing of the United States and their allies without a war being necessitated. The actions of the North Vietnamese spoke otherwise when they killed anti-colonialist nationalists (who later fled and formed South Vietnam) after WWII ended while the French were present, and all of a sudden when they turned their guns between on the French between 1946-1954, gullible westerners believe they were the real anti-colonial struggle all a long. The problem with Vietnam is that their country has fallen for the same romanticised nonsense that the Russians themselves once did after Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and a bigger mass-murderer Lenin appeared on the scene.

      Anonymous

      July 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

  23. If North Vietnam is allowed to repeatedly and blatantly invade South Vietnam and force its governemtn on the South Vietnamese people, why can’t the south do the same? Why should we have restricted ourselves to defending the south, when a counterattack would help give us the initiative and show the enemy that we’re not messing around.

    China was involved in this war as well and provided tanks, planes and training to the NVA. They were as much involved as we were. If they had wanted to officially join the war, that would be their mistake.

    By abandoning our South Vietnamese ally during its time of need, we failed them and left 2 million of them without a country to live in as well as to subject the rest of them to communist reeducation camps.

    Tim Ha

    June 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    • We didn’t restrict ourselves to the south, the bomb tonnages dropped on the North are staggering. North Vietnam was not “allowed” to repeatedly invade South Vietnam, it was the USA which attacked North Vietnam in an attempt to prop up its puppet regime in South Vietnam which was wildly unpopular and reeling from the Viet Cong insurgency. And in any event, we didn’t abandon our ally, we abandoned a puppet government we had installed because we had no good options. You seem to have missed the point of my post, it was a stupid war where the enemy had huge home field advantages … any further escalation on our part was in no way guaranteed to succeed, and could have led to a nuclear war with China and Russia. We should have just let the Vietnamese go their own way after WW2, instead of propping up French efforts to recolonize the country. Thanks for commenting. —Doug

      unitedcats

      June 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      • The US did not install the South Vietnamese regime, South Vietnam came into existence long before the US was heavily involved in the region, and the war started by Communist North Vietnams aggressive support of insurgency groups in the South, especially after its own disastrous economic reforms that caused hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese civilians to be killed and a further million to flee the country, mostly into South Vietnam. It should be noted that however corrupt the South Vietnamese police state was, it was nowhere near as authoritarian and corrupt as their Northern Communist counter-parts.

        Anonymous

        July 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm

  24. So in the 1940’s I suppose you there are American policy makers who would say… Hey, lets give this Ho Chi whatever his name is… his independence somewhere in God knows where in Asia and screw our long time Ally the Frenchies. – Yap, that certainly makes a lot of sense to all those post WW2 policy makers…

    Whatever Dude.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    • So? France left Nato in 1966 anyways, screw ‘em.

      Ashley Charleston SC

      January 28, 2012 at 4:37 am

      • That event happened years after the US intervened in Vietnam on the side of the South Vietnamese and against the North. Barring the fanciful notion of the US government having access to a time machine or knowledge of events beyond the present mid-1960s, events like that could not have been foreseen by anyone. A response like this shouldn’t be taken seriously.

        Anonymous

        July 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm

  25. The reason this article is idiotic: You title it “We Could Have Won Vietnam” and then spend more time explaining why we couldn’t have won Vietnam than why we could. Besides that, all your reasoning is based on some whiny hippie idea of war. In WWII we won because we killed everyone, we demoralized and dehumanized our enemies. You can’t fight a politically correct war and expect to win. We had two presidents during Vietnam who were more concerned with how the press viewed them than with winning. Look where it got them, the press hated them anyway. So to hell with the press and you do what has to be done, you kill civilians, you kill soldiers, you kill priests, you kill little cute puppies and kittens anything to make the people of the country wonder if it’s worth it to keep fighting. Yes we killed civilians, but not enough of them. You can’t be viewed as weak in war, you have to make people see that no matter how hard they fight they’ll never prevail, and if they show an inkling of believing they have a chance, you crush them into dust and piss on the pile. Oh but that would be unethical! Well do you want to win or do you want to win the nobel peace prize? I don’t want my reply to be too long, so I won’t get into China, but we could have ruined them easily and we wouldn’t have to be dealing with them today. Anyway, that’s my opinon of the whole thing.

    Jason

    August 23, 2012 at 2:34 am

    • We dropped more tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than we did on Japan and Germany combined in WW2.

      Robert

      December 4, 2012 at 7:46 am

      • Heck, we dropped more bombs in SE Asia than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two.

        unitedcats

        December 4, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      • …And yet in all irony, none of that bravado will be accounted for if the people fighting are forced to withdraw, influenced in part by a North Vietnamese communist propaganda campaign designed to influence Americans and the world on a social and political level.

        Feel free to ignore important facts such as these and continue to spout easily refutable and cheap rhetoric though.

        Anonymous

        January 8, 2013 at 7:58 pm

  26. [...] Jason left a nasty comment on my “We Could Have Won Vietnam” post, it’s the last comment. Sigh. Aside from missing the point of the post, he not [...]

  27. As far as I know, history produces no examples of one country successfully fighting another country’s civil war.

    Robert

    December 4, 2012 at 7:41 am

    • The Vietnam War was not fought on behalf of the South Vietnamese by the Americans, the majority of the fighting on the ground was conducted by the ARVN which comprised almost entirely of local Vietnamese nationalists who resisted their Moscow/Beijing-proxy in the north.

      Anonymous

      January 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm

  28. When I was in high school a million years ago, my teacher summed it up nicely by using the American Revolutionary War as an example. He said, like the North Vietnamese, the US colonies couldn’t defeat the most powerful military power at the time. It took British cooperation, like United States cooperation years later, to walk away from the table. More a matter of wills than of power.

    gregg m

    July 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm

  29. I was born in 1978. It seems to me that the World War II generation is the greatest generation and the baby boomers are a bunch of pansies (Did you not play football in the 1970s, what is your problem?). World War II was ten times worse than Vietnam. Vietnam is surrounded on the east side by ocean. The US Navy could have blown North Vietnam to bits. But, in a way, we repeated all of the mistakes in North Korea, when we were in Vietnam. I guess the real answer was a full blown shock and awe attack through the air and sea on north Vietnam. But baby boomers only care about themselves and not about our country, so expecting to win a ground war with baby boomers was too optimistic. The baby boomers should be nicknamed the “worst generation”. People in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown ten times the bravery. They don’t have to hide behind drugs like the baby boomers. In fact, you are not allowed to even have a drink in Afghanistan or Iraq if you are in the military, meanwhile the baby boomers in Vietnam were taking hard drugs like Heroin.

    Yomamma

    November 23, 2013 at 7:29 am

  30. We did win. In 1972. Then we pulled out unilaterally and cut all aid to South Vietnam, which was then invaded in 1975 and destroyed. More lives were lost in the subsequent two years than in the previous 3 decades of warfare.

    Congrats, hippies.

    Iuventius

    April 9, 2014 at 12:57 pm

  31. In essence and in the views of most of the government leaders of the US during the war, the Vietnam war is a war for containment rather than for victory, because the war is not one against the NV and VC but in fact a war against USSR and red China. Without the support from USSR and red China the NV and VC wouldn’t stand a chance to survive under US military power. So the question really is not how to win the war but how to win an acceptable peace. The strategy adopted was to exhaust the enemy to the extent that they gave up the attempt to invade SV. The US have made it happen in Korea. So the really interesting question is why did the US not achieve the same in Vietnam? One answer I have is that because in Korea the red China did intervene and directly undertook the tremendous costs of war — about half a million loss in soldiers; and consequently the red China, not the NV, got tired and gave up the ambition. In Vietnam, however, the red China did not directly intervene, and consequently did not feel the pain of that war so much as the US felt it. As a result the US got tired and the red China did not. The US got so tired that she not only withdrew all troops but also the funding to support SV. So the fate of South Vietnam was determined. Based on this, my thought is that if there was a single fatal mistake that the US has made in Vietnam War it was that she insisted in not crossing the 17-degree line to prevent the red China from intervening. If you can’t directly hit the big brother hidden behind your enemy you can never win the fight, not even a peace. So in conclusion, the mistake in Vietnam War was that the US was fighting the wrong enemy. The USSR made the same mistake in Afghanistan later though.

    Jeff

    July 15, 2014 at 4:45 pm


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