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Thread: Vietnam: Where Did the US Go Wrong?

  1. Top | #41
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    I can't argue your experience.

    The media reporting certainly had an effect on opinion. I remember a mother reported seeing her son killed in the news. There was the picture of a SVN police officer shooting a VC suspect in the head in a street. As we would say today it went viral. Pictures of monks burning themselves alive in the street.

    When I got out of the Navy circa 1972 it was damned if you went in and damned if you didn't depending on who you talked to.

    All the analysis I have seen and read would say ARVN was generally corrupt at least at the top. Drug traffucking. I know GIs were bringing back duffel bags of pot.

    The Navy of my time was riddled with drugs.

    SVN was never a country. The agreement was a partition until free elections. It was clear the communists would win, and we were not going to let that happen. At one point Minh approached the USA with a constitution similar to ours in some ways. He was rejected in favor of keeping it a French colony to support France post war.

    The fact the VC existed as it did says something, even given their tactics. The anti foreigner sentimnet was starong. General Giap said something like we have been fighting for 100 years to rid ourselves of foreign powers and we will fight another 100 years.

    The will and determination of the VN at Dien Ben Phu says something. People carrying supplies down the trail says something. We had overwhelming technology and it was not enough to overcome the VC and NV.

  2. Top | #42
    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    ... snip ...

    We had overwhelming technology and it was not enough to overcome the VC and NV.
    That gets back to the fact that there was no attempt to win. The war 'strategy' was to just defend the population centers. This was done quite effectively while we were involved. An attempt to win would have required taking down the leadership in the North but there was fear that the invasion required would have brought the Chinese into the war like in Korea. The problem with the defensive 'strategy' was that the American public are not at all patient.

    Oh, and the VC were no longer a force after the '68 Tet offensive. Their greatest protection had been that no one knew who they were. They revealed themselves during the offensive and were identified by the ARVN who fairly quickly eliminated them. After that the NVA had to leave cadre in the South to take their place.

  3. Top | #43
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    I heard it said that NV intentional used up the VC to eliminate it as a threat if VN was unified under the North.

  4. Top | #44
    Senior Member Tharmas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SimpleDon View Post

    What the Vietnam war did was to destroy a lot of peoples' faith in the government and it started the split of the liberals from the workers and started the movement of the Democratic party to the right. The liberal anti-war protesters' primary motivation was not, in my opinion, a moral one of being against the war but was that they didn't want to be drafted to fight in the war. ...
    I have to disagree with you. While there were specific protests against the draft, such as draft card burnings, my experience tells me the majority of anti-war protests were populated by individuals with genuine objections to the Vietnam War in particular.

    For one thing, many of the protesters were not affected by the draft, such as women, and middle aged and for that matter elderly people. There was even a demographic of protesters called little old ladies in tennis shoes. There were sizable cohorts of Vietnam Veterans involved in the protests. I myself was not affected directly by the draft. I had a 3-A classification (married with dependent children), which was not drafted during the Vietnam conflict.

    I agree with you that war did destroy people's faith in the government. We may have "won" the Tet offensive in terms of body counts, but we had been told for months, by Johnson and General Westmoreland, that we were seeing a "light at the end of the tunnel," that the war was nearly over and that we were in a mopping up stage. In that context, the Tet offensive came as a real shock. That was when you heard wags remarking that the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train coming the other direction.

  5. Top | #45
    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    ... snip ...

    I agree with you that war did destroy people's faith in the government. We may have "won" the Tet offensive in terms of body counts, but we had been told for months, by Johnson and General Westmoreland, that we were seeing a "light at the end of the tunnel," that the war was nearly over and that we were in a mopping up stage. In that context, the Tet offensive came as a real shock. That was when you heard wags remarking that the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train coming the other direction.
    I saw an interview with General Giap (one of the major planners of the Tet offensive) when he was hawking one of his several books after the war. According to him, that offensive was supposed to end the war with them victorious. The North made an all out effort in full belief that it would spur a popular uprising in the South in support of them, even to include most of the ARVN joining with the NVA and VC. The North was surprised that the offensive did none of those things and resulted in a rush of South Vietnamese volunteering to join the ARVN. He said that the North's leadership were considering drawing up a truce to offer to the South until they heard Cronkite's newscast declaring that the offensive showed that the war was lost. This made the offensive a major propaganda coup even though it was, tactically, a disaster for them.

    Although Giap was a brilliant strategist, he apparently began to believe their own propaganda and ended up relying on bad information (their propaganda) in his tactical planning of the Tet offensive.
    Last edited by skepticalbip; 10-15-2019 at 01:48 AM.

  6. Top | #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by HaRaAYaH View Post
    We lost the war for several reasons:

    1) War is politics by other means. We did not have the political support of the Vietnamese people and eventually of the American people.

    2) War is capture the flag. You can not bomb people into submission. To win the war we would need to go to Hanoi. Just like we went to Berlin
    As Skeptical Bib pointed out, this is utter crap. I wasn’t there like he was, but any serious analysis of the war today clearly takes note of the basic fact that the people in SVN overwhelmingly didn’t want a communist takeover. That’s why so many northerners fled the north to come to the south after partition.

    As for invading the north, that was an absurd thought, which no one took seriously. It would’ve brought the Chinese in. The goal was never to liberate all of Vietnam from communism, but to establish a an effective south Vietnam government as in South Korea. That didn’t happen due to geography. That’s really the big difference between the two outcomes. SK is on a peninsula and thus shielded on three sides from invasion.

    SLD

  7. Top | #47
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    It isn't complicated from the Vietnamese perspective. The US went wrong in Vietnam when the US invaded Vietnam. Vietnam was never a threat to the US, at all, yet the US invaded and bombed them like crazy.

    This was just one of many countries that invaded and subjugated Vietnam. The Vietnamese have been conquered and have liberated themselves so many times (usually China, but also France, etc) that it may have set a record.

    The US also went wrong when they bombed Cambodia so incredibly much. The power vacuum they formed through doing this was a big part of what led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge there, as well as the pro-communist sentiment in both Vietnam and Cambodia.

  8. Top | #48
    Veteran Member PyramidHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jolly_Penguin View Post
    It isn't complicated from the Vietnamese perspective. The US went wrong in Vietnam when the US invaded Vietnam. Vietnam was never a threat to the US, at all, yet the US invaded and bombed them like crazy.

    This was just one of many countries that invaded and subjugated Vietnam. The Vietnamese have been conquered and have liberated themselves so many times (usually China, but also France, etc) that it may have set a record.

    The US also went wrong when they bombed Cambodia so incredibly much. The power vacuum they formed through doing this was a big part of what led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge there, as well as the pro-communist sentiment in both Vietnam and Cambodia.
    The only sensible reply to the OP, bravo.

  9. Top | #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trausti View Post
    The US was fighting a war against Communism. The Vietnamese were fighting a nationalist war against foreigners. They weren't fighting the same war.
    Yes. This.

  10. Top | #50
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    From a certain point of view, the Vietnam war ended the right way. It is one of the few countries in the world without US troops stationed there forever (compare to Korea). They are slowly, with stumbling, embracing a market economy. They are now a trading partner with their neighbors and even the US, much to everyone's surprise. The two nations are at peace with each other and not having any hostilities other than a rough history.

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