Why was the Vietnam War lost?

Joe Biden got the same number of deferments (5) then claimed asthma- that no friend or family member ever saw him suffer, yet did not stop him being a lifeguard & ballplayer in college. The other tidbit is had Biden simply served at 18 he would have done his 2 years and been out in 1964 so he was in no real risk at 18 (Cheney also). First US conventional ground combat units arrived in 1965

Bill Clinton accepted a US Navy reserve slot as an officer, then immediately fled to the UK until like trump he also had a high draft number
It’s not a competition. It does say volumes for the character of your senior politicians though.
 
I think you’ve read a bit more into that than I intended. Take Germany in WW2. They were fighting on their own soil, for the survival of their country, and failed. The Allied attack was not pointless, and despite the German determination, they still got their arrses handed to them. So I don’t think it’s necessarily pointless attacking a determined enemy on their home soil, but you’ve got to put your best foot forward in both a military sense, and a political sense. The last bit was just too weak in the Vietnam campaign.
Yeah, unfortunately, the Vietnamese were only fighting the Americans, not the entire world, they were not doing so conventionally and they had Chinese and Russian help. In that sense the Americans lost because ideology won against big bucks. So once again the German analogy is wrong. The political driver of reducing body count in a political war that no one in America wanted, but was a throw back to Korea and the earlier French Indo china war was very important. In Germany the body count for Germans was a given and far exceeded the American body count over a longer period. Fighting on home soil is one thing, but it doesn't guarantee the end result.
 
I've read a lot about the French war in Indochina (1946-54) and, stripping politics away from the story, it seems that the war was lost militarily to what became the North Vietnamese for a number of reasons. Basically, the French could not control the countryside in northern Indochina. French outposts - in particular those which controlled the Indochinese / Chinese border [an area which later in the war became the main source of supplies for the Viet Minh] - could not be re-supplied save for at great expense in terms of lost lives and material, because the French could not control the roads (this was a question of manpower). There were not enough aircraft in theatre to maintain aerial re-supply.

Importantly, the French couldn't force the Viet Minh to fight a conventional war. Dien Bien Phu was an attempt to bring the Viet Minh to battle, where they could be attacked from the air, and from a secure base for artillery, but the French planning assumptions were wrong for a number of reasons. The French lost the battle and their belief in victory.

As the war progressed, the French-controlled areas in northern Indochina became limited to large towns and coastal cities, on the Eastern side of northern Indochina. By 1954 - after Dien Bien Phu - the French lacked the military resources to regain control over the rural areas of northern Indochina. It could have been done with a greater commitment of resources but the cost would have outweighed the gains. Northern Indochina was lost to them. A ceasefire and partition followed the French acceptance that they could not regain control.

I've read about the Vietnam War but haven't obtained the same sense of clarity about what went wrong for the US and ARVN. Some of the books I've read make the US superiority in some areas seem such that a US defeat is hard to understand. Is it possible, from Arrsers more familiar with the subject than I am, to set out the basic military reasons for the failure of the US and ARVN to defend South Vietnam? Thank you.
The war was lost because one side refused to give up the struggle - North vietnam.
Tired of funding the war, the democrats hastened defeat by cutting funding in 74/75 - United States.
Trained to rely on firepower and with insufficient fuel and ordnance, ARVN had to adopt rationing and as such morale collapsed - South Vietnam.
Constant breaches of international law by the north were ignored, the americans were villified for every action - ROW.
 
It’s not a competition. It does say volumes for the character of your senior politicians though.
A certain USN officer resigned his commission to run for fir congress
Having secured Texas he had the honour to succeed a fellow pacific officer in the big chair only to be replace by another Pacific officer who swore a lot
 

Fake Sheikh

War Hero
Yanks did not drop enough napalm & agent orange(DDT).
But it did help with research on anti foliage chemicals.
 
They weren't, POTUS asked Harold Wilson for British troops, he declined POTUS replied" Don't expect any help from us in the future"............
I have often heard it said that the British reluctance to become involved in Vietnam (and it wasn't just the Wilson government) was because it was the US who sabotaged Suez.
 
Quite a decent article imo. Even if you think in just the terms of the ARVN vs the VC and NVA, they had more troops, more kit, greater mobility (air for a start) and firepower, yet they alone couldn't stop the VC and NVA. With leaders like Diem and successors, they weren't exactly inspired. It can't have helped:
you can prop it up for as long as you want but i'm not convinced the building blocks were there for what they were trying to create a "free" and western supporting ally. when i read that quote it makes me think of Afghanistan and how it sounds like the same situation.

but South Korea worked out* so maybe it isnt such a daft plan after all.



*could this be down to the fact that much of South Korea got the opportunity to try communism for a while and after it went away again/was pushed over the 38th parallel they had enough experience to decide they'd rather not give it another whirl.
 
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Yeah, unfortunately, the Vietnamese were only fighting the Americans, not the entire world, they were not doing so conventionally and they had Chinese and Russian help. In that sense the Americans lost because ideology won against big bucks. So once again the German analogy is wrong. The political driver of reducing body count in a political war that no one in America wanted, but was a throw back to Korea and the earlier French Indo china war was very important. In Germany the body count for Germans was a given and far exceeded the American body count over a longer period. Fighting on home soil is one thing, but it doesn't guarantee the end result.
That was my point. Apologies if I was unclear.
 
I posted this many years ago on a COIN thread but it was mostly based on reading countless books on Vietnam.

I compiled a checklist of how not to fight a counter insurgency war. Tick a lot of the boxes and the doo doos will be deep.

1. Do the insurgents have safe havens (Taliban/Pakistan, PIRA/Republic, VC/Laos & Cambodia etc). If so they will be very difficult to eliminate. The Malaya campaign got nowhere until Thailand sealed the border.
2. Do the insurgents have solid external support - weapons, money, recruits etc.
3. Can the insurgents melt into the local population - Chairman Mao's "fish hiding in the sea".
4. Are the insurgents ideologically driven - more often by nationalism, but also by religion, politics, race, creed etc.
5. Do you have a truly overwhelming numerical superiority. 300,000 Commonwealth troops in Malaya were up against 6-8000 insurgents and got virtually nowhere until (1).
6. Are you fighting the last war (or even the one before that), the one they taught you at Staff College or the one you are actually in.
7. Are the insurgents low tech/small-scale thus requiring little in the way of logistics. Can they be supplied by the locale.
8. Are you arming the insurgents? They are often armed/equipped by the COIN forces. The VC were; the Taliban make IEDs from aid fertiliser.
9. Can the government forces fight the insurgents the same way the insurgents fight them. Clearly not the case in Vietnam or Afghan.
10. Is there collusion between COIN side and insurgents combined with high levels of corruption.
11. Is there a weak government with little or no national remit or legitimacy.
12. Is there a well defined goal or end game. Do you know when to go.
13. Does the terrain and general geography mitigate against a surround and slaughter policy at strategic level.
14. Do tactics mitigate against a surround and slaughter policy at the local level - a la Oz policy in Malaya and Vietnam.
15. Is there a belief that high tech will defeat motivation, determination and ingenuity. Giaps policy of "grab the enemy by the belt" renders a modern army ineffective especially when 13 is taken into account. Massive artillery, air and armour capability are rendered almost useless.
16. Do the insurgents demonstrate a willingness to tolerate privations and hardships that would have western soldiers fragging their officers.
17. Do you have a Firebase mentality - this just makes you a bigger, better fixed target (Khe Sanh anyone). Just like wooden forts against the red Indians - good protection but you only control the bit inside the walls. Fails spectacularly if the insurgency/war transitions to army v army.
18. Do your tactics alienate neutral (and even friendly) locals: free fire zones, forced relocation to strategic hamlets, general slaughter as they "are all the same anyway", operations bringing insurgents into the area. All resulting in a serious loss of hearts and minds. It might be true that if you grab them by the balls their H&Ms might follow but you actually have to grab their balls first - most blokes react badly to this tactic.
19. Are you using your conventional forces the wrong way. I.e using the USMC as PBI when they are supposed to be shock troops; thinking you can use massive air power against two guys with WW2 Japanese rifles - B52s were not designed for CAS; not using COIN trained soldiers properly or enough (such as guys who had trained at the Jungle Warfare School in Malaya and had a phenomenal hit rate)
20. Are we "nation building at gunpoint" - if so we will probably fail. Are we using a "military tool to solve a political/social problem" - if so we will probably fail. Will we end up with a legitimate government in place supported by the rule of law and robust social institutions - if not then . . . . You probably get the picture.


From an article by three Septic Colonels: ""When Colonel Harry Summers told a North Vietnamese counterpart in 1975 that “you know, you never defeated us on the battlefield,” the reply was: “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.” Military actions alone cannot achieve success. Tactical actions must be linked to operational and strategic military objectives and essential political goals. Without those connections, we might waste lives and resources for no real gain.

The insurgent wins if he does not lose. The counter insurgent loses if he does not win.""
 
7. Are the insurgents low tech/small-scale thus requiring little in the way of logistics. Can they be supplied by the locale.

See the exasperated comment at the time, 'we're losing $10 million dollar planes taking out $10 bicycles"
 
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sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
heres my two bobs worth.
  • The civipop was never on side
  • The politicians were running the war from far a too remote position.
  • The Generals didint have a proper game plan not an endgame scenario
  • USA was too frightened of what China might or might not have done.
  • Body count was more important than ground captured
  • Final the USA lost the support of its own people ( inc arm forces)
 
The Body Count was the most retarded metric on which to quantify ‘success’.

according to its logic, Germany defeated the Soviet Union in WWII.
 
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As I understand it, the war was basically lost in Washington. As you say, the US had overwhelming superiority in many areas. What it lacked was the political will to annihilate the enemy, in part because of the body count on the US side.
For my money, the war being lost in Washington was down to Washington having opted to fight for the Vietnamese government they wanted instead of the Vietnamese government the Vietnamese wanted.

The Soviets and PRC were arguably doing the same, the main differences being they were not committed in any scale and that their choice of government was headed by people who had reputations as Vietnamese patriots from the anti-colonial wars.
 
And the sons of the privileged in the US also avoided the draft and combat.

Including Donald Trump.

That’s cowardice in my book.
An interesting comparison in Rodric Braithwaite's Afghantsy on the Soviet Afghan war was the demographics of the conscript troops were very similar to the US's in Vietnam. In both cases, large numbers of connected kids avoided the draft through family influence while the urban middle classes had various schemes of their own.

The bulk of the troops who went were urban working class and - disproportionately high in both settings - rural kids from Nowhereville and Nigdegrad.
 
In his memoirs the North Vietnamese General Võ Nguyên Giáp wrote that the North was only days away from complete surrender and that they couldn't believe their luck when the Americans called a halt to the bombing.
Given the US's war aims, I doubt that would have resulted in them winning. A good 'mission accomplished' moment at best.

They'd still have had to deal with the Republic of Vietnam's government being wholly incapable of running their country effectively or even extending their writ beyond the barrel of an American gun.
 
For my money, the war being lost in Washington was down to Washington having opted to fight for the Vietnamese government they wanted instead of the Vietnamese government the Vietnamese wanted.
Moot. It's unclear if the Southern Vietnamese people actually wanted the Northern administration. They got what they got by virtue of the North winning. All the Americans did was back the South which was not what the communists wanted at all. but then American and Asian mindsets are very different.
 

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