Why was the Vietnam War lost?

The US could have achieved it's aim of keeping the Communists out of South Vietnam simply by paying more attention to the wishes of the South Vietnamese population than to their own.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as it rarely obtains to the present particularly when decisions are taken
 

Mike Barton

War Hero
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there was a 20 year counter insurgency program in NE Thailand against the Chinese-supported Communist Party of Thailand (CPT).

According to the memoirs of the Thai general who was the architect of the Thai COIN strategy, it only came to a halt after a deal that the Chinese would stop supporting the CPT if the Thai recognised the Chinese-supported Khmer Rouge.

I’ve never been able to triangulate this with another source, but it does add some flesh to the ‘domino’ idea.

IIRC the main problem with the Domino Theory was that it largely relied on the assumption that there would be cooperation between the Soviets and the Chinese. A very out of date idea even by 1965.

This was evident when the Soviet backed Vietnamese threw out the Chinese backed Khmer Rouge in 1979, only to have the Chinese invade Vietnam in turn.
If at the end of it all in 1975 the Communists in both Moscow and Beijing (as you rightly point out, not the same thing at all) looked at how the Cold War in SE Asia had played out they would indisputably have calculated that they lost and lost heavily.

The loss of Indonesia was the biggest disaster to befall Communism prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Not only was the biggest Communist Party outside of the USSR and China wiped out in a matter of months but the Yanks got their hands on the jewel in the crown that had been ripe for the picking by the Communists.

Less than a year after General Suharto took control in Jakarta the Americans had ownership of the biggest gold mine in the world. And with Indonesia now safely in the western camp the West had unfettered access to the biggest nickel producer in the world, the biggest oil producer outside of the Middle East, the biggest rubber producer, one of the biggest bauxite producers and coal deposits, they also had control of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. If the Chinese had got that, and they were within a whisker of getting it in 1965 the Chinese economic miracle would have begun 20 years earlier.

Along with Indonesia the West got Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma and the Philippines. The Reds got tiny, poverty stricken Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and at enormous cost.

The Domino Theory was correct, it's just that the important dominoes all fell to the West and they did so largely as a result of the Indonesian Army's stunning victory against the Indonesian Communists, a fact for which Indonesia has never been forgiven in the liberal West, where Suharto is right up there in the pantheon of villains alongside General Pinochet.
 
To the best of my knowledge, the PRC has never inserted itself directly into a civil war and tried to impose the government if its choice without reference to the wishes of the population.

The US could have achieved it's aim of keeping the Communists out of South Vietnam simply by paying more attention to the wishes of the South Vietnamese population than to their own.
Apart from supporting the Khmer Rouge...depends on your definition of ‘directly’ I guess.
 
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as it rarely obtains to the present particularly when decisions are taken
Since the US made exactly the same mistake under remarkably similar conditions a decade earlier in Korea, hindsight should have told them what decisions not to take.

Those who don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
 
Apart from supporting the Khmer Rouge...depends on your definition of ‘directly’ I guess.
Directly as in the US involvement in Vietnam - ground troops, massive military and economic support, etc.

That was the false equivalence I was rebutting, after all.
 
One huge security breach committed on a daily basis by the US forces, even perhaps by their SF units which should have known better, was the employment of local civilians in their larger bases for mundane duties. This not only gave the enemy the timings of daily activities within any such base, it also, once geographical features near the base had been noted and some discreet pacing done, allowed for the calling in and adjustment of mortar and rocket strikes etc against it. By contrast, ANZAC forces would not employ locals unless there were no alternative and then only where they could be completely supervised.

Then too, if, as was recorded by US TV cameras, SOME (by NO means all) US soldiers were going out on "patrol," openly smoking marijuana, with transistor radios blaring out the latest hits and paying scant attention to their individual arcs of fire, it should come as no surprise if some such units were quite successfully ambushed. One Australian veteran (he was a junior officer at the time) remembers encountering such a unit and asking one of its senior NCOS if it couldn't, "Rig for silent running." In response, the fellow turned and bellowed out at the top of his lungs, "Hey keep the noise down willya!" Nuff said?
 
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Well USUALLY when you are attacked you have the right to fight back.... and US forces landed by invitation to SOUTH Vietnam, Not North Vietnam the agressor
It is not quite correct. There were 2 governments in Vietnam - Northern and Southern ones. And there was inter-Vietnamese conflict. In other words there was a civil war. In civil wars it is not correct to describe any side as 'agressor'.
At least from formal point of view Washington used invitation from the Southern government to interfere into internal affairs of Vietnam. And anyway the USA was not attacked, invaded by any Vietnamese armed forces.
So there is a big difference between the war with Japan and the war in Vietnam. In the first case Washington has right to use all means at its disposal to defeat the enemy, even nuclear weapons. In the case with Vietnam it was unthinkable.
 
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As a matter of interest, were the Soviets invaded by Afghan forces before they invaded Afghanistan?
You ask a question with obvious answer. No, of course Afghan forces didn't invade the Soviet union.
And what is your point?
During the last 75 years the USA was not invaded but there were dozen wars waged by Washington.
I would like to repeat my point - there was a big difference between the war with Japan and the war in Vietnam. Washington was unable to use nuclear weapons there for example. And the Soviet union was unable to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan as well.
Both wars were lost.
 
As a matter of interest, were the Soviets invaded by Afghan forces before they invaded Afghanistan?
The Soviets were invited in by the Afghan government. Which they set about rearranging to their if not satisfaction then at least their can-live-with-it-for-a-bit.

A bit like the US and the Republic of Vietnam, it was all the rage at the time after all.
 
It is not quite correct. There were 2 governments in Vietnam - Northern and Southern ones. And there was inter-Vietnamese conflict. In other words there was a civil war. In civil wars it is not correct to describe any side as 'agressor'.
Except South Vietnam wasnt trying to invade North Vietnam so North Vietnam indeed was the aggressor

At least from formal point of view Washington used invitation from the Southern government to interfere into internal affairs of Vietnam.
As could be said of Russia, China and North Vietnam itself interfering in South Vietnamese internal affairs

And anyway the USA was not attacked, invaded by any Vietnamese armed forces.
So there is a big difference between the war with Japan and the war in Vietnam. In the first case Washington has right to use all means at its disposal to defeat the enemy, even nuclear weapons. In the case with Vietnam it was unthinkable.
Italy didnt attack the USA yet still was a legitimate enemy to fight Italy attack British territory and they were an ally just as South Vietnam was
 
From what I understand from the recent Vietnam War series shown on BBC it was a lot closer than is generally assumed.. By the late '60s early 70's the NVA suffered heavy casualties and morale pressure and pretty much abandoned the concept of desertion. If a man had had too much and needed to wander off for some time with his family they pretty much allowed it as long as they actually came back.... The ruling echelon in the north had pretty much sent their dependents out of the country to keep them out of the war.

The question then would be what could the US and the Southern government done to improve the morale and reslilience of their own population and forces while dictating the pace of operations to the NVA and compelling them to sustain a high casualty rate... But I think LBJ opened the sea-cocks on that ship in 1968..
 
Except South Vietnam wasnt trying to invade North Vietnam so North Vietnam indeed was the aggressor

As could be said of Russia, China and North Vietnam itself interfering in South Vietnamese internal affairs

Italy didnt attack the USA yet still was a legitimate enemy to fight Italy attack British territory and they were an ally just as South Vietnam was
First of all, let's recall history of Vietnam
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The resulting First Indochina War lasted until July 1954. The defeat of French colonialists and Vietnamese loyalists in the 1954 battle of Điện Biên Phủ allowed Hồ Chí Minh to negotiate a ceasefire from a favourable position at the subsequent Geneva Conference.
The colonial administration was therefore ended and French Indochina was dissolved under the Geneva Accords of 1954 into three countries—Vietnam, and the kingdoms of Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam was further divided into North and South administrative regions at the Demilitarised Zone, roughly along the 17th parallel north, pending elections scheduled for July 1956.
Note, that Vietnam gained independence as a country that included both Northern and Southern parts. The division was purely administrative. South and North were not separate countries but parts of one country.
The partition of Vietnam by the Geneva Accords was not intended to be permanent, and stipulated that Vietnam would be reunited after elections in 1956
However, in 1955, the southern State of Vietnam's prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, toppled Bảo Đại in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu, and proclaimed himself the president of the Republic of Vietnam.
In fact, Southern separatists violated the Geneva accords and rejected the very idea of elections. Vietnam entered into period of civil war and during civil wars terms 'invaded', 'agressor' are not applicable.
Let's compare it with the civil war in the USA. The North didn't invaded the South. It is not correct to speak about aggression.
During WW2, the USA, the UK and the Soviet union were allies. So some axis powers didn't invade US mainland but invaded US allies (British colonies and the Soviet union). Thus Washington had free hands during WW2.
By contrast de facto Washington invaded Vietnam itself using invitation of separatist entity.
So I repeat my point - there was a big difference between the WW2 and the war in Vietnam.
political considerations limited U.S. military actions
There
was the possibility of a spiraling escalation of the conflict into a superpower confrontation and the possibility of a nuclear exchange. Therefore, there would be no invasion of North Vietnam, the "neutrality" of Laos and Cambodia would be respected, and Rolling Thunder would not resemble the bombing of Germany and Japan during the Second World War.
 
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During the last 75 years the USA was not invaded but there were dozen wars waged by Washington.
And there were no proxy wars waged by the USSR (mostly in Africa) during the same time period? If there weren't, whence came all the AK47 assault rifles and RPD light machine guns which still exist there at a pestilential level in some areas? Are we to assume Santa Claus dropped 'em down the chimney?
 
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And there were no proxy wars waged by the USSR (mostly in Africa) during the same time period? If there weren't, whence came all the AK47 assault rifles and RPD light machine guns which still exist there at a pestilential level in some areas? Are we to assume Santa Claus dropped 'em down the chimney?
I didn't claim that there were no proxi wars where the USSR was involved this or that way.
In times of the Cold war such wars were not rare. And weapons supplies to guerillas, insurgents, rebels were not infrequent. Let's recall Iran-contras affair for example.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
You ask a question with obvious answer. No, of course Afghan forces didn't invade the Soviet union.
And what is your point?
During the last 75 years the USA was not invaded but there were dozen wars waged by Washington.
I would like to repeat my point - there was a big difference between the war with Japan and the war in Vietnam. Washington was unable to use nuclear weapons there for example. And the Soviet union was unable to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan as well.
Both wars were lost.
As mentioned above, you should attempt to get hold of a copy of this :


Given that Rodric Braithwaite was a fluent Russian speaker, I'm sure a Russian Language copy is widely available.

It is actually a very sympathetic portrait of the guys on the ground.

The Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan to maintain in power a puppet regime, against the wishes of the local civpop.

....Sounds like a pretty close parallel to me.

And whilst Brehznev's gangsters were unable to deploy nuclear weapons , their tactics in Helmand Province were lifted straight out of the Red Army Bagration playbook.

A village sheltering Mujahideen?

Strafe it to bits from the air then send an armoured column supported by heavy artillery slap through the middle of it...obliterate any living thing.
 
The Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan to maintain in power a puppet regime, against the wishes of the local civpop.
There's a lot more to it than that. The invasion was triggered by the realisation that their original candidate was temperamentally incapable of mending political fences, was stirring up unnecessary trouble on the Soviet southern border and wasn't going to step aside voluntarily.

Given that the collective noun for Afghans is a feud, they were almost as fated to go in as the Yanks were in Vietnam - not that this makes it a good idea or even an effective strategy.
 

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