Vietnam, a unwinnable war?

Again, one only has to look at the bigger picture to see why the American chief of staff thought an invasion of any Laotian territory would be very risky and elicit a dangerous response: they're losing goodwill in the international stage, losing domestic acquiescence for the war, and the Chinese and Soviets are eyeing the situation as an opportunity.
You also seem to misunderstand the delicate situation Laos found itself in at the time:
-There was the Pathet Lao supported by Hanoi, which we know. While not still a numerical majority, they still exerted considerable influence over their target audience.
-There was a pro-western anti-communist faction under Phoumi Nosavan that only controlled the capital Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and the immediate surroundings. They were supplied from Thailand, but their influence over the eastern borderlands was downright nonexistent.
-There was a "neutralist" faction under Kong Le in the Plain of Jars that often veered between both sides in the grand stage. There was one thing they agreed upon, which was that the Lao nation should be kept whole. They were gradually worn down over the 60's and most of their splinters defected to and swelled the ranks of the Pathet Lao, if i'm not mistaken.
-Finally, there were minority groups such as the Hmong and the central highland tribes who were armed and supported by the United States but whose cultural exclusion made them relatively easy to spot and isolate.

The US did infiltrate and disrupt the HCMT through covert special ops formations who were airdropped in with generic indistinctive uniforms and untraceable firearms. They also sent out air raids across the area with the objective to observe parts of the trail, bomb any formations they could find, and destroy valuable targets such as fuel and ammo depots. There was an invasion of the panhandle in 1971 by ARVN troops with US support. Overall, all of these were costly mounting failures.
What you're proposing is a direct invasion of the Laotian Panhandle by the US using committed ground troops backed by air power to occupy, damage and dismantle the trail. An occupation of a border strip would not have sufficed, they would have to go all the way to the Mekong for their objectives to be achieved. We have to analyze why the US didn't carry that out despite the notion that it would have been a silver bullet and the fact that NV troops already occupied Laos:
While i do concede that this would have been an immediate blow to infiltration efforts by the NVA and VC into SV and Cambodian territory, it would, as mentioned, have risked an escalation of the war. Laos, not just the leftist guerrilla groups but quite a lot more of the whole nation, would have thoroughly allied with NV to resist what would have been a very clear act of aggression and violation of their sovereignty by the US. Congress would be guaranteed to be furious and restrict the president's legal ability to handle troops and equipment. The CIA would be concerned at seeing the uniformed ones trudging upon what was agreed to be their territory. The Soviets and Chinese would be eager to help and apply military pressure on other parts of the world to distract the Americans and amp up the armament of NV and Laos, nukes could have been involved... there's a lot that could go wrong, and all three of the war's presidents knew it. That's why they did not pursue the option of trespassing into the Laotian border. Justifying it would have been a nightmare.
Your correct in analyzing why the U.S. lost. They spent their time chasing shadows, and being paralyzed by fear of escalation. If you can't focus on the enemies center of gravity, and attack his most vulnerable point don't bother to fight the war, because your not serious. The whole war was a series of half way measures. We used massive force applied in a deliberately ineffective manor. We bombed targets worth less then the bombs used to destroy them. We chose targets because they didn't matter to the enemy, and refused to hit targets that would have caused them pain. We did that because we weren't trying to destroy the enemies means of resistance, but were sending messages. They thought tonnage dropped would show the enemy our will, in fact it showed them we weren't serious.

We also lost because we weren't being honest with the American People. In the LBJ years they never trusted the people would support the war if they knew how hard victory would be. Even among themselves they could never even define what victory meant, or why we were there. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
They wanted the people at home to forget there was a war going on. They feared if they tried to convince the people to support the war they'd want to win it. That was what made the Korean War so unpopular, not that they were fighting it, but that they didn't win decisively. At the same time they didn't want the people to turn against the war. They wanted to keep the people in nether forward, or reverse, but in Neutral Gear. You can't drive out of a ditch in neutral.

By the time Nixon came into office a trumpet call of charge would be politically costly, the smart money was against it. So they sounded retreat, but not too quickly. Peace with honor. The North Vietnamese would have to bid their time, but it was coming. They sang "Time is on my side. Yes it is." Watergate was the final nail in South Vietnam's coffin. So yes if you go into a war taking council of your fears you will lose.
 
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Your correct in analyzing why the U.S. lost. They spent their time chasing shadows, and being paralyzed by fear of escalation. If you can't focus on the enemies center of gravity, and attack his most vulnerable point don't bother to fight the war, because your not serious. The whole war was a series of half way measures. We used massive force applied in a deliberately ineffective manor. We bombed targets worth less then the bombs use to destroy them. We chose targets because they didn't matter to the enemy, and refused to hit targets that would have caused them pain. We did that because we weren't trying to destroy the enemies means of resistance, but were sending messages. They thought tonnage dropped would show the enemy our will, in fact it showed them we weren't serious.

We also lost because we weren't being honest with the American People. In the LBJ years they never trusted the people would support the war if they knew how hard victory would be. Even among themselves they could never even define what victory meant, or why we were there. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
They wanted the people at home to forget there was a war going on. They feared if they tried to convince the people to support the war they'd want to win it. That was what made the Korean War so unpopular, not that they were fighting it, but that they didn't win decisively. At the same time they didn't want the people to turn against the war. They wanted to keep the people in nether forward, or reverse, but in Neutral Gear. You can't drive out of a ditch in neutral.

By the time Nixon came into office a trumpet call of charge would be politically costly, the smart money was against it. So they sounded retreat, but not too quickly. Peace with honor. The North Vietnamese would have to bid their time, but it was coming. They sang "Time is on my side. Yes it is." Watergate was the final nail in South Vietnam's coffin. So yes if you go into a war taking council of your fears you will lose.
The thing is, there was no viable other way to go into the war there, making it a costly and deeply immoral mistake. Of course, a large part of it was mission creep. A few advisors and some bombing can always be done (but isn't effective), and so more forces are sent and more bombs dropped. That however still isn't effective and leads to constant escalation. But, because it's always seen from the current paradigm, there is no point where someone goes: "wait, what are we doing? Is there any benefit at all to this whole thing?". Or at least, not until it's far too late and there are plenty of deaths. And by the point that happens, you can't easily pull out anymore for fear of being attacked by the hawks. But at the same time, you can't fully escalate because that's something that can actually threaten vital interests.

In the end, Vietnam was a serious misunderstanding of what the American interests were. SEA wasn't a vital region to have in their bloc and they expended huge sums of money and quite a few lives (and committed some pretty serious war crimes in the process) for something non-essential. That in turn already caused tremendous damage to the army and American society, which of course ignores the enormous damage done to Vietnam.
 
The VWP, DRVN and PAVN’s plan for war from 1968 was the “General Offensive” line. Prior to 1968 their line was “General Offensive / General Uprising.” Both focused exclusively on the PRG/NFL controlled areas and RVN areas. North Vietnam did not consider US electorates’ opinion.
Of course they did, it would be completely idiotic not to consider the political situation in your principal enemy's main ally and think about how you could persuade them to stop supporting your main enemy and the North Vietnamese were clearly not complete idiots. Stuff like the Jane Fonda visit would be totally inexplicable if the North Vietnamese did not care at all about U.S. public opinion (as well as Western public opinion in general).
 
They probably did have plans for that in the Pentagon, but no chance of LBJ or Nixon using them
From what I have heard they had plans for everything from a ground invasion of the North to air campaigns that would have been Linebacker 2 on steroids.

What the Vietnam war needed was four strategies.

1. A COIN strategy against the Vietcong. This would have been worth its weight in gold if instituted in the late 50s or early 60s. The Marines tried, but Westmorland stopped them at every turn.

To have the western press be able to go into South Vietnamese villages and find Americans working with ARVN and local paramilitaries in a competent way to secure the population would have bought support and time for the war. It would have also created an intelligence network so the US could know something like Tet was coming.

2. North Vietnam: Do you want to bring them to the peace table and if so what kind of force are you willing to allow the Pentagon bring to the table? Instead what we had until ‘72 was air attacks that I believe were more about domestically showing we were doing something then actually trying to pressure the government of the north.

3. The rat lines in nearby counties? What to do about them? If there was to be a focused campaign it needed congressional support.
Doing COIN right makes dealing with insurgents in neighboring countries much easier as we saw with the US in Iraq in 2008.

4. How to pressure the South V. government without undermining it.

If the US wasn’t willing to accept building solid plans for all four issues from the start they shouldn’t have gotten involved or at least escalated from a small number of trainers and advisors.
 
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Do you have anything else better to do than make a snarky pointless comment to a 4 month old post?
No.

I'm just pointing out that a strategy of attrition (just kill more of the enemy!) was tried and did not work, because the North Vietnamese were always willing to take more losses than what the American public could bear, and because it failed to address the South Vietnamese government's weaknesses.
 
1965 was the point when the U.S. committed ground troops in a combat situation. That LBJ & McNamara committed to a ground war without ever thinking out a long term strategy was criminal stupidity. With no end game they should have just accepted eventual defeat, and continued to provide logistical support, and training. No vital American interests were involved. At no time did they establish objectives for the war, and ask the JCS to come up with plans to achieve them. The U.S. Military had no strategy other then an open ended battle of attrition.

Cutting the HCM Trail also pretty much ends the war in Cambodia, because the Communists can't get there from the North. Instead of escalating the situation in Cambodia it deescalates it, since the war was caused by the North Vietnamese invading the country, and recruiting, and arming local insurgents. The Cambodian Government was trying to play both sides against the middle. When you ride the Tiger you can end up getting eaten. Ending the invasion ends the conflict. The Americans cutting the HCM Trail would be the best thing to happen for Cambodia in it modern history, it would've saved them from the Killing Fields.

Only as pointed out you've extended your DMZ by another 250 miles over some tough terrain and you've not got a hard flank to pin it to. It will be harder to cut the HCM in reality than it is to type the words out.

I really can't understand why it's so hard to grasp this concept? When did I say the U.S. should occupy Cambodia, and Southern Laos? You'd only have to occupy a small portion of Laos to make it work. The Government of Laos would continue to run the Southern part of the country, and as for the part North of the 17th Parallel they only had marginal control anyway, because the North Vietnamese were occupying large part of it. Special Forces, and air power would help the Laotian Forces fight the North Vietnamese North of the line. Cambodia would be completely unaffected, except the Communist Insurgency would end for lack of North Vietnamese support, and tightened customs inspections. As the war went on more, and more of the VC forces in the South came from the North down the HCM Trail. Without those men the Guerrilla war dries up.

Because as pointed out that is what you will have to do to enact your plan. You can't just put troops and fortifications on the Cambodian/Lao border in a thin line and stop stuff. If nothing else that line will need it's own support areas and infrastructure

Even if you just put troops just inside the the Southern Lao border all you do is move the defacto Lao/Cambodian Border (as a point of VC/NVA egress) to that line, so no matter what you have just occupied southern Laos (was well as Cambodia) the Lao and Cambodians will react to this.

You are basically making the same mistake the US did in real life, that if you have plan the rest of the world will just fit nicely around that plan and cheer you on when you are doing it on their territory. Because you are the good white hat US fighting evil/nasty black hat commies.


*and yes we know the reality of the the various communist regimes afterwards (especially Cambodia) but that's in hindsight and it ignores the dissatisfaction with US backed governments, the actual popularity of some of the communists stated goals, and the basic fact that that no matter what your PR machine says when you put foreign troops on a countries soil and put up road blocks on it roads etc it looks and smells like an foreign invasion to everyone there no matter how nasty those home grown baddies you are actually there to beat are.
 
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Only as pointed out you've extended your DMZ by another 250 miles over some tough terrain and you've not got a hard flank to pin it to. It will be harder to cut the HCM in reality than it is to type the words out.



Because as pointed out that is what you will have to do to enact your plan. You can't just put troops and fortifications on the Cambodian/Lao border in a thin line and stop stuff. If nothing else that line will need it's own support areas and infrastructure

Even if you just put troops just inside the the Southern Lao border all you do is move the defacto Lao/Cambodian Border (as a point of VC/NVA egress) to that line, so no matter what you have just occupied southern Laos (was well as Cambodia) the Lao and Cambodians will react to this.

You are basically making the same mistake the US did in real life, that if you have plan the rest of the world will just fit nicely around that plan and cheer you on when you are doing it on their territory. Because you are the good white hat US fighting evil/nasty black hat commies.


*and yes we know the reality of the the various communist regimes afterwards (especially Cambodia) but that's in hindsight and it ignores the dissatisfaction with US backed governments, the actual popularity of some of the communists stated goals, and the basic fact that that no matter what your PR machine says when you put foreign troops on a countries soil and put up road blocks on it roads etc it looks and smells like an foreign invasion to everyone there no matter how nasty those home grown baddies you are actually there to beat are.
Your analysis of what I'm suggesting, and your understanding of the geostrategic situation is way off. The whole line along the 17th Parallel is about 150-175 miles long, it's not adding 250 miles to the official DMZ. The line is anchored on the Thai border, which is a hard flank. There are already foreign troops invading Laos, they came from North Vietnam, and they came uninvited. The Line is nowhere near the Cambodian Border with Laos. Cambodia isn't going to be trying to force the U.S. to reopen the HCM Trail. For what reason would they want the Communists to continue to invade their territory, and raise a Communist insurgency in their country?

I always find the arguments for historical inevitability about the Vietnam War interesting. In order to achieve victory the North Vietnamese can ignore even physical laws. They can pass unseen wherever they want to go. They can run supply lines though a fortified zone, as if it wasn't there. They can fight without weapons, or supplies, and reinforcements will reach them, because they can move unseen, and unimpeded anywhere they want to go. They have the support of the population, but they need to terrorize them to gain their cooperation. And best of all Laos & Cambodia will fight for the privilege of having North Vietnam invade, and use their territory as a base to attack South Vietnam. Why? Because they thought being client States of their historical enemies in Vietnam was the best thing to happen for the future of their countries.
 
Your analysis of what I'm suggesting, and your understanding of the geostrategic situation is way off. The whole line along the 17th Parallel is about 150-175 miles long, it's not adding 250 miles to the official DMZ. The line is anchored on the Thai border, which is a hard flank. There are already foreign troops invading Laos, they came from North Vietnam, and they came uninvited. The Line is nowhere near the Cambodian Border with Laos. Cambodia isn't going to be trying to force the U.S. to reopen the HCM Trail. For what reason would they want the Communists to continue to invade their territory, and raise a Communist insurgency in their country?

I always find the arguments for historical inevitability about the Vietnam War interesting. In order to achieve victory the North Vietnamese can ignore even physical laws. They can pass unseen wherever they want to go. They can run supply lines though a fortified zone, as if it wasn't there. They can fight without weapons, or supplies, and reinforcements will reach them, because they can move unseen, and unimpeded anywhere they want to go. They have the support of the population, but they need to terrorize them to gain their cooperation. And best of all Laos & Cambodia will fight for the privilege of having North Vietnam invade, and use their territory as a base to attack South Vietnam. Why? Because they thought being client States of their historical enemies in Vietnam was the best thing to happen for the future of their countries.
HCM trail came through Laos into Cambodia and then on into SV, Cambodia is a vital part of it because it allowed more points of entry into SV (which is half the point of the thing overwise the the US could just camp on the SV side of where it came out). You yourself have already made points talking about this!

the 17th parallel is the SV DMZ so if your talking about cutting through Laos by extending that your cutting the entire fucking country in two!

so actually no I think it's you who lack basic understanding here, not only of the HCM trail but of the political realty of this situation and what your suggesting. Especially in terms of assuming Cambodia, Laos and even Thailand will welcome the US and co with open arms when they escalated an already fucked situation in to a larger fucked situation, with your one simple trick to pull a win out of thin air that apparently no one thought of in 10 years!

the rest of your points have already been addressed, and you haven't actually addressed any of mine
 
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HCM trail came through Laos into Cambodia and then on into SV, Cambodia is vital part of it because it allowed more points of point of entry into SV (which is half the point of the thing overwise the the US could just camp on the SV side of where it came out). You yourself have already made point talking about this!

the 17th parallel is the SV DMZ so if your talking about cutting through Laos by extending that your cutting the entire fucking country in two!
...you just now noticed this? Belisarius has pretty clearly, from the start, been talking about extending the DMZ line from the Laotian-Vietnamese border to the Thai border, directly through Laos. Clearly, this means that the interdiction zone is a long ways from the Cambodian border, so it is only relevant if the fortified zone is penetrated (a reasonable supposition) or the Vietnamese run supplies in via sea traffic (which is very easy for the U.S. to interdict). You can criticize this plan on a lot of grounds, but it is factually true that his suggestion puts U.S. forces a long ways from Cambodia.
 
HCM trail came through Laos into Cambodia and then on into SV, Cambodia is vital part of it because it allowed more points of point of entry into SV (which is half the point of the thing overwise the the US could just camp on the SV side of where it came out). You yourself have already made point talking about this!

the 17th parallel is the SV DMZ so if your talking about cutting through Laos by extending that your cutting the entire fucking country in two!

so actually no I think it's you who lack basic understanding here, not only of yteh HCM trail but fi teh political realty of this situation and what your suggesting. Especially in terms of assuming Cambodia, Laos and even Thailand will welcome the US and co with open arms when they escalated an already fucked situation in to a larger fucked situation, with your one simple trick to pull a win out of thin air that apparently no one thought of in 10 years!

the rest of your points have already been addressed, and you have actually addressed any of mine
Your argument was really strengthened by your stream of 4 letter words. The idea of cutting the HCM Trail was a hot topic in the Pentagon during the war, because it's what common sense told them to do. Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia were already participating in the war. Thailand housed U.S. air bases, and sent troops to fight in Vietnam on our side. Most of Laos was already occupied by North Vietnam, so your hardly doing any harm to a fictional neutrality. The HCM Trail ran though Laos into Cambodia, if you cut the Trail the Communists can't get there. The Americans don't have to go into Cambodia, if you cut the Trail the war there would dry up. The entry points into SV were too numerous to cover, which was the point of controlling the border areas, and why you want to cut the Trial, to form a short defensible line. I really don't know what points your tying to make, accept that Laos & Cambodia somehow wanted the HCM Trail to run unimpeded though their territory, which is false, there just wasn't anything they could do about it. It was the Trail that dragged them against their will into the war.
 
...you just now noticed this? Belisarius has pretty clearly, from the start, been talking about extending the DMZ line from the Laotian-Vietnamese border to the Thai border, directly through Laos. Clearly, this means that the interdiction zone is a long ways from the Cambodian border, so it is only relevant if the fortified zone is penetrated (a reasonable supposition) or the Vietnamese run supplies in via sea traffic (which is very easy for the U.S. to interdict). You can criticize this plan on a lot of grounds, but it is factually true that his suggestion puts U.S. forces a long ways from Cambodia.
No I know is but then he started in earlier posts talking about just crossing slightly over the Cambodian border, and stopping smuggling in Cambodia which this would not be. so OK he's now talking about leaving the extended DMZ unsupported between a north Laos and Southern Laos.

As I already mentioned in earlier posts, you can't just put a thin line of troops in the middle of a country and assume you'll stop everything getting across , you will have to police the rearwards areas from the line all the way through the points of entry into SV, that will mean starting at the point of the extended 17th parallel, back through southern Laos and Cambodia. You have to have presence in Cambodia anyway because it's pretty much your gateway to Laos here, and it's to your rear of the newly extended DMZ anyway.
 
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Your argument was really strengthened by your stream of 4 letter words.

no they're just for colour. also a stream? barely a trickle

The idea of cutting the HCM Trail was a hot topic in the Pentagon during the war, because it's what common sense told them to do. Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia were already participating in the war.

well I guess you must be cleverer than them then because despite 10 years they didn't think of your idea, which is as you say fairly simple in concept (just not so in practice).

Thailand housed U.S. air bases, and sent troops to fight in Vietnam on our side.

Yes I know I have already said that but go back and read the posts were Thailand was talked about. Your cardinal error here is seeing this as a black/white countries are 100% wholly on our side or not. It was really was much more grey (even if the government nominally were).

Most of Laos was already occupied by North Vietnam, so your hardly doing any harm to a fictional neutrality.

Yes the neutrality was fictional again I have already said this, but if you go in there in force like that a fictional neutrality turns into a factual hot war because you will incite one. You will write the Communist propaganda for them


The HCM Trail ran though Laos into Cambodia, if you cut the Trail the Communists can't get there.

Once again read my earlier post you can't make the line airtight at the immediate point, so you will have to police the rearward areas which includes Cambodia, you will have to anyway for reasons I mentioned in my last post. However again like Laos, Cambodia is also having an insurgency and like Laos this will inflame that you will end up fighting in all three countries here. So yeah you will be deploying in Cambodia. This idea of just having a DMZ in the middle of Laos with no support is going to make the DMZ' job very hard anyway


The Americans don't have to go into Cambodia, if you cut the Trail the war there would dry up.

see above,

The entry points into SV were too numerous to cover, which was the point of controlling the border areas, and why you want to cut the Trial, to form a short defensible line.

I get the theory as you say it is pretty simple but the reality is by doing that by cutting a county in half you will end up enlarging the war and facing more insurgencies. to say nothing of the international look.

I really don't know what points your tying to make, accept that Laos & Cambodia somehow wanted the HCM Trail to run unimpeded though their territory, which is false, there just wasn't anything they could do about it.

This is basic misunderstanding of the political reality, these countries were pretty fractured there is no "Laos wants", "Cambodia wants" as unified wholes just like there was no unified 'Vietnam wants' or even 'S.Vietnam wants'. there is factions within all of them who want different things.

It was the Trail that dragged them against their will into the war.
They already had ongoing insurgencies, but your right the neibouring conflict spilled over to them and yes the HCM trail was part of that over spill. Only your plan involves invading Laos and putting a DMZ through the middle of it, and using Cambodia as a base to do that from and to support the operation. That is very much going to further drag them into the conflict against their will*. Only remember what everyone is seeing here, the great US superpower travelling half way around the world to break shit in SEAsia, and oh it's not doing so well so it's crossing the border.

So yes I get your plan, yes I get the goal of you plan. But it will not work because SEA is not just a willing back drop for you to refight the Vietnam war to your preferred conclusion. Just as it wasn't for the US' war against communism and the domino effect, a lesson I don't think we learned at the time, and you apparently still haven't.

You mentioned earlier you don't see why the North and magical communists was destined to win against the US no matter what, but I think you misunderstand the situation. It's not that the Communists in Vietnam can't lose, it's that escalating the conflict isn't a win for the US here.

*well except for those who will look at this to as golden opportunity to chuck fuel on the fire of their revolutions
 
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Thailand was staunchly anti-communist enough to count, unlike the weak Laotian and Cambodian governments
The government was but read the earlier posts it was also a military dictatorship with it's own issues even a nascent communist insurgency, and the US presence even as it was was not popular in the streets.
 
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He probably is more Clever than Beancounter Bob was as SecDef.
That a low bar that near anyone could better
Yeah internet snark aside, he's probably not smarter or more relevantly more aware of the political reality than the combined brains aimed at this problem at the time. Especially when the apparent solution is so simple.
 
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