What if the United States had not given up in Vietnam?

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Tet failed in it's objective - which was to try and provoke a general uprising amongst the South Vietnamese population against the South's Government. The NLF was meant to occupy, around Saigon the likely landing grounds for US Helicopters and so prevent the rapid reinforcement of the US and ARVN forces in the city. They failed.
The North Vietnamese had several hopes for Tet that were not accomplished including an uprising by the South Vietnamese population, None the less I do not consider that they "lost" or more importantly that the US "won". Tet destroyed claims by Westmoreland and Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker that there "was light at the end of the tunnel". Rather it was clear that even the US Embassy was not safe from attack. The strategic hamlet program was a failure. American military bases were not safe from attack. As we latter learned in Westmoreland's lawsuit against CBS he was deliberately underestimating enemy troop levels. The problem Westmoreland and Wheeler faced in early 1968 was not one of bad press coverage; it was their rosy assessments were no longer credible. The basic problem was that the majority of the people did not support the South Vietnam regime, did not share our view of what a free society should be and did not want us around. The Army's long term response to the problem was to better control what correspondents saw during the Gulf War coupled with a commitment by Colin Powell to tell the absolute truth.
What could the US have done in 1968? I assume nucs were off the table. An invasion of North Vietnam would have lead to a long term occupation plus the risk of Chinese intervention. Moving to occupy the Ho Chi Minh trail would have lead to the same results.
 
The North Vietnamese had several hopes for Tet that were not accomplished including an uprising by the South Vietnamese population, None the less I do not consider that they "lost" or more importantly that the US "won". Tet destroyed claims by Westmoreland and Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker that there "was light at the end of the tunnel". Rather it was clear that even the US Embassy was not safe from attack. The strategic hamlet program was a failure. American military bases were not safe from attack. As we latter learned in Westmoreland's lawsuit against CBS he was deliberately underestimating enemy troop levels. The problem Westmoreland and Wheeler faced in early 1968 was not one of bad press coverage; it was their rosy assessments were no longer credible. The basic problem was that the majority of the people did not support the South Vietnam regime, did not share our view of what a free society should be and did not want us around. The Army's long term response to the problem was to better control what correspondents saw during the Gulf War coupled with a commitment by Colin Powell to tell the absolute truth.
What could the US have done in 1968? I assume nucs were off the table. An invasion of North Vietnam would have lead to a long term occupation plus the risk of Chinese intervention. Moving to occupy the Ho Chi Minh trail would have lead to the same results.
Nixon considered nukes during Khe Sanh. They were discounted by the US Chiefs of Staff. As Operation Blowdown the Australian test of nuclear weapons effects in Tropical Rainforests had showed, Nuclear weapons have limitations in their use.

Tet was a political victory for the North Vietnamese, there can be no doubt of it. The North always had multiple objectives for their operations. Tet's military one - to defeat the US military failed. Politically, it succeeded for the reasons that you outlined. An invasion of the North would no doubt created a casis belli for the Chinese to intervene. However, the Chinese were embroiled at that time in the Cultural Revolution and that brought a whole raft of problems for the PLA.
 
The war basically could not be "won" unless we either - 1. invaded NVN or 2. isolated SVN from NVN by cutting the HCM trail.
Closing the North's ports by mining would have worked as well.
The rail links to Red China just were not robust enough to support the insurgency far south of the DMZ.

If they don't have the supplies, it doesn't matter how well built the Trail system was.
They can't get replacement trucks in, tires for those trucks, or even fuel to power them.

A blockade hamstrings the North, without the bad PR of bombing, not that the USAF ever came close to what was done in North Korea
 
I think Vietnam, above all else, proved that you cannot stop a political theory by military means. Kissinger was wrong, just as the American military was. Vietnam was going to become Communist eventually. All they could do was slow the process, if they were lucky.
Viet Nam had become communist after WW2, and fought the French first and the US later in what was for them not a war for communism but a war for national unity and independence. What Kissinger said, much later and with loads of hindsight, was that the US should have left Viet Nam alone and just tries to contain further expansion of communism in the area.
At the time of the war Kissinger was wrong, but so was a lot of people in a number of US administrations
 
Viet Nam had become communist after WW2, and fought the French first and the US later in what was for them not a war for communism but a war for national unity and independence. What Kissinger said, much later and with loads of hindsight, was that the US should have left Viet Nam alone and just tries to contain further expansion of communism in the area.
At the time of the war Kissinger was wrong, but so was a lot of people in a number of US administrations
America was full of pundits which made bets on what the world was doing which they invariably got wrong. What they failed to recognise was that the Communists couldn't build a Communist State without the cooperation of the local people. The Vietnamese had just emerged from a war of national liberation which was stymied by Washington by the temporary splitting of the country into two which became semipermament. De Gaulle recognised that Vietnam would overwelming vote Communist in the prospective elections. Eisenhower refused to accept that and instructed his apparatus to fight it. He was a fool and so where the members of the CIA and the US Military (and by extension the Australian politicians and the Army).
 
America was full of pundits which made bets on what the world was doing which they invariably got wrong. What they failed to recognise was that the Communists couldn't build a Communist State without the cooperation of the local people. The Vietnamese had just emerged from a war of national liberation which was stymied by Washington by the temporary splitting of the country into two which became semipermament. De Gaulle recognised that Vietnam would overwelming vote Communist in the prospective elections. Eisenhower refused to accept that and instructed his apparatus to fight it. He was a fool and so where the members of the CIA and the US Military (and by extension the Australian politicians and the Army).
They didn't always got it wrong, and in the end, they won.
The thing to remember is that cases of communism taking over as a genuine expression of the will of the people are extremely rare. The Truman doctrine was right on the strategic level, even if mistakes were often made at the operational/tactical level. (we're talking global scale here)
Resisting the expansion of communism after WW2 was the right choice, and large parts of the world population live better now because of it.
 
Tet failed in it's objective - which was to try and provoke a general uprising amongst the South Vietnamese population against the South's Government. The NLF was meant to occupy, around Saigon the likely landing grounds for US Helicopters and so prevent the rapid reinforcement of the US and ARVN forces in the city. They failed.
It's true the Tet offensive was a military failure, but that wasn't the only result of it. The US had been telling itself that because of it's policies and tactics the NVA & VC were almost certainly about to be defeated any day now for a while. The mere fact that the NVA & VC were able to launch the Tet offensive successfully or not kind of highlighted the significant gap between the narrative being sold in the US was and reality. That he war was not almost won, that it would go on despite US efforts and Americans (and Vietnamese ) would continue to die as it did so.

FWIW the NVA and VC also learned from the Tet failure as well, but that somewhat tangential to the US response to it
 
Nixon considered nukes during Khe Sanh. They were discounted by the US Chiefs of Staff. As Operation Blowdown the Australian test of nuclear weapons effects in Tropical Rainforests had showed, Nuclear weapons have limitations in their use.

Tet was a political victory for the North Vietnamese, there can be no doubt of it. The North always had multiple objectives for their operations. Tet's military one - to defeat the US military failed. Politically, it succeeded for the reasons that you outlined. An invasion of the North would no doubt created a casis belli for the Chinese to intervene. However, the Chinese were embroiled at that time in the Cultural Revolution and that brought a whole raft of problems for the PLA.

China was also moving toward a confrontation with the Soviet Union. Both sides were massing forces on their mutual border, with major fighting breaking out in 1969. That's what gave Nixon the chance for his opening with China. The Chinese wisely considered the Soviets a greater threat then the USA.
 
They didn't always got it wrong, and in the end, they won.
The thing to remember is that cases of communism taking over as a genuine expression of the will of the people are extremely rare. The Truman doctrine was right on the strategic level, even if mistakes were often made at the operational/tactical level. (we're talking global scale here)
Resisting the expansion of communism after WW2 was the right choice, and large parts of the world population live better now because of it.
The idea was, according to the Cold War Warriors in Washington, that Communism set out to undermine societies and take them them over. That did not occur in a single nation around the world. Not one was infiltrated by Communists who fomented a revolution. What occurred was that locals would get fed up and try and have a revolution, usually without any outside help. Eastern Europe saw Communism being exported on the end of a bayonet. Communism didn't despite what was claimed try and expand, it simply moved in there, when the Nazis moved out.
 
The idea was, according to the Cold War Warriors in Washington, that Communism set out to undermine societies and take them them over. That did not occur in a single nation around the world. Not one was infiltrated by Communists who fomented a revolution. What occurred was that locals would get fed up and try and have a revolution, usually without any outside help. Eastern Europe saw Communism being exported on the end of a bayonet. Communism didn't despite what was claimed try and expand, it simply moved in there, when the Nazis moved out.
Having lived through the portuguese PREC (Período Revolucionário Em Curso translated as On Going Revolutionary Period) after the April 25th revolution I can assure you that they did, and that a possible US intervention was a factor in the test of strengh that ended the Communist attempt to take over the country.
Regarding what you say about Eastern Europe, try telling a Pole that his country became communist by their own choice.

Regarding Communist expansion/infiltration attempts, I sugest reading "Comrades" by Robert Service.
 

DougM

Donor
The facts are controversial but basically the US won the battles and pretty much could have kept wining pretty much any given fight. But the US got tired of the war and was not able to set up a stable government that the people wanted. So once the US cut back it was inevitable that the South would fall.
And it will happen a lot sooner if the US does not send in the troops like they did. The results will be huge. Culturally and politically and militarily (equipment, tactics and attitude)
 
I will not touch upon the subject of military doctrine here as it, in the grand scope of things, does not really matter. Vietnam, as a war, was defined by the grandest possible scope of topics, and thus was a political war -- it pitted supporters of the notion that the was was fruitless against suppporters of America's own Dolchstosslegende. The latter will always peddle against the press, students, and the ordinary people as traitorous, poisnonous, and "unpatriotic". Little do they know that these people were the real patriots!
The anti-war protestors looked at the war and saw it for what it was: an affair against a nation that posed no real threat to their well-being, compared to the pro-war establishment in their own country, which day after day asked for bodies, money and food to be sent to an useless front while repressing and bullying those who questioned it. Families saw their sons being taken away from them to be sent to a near certain death. In the end, the ones who were disgusted about all this were the ones who wanted to see America as an example, as a strong country to be respected on the international stage for keeping true to its word of "democracy", not as a clumsy monster to be made fun of for needlessly throwing itself into the altar of anti-communism and locking itself into damage-control mode.
And in the end, all their predictions about the war proved themselves true. Soon after the US army left Saigon to deal with possible threats elsewhere, the Asian communists started fighting each other. Cambodia saw the same agrarian socialist movement that took control of it due to a bombing campaign by Nixon end up part of a pro-western front against Vietnamese occupation in 1979. At the same time, despite all the sunken cost, all the bombs, all the trauma of the old war, Vietnam was beginning to cozy up to the United States because of a growing threat to its north, China. Both countries remain in conflict up to this day over issues such as the Spratley islands dispute, and the US is glad to support the underdog as a counterbalance to the mighty PRC. The "domino theory" proved itself a myth as soon as the US was defeated on the military front.
Bottom line is, the US could have attained more advantages to its own interests if they had allowed Vietnam to be unified in 1956 as a neutral, eventually pro-western, country. They wouldn't have had to go through the needless pains of a civil disobedience movement and a tanking economy...
 
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The thing to remember is that cases of communism taking over as a genuine expression of the will of the people are extremely rare. The Truman doctrine was right on the strategic level, even if mistakes were often made at the operational/tactical level. (we're talking global scale here)
Where it really mattered, in Europe, where there were strong institutions and a majority of the population desiring Western style freedom, it worked just fine. The Marshall Plan and NATO were the right solutions for Europe. In Latin America a hands off approach was the right solution. In the Pacific things worked well most places--Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zeeland, the Philippines, India. Even in Africa Communism generally failed Where Communism has succeeded is where it has identified itself as anti colonial

It's true the Tet offensive was a military failure, but that wasn't the only result of it. The US had been telling itself that because of it's policies and tactics the NVA & VC were almost certainly about to be defeated any day now for a while. The mere fact that the NVA & VC were able to launch the Tet offensive successfully or not kind of highlighted the significant gap between the narrative being sold in the US was and reality. That he war was not almost won, that it would go on despite US efforts and Americans (and Vietnamese ) would continue to die as it did so.
Yes Wheeler and Westmoreland had a huge credibility problem. Ho had originally asked Woodrow Wilson to support Vietnamese independence in 1919 but Wilson's view of self determination stopped with those of White European ancestry. Ho asked Harry Truman in 1945 and once again Truman's view if not racist was clearly Euro-centric and we backed a return of the French. When the French failed we came up with a puppet emperor and Catholic seminary student to govern a predominantly Buddhist land. Then we backed a series of corrupt military juntas. We came up with the strategic hamlet to uproot the locals much like Stalin's collectivization of the 1930s. There was no way for the US military to win this war.
 
Where it really mattered, in Europe, where there were strong institutions and a majority of the population desiring Western style freedom, it worked just fine. The Marshall Plan and NATO were the right solutions for Europe. In Latin America a hands off approach was the right solution. In the Pacific things worked well most places--Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zeeland, the Philippines, India. Even in Africa Communism generally failed Where Communism has succeeded is where it has identified itself as anti colonial

"Hands off"? No, the US had a very much "hands on" approach to Latin America. It intervened. It brought right-wing dictators to power through the "School of the Americas". It funded right-wing dictators with millions of dollars in aid. The US was very much involved in events in Latin America, much more than nearly anywhere else in the world.
Yes Wheeler and Westmoreland had a huge credibility problem. Ho had originally asked Woodrow Wilson to support Vietnamese independence in 1919 but Wilson's view of self determination stopped with those of White European ancestry. Ho asked Harry Truman in 1945 and once again Truman's view if not racist was clearly Euro-centric and we backed a return of the French. When the French failed we came up with a puppet emperor and Catholic seminary student to govern a predominantly Buddhist land. Then we backed a series of corrupt military juntas. We came up with the strategic hamlet to uproot the locals much like Stalin's collectivization of the 1930s. There was no way for the US military to win this war.
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Not necessarily true. There were ways to win the war but they required an emphasis on the locals, through a proper "hearts and minds" campaign. Something Westmoreland only paid lip service to. The US Army had a proud counter-insurgency history in the Wild West and the Philippines. It basically ignored that. The US military saw Vietnam as a sideshow and carried on training explicitly for Europe and conventional battles. It took until Iraq in 2005 for the US Army to rediscover it's history and start to work to protect the locals from the insurgents.

I was trained in the Australian Army, at the end of the 1970s. The lessons we carried from Vietnam were that we must protect the locals and help the locals as much as possible, to stop the Insurgents from gaining a hold on their "hearts and minds". It worked in Phuoc Tuy province. It worked in Somalia and it worked in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
It funded right-wing dictators with millions of dollars in aid. The US was very much involved in events in Latin America, much more than nearly anywhere else in the world.
would you compare what the Soviet spent and involved themselves in events in their backyard?
 
Closing the North's ports by mining would have worked as well.
The rail links to Red China just were not robust enough to support the insurgency far south of the DMZ.

If they don't have the supplies, it doesn't matter how well built the Trail system was.
They can't get replacement trucks in, tires for those trucks, or even fuel to power them.

A blockade hamstrings the North, without the bad PR of bombing, not that the USAF ever came close to what was done in North Korea

It was proposed earlier in the war under Johnson and Nixon but rejected. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon4/pent4.htm

Mining the harbors would be much more serious. It would place Moscow in a particularly galling dilemma as to how to preserve the Soviet position and prestige in such a disadvantageous place. The Soviets might, but probably would not, force a confrontation in Southeast Asia-where even with minesweepers they would be at as great a military disadvantage as we were when they blocked the corridor to Berlin in 1961, but where their vital interest, unlike ours in Berlin (and in Cuba), is not so clearly at stake. Moscow in this case should be expected to send volunteers, including pilots, to North Vietnam; to provide some new and better weapons and equipment; to consider some action in Korea, Turkey, Iran, the Middle East or, most likely, Berlin, where the Soviets can control the degree of crisis better; and to show across-the-board hostility toward the US (interrupting any on-going conversations on ABMs, non-proliferation, etc.). China could be expected to seize upon the harbor-mining as the opportunity to reduce Soviet political influence in Hanoi and to discredit the USSR if the Soviets took no military action to open the ports. Peking might read the harbor-mining as indicating that the US was going to apply military pressure until North Vietnam capitulated, and that this meant an eventual invasion. If so, China might decide to intervene in the war with combat troops and air power, to which we would eventually have to respond by bombing Chinese airfields and perhaps other targets as well. Hanoi would tighten belts, refuse to talk, and persevere--as it could without too much difficulty. North Vietnam would of course be fully dependent for supplies on China's will, and Soviet influence in Hanoi would therefore be reduced. (Ambassador Sullivan feels very strongly that it would be a serious mistake, by our actions against the port, to tip Hanoi away from Moscow and toward Peking.)


To US ground actions in North Vietnam, we would expect China to respond by entering the war with both ground and air forces. The Soviet Union could be expected in these circumstances to take all actions listed above under the lesser provocations and to generate a serious confrontation with the United States at one or more places of her own choosing.

However Nixon decided on this course of action in 1972 as a response to the Easter Offensive,Operation Pocket Money, and then demining the harbors in Operation End Sweep after the Paris Accords were signed. The Chinese were asked to help demine and obliged, putting in some pretty effective work but the harbors still being reblocked by new mines. From pp 214 of the The Dragon in the Jungle.

The new strategy improved the Chinese minesweeping operation by doubling the number of mines discovered and destroyed by Chinese mine-dredgers. For example, on October 10, the 312- 05 mine dredger swept eight mines in one day. [82] The Chinese, however, suffered casualties due to the air attacks, which dispersed operations. It took another month for the port of Hai Phong to reopen in October 1972. US replenishment mining, however, reblocked the port in November. The Chinese contin-ued their minesweeping efforts and reopened the port in January of 1973, when the Peace Treaty was signed in Paris between North Vietnam and the United States.
 
Viet Nam had become communist after WW2, and fought the French first and the US later in what was for them not a war for communism but a war for national unity and independence.
After WW2, it was less "communist" and more "united front of nationalist" (among them, communist was the loudest and toughest voice). By 1954, from a various combinations (anywhere between "communist is the most effective" and "communist has removed everyone else" depends on who you ask), (North) Viet Nam was a communist country.

Note that I write (North) because the US renegaded (on principle) on the Geneva Convention. Legally speaking, they did not sign it, and the US Congress did not declare war in 1964...
 
Bottom line is, the US could have attained more advantages to its own interests if they had allowed Vietnam to be unified in 1956 as a neutral, eventually pro-western, country. They wouldn't have had to go through the needless pains of a civil disobedience movement and a tanking economy...

I doubt that. I doubt Ho Chi Minh will be able to run a country(which will be inevitable after elections in 1956) without burying it into the ground first, causing at least as much deaths the war caused with re-educations and collectivization in Maoist styles. He'd outdo Pol Pot.

In 1956 the situation in Vietnam was so much different and under Ho Chi Minh not positively.

The Vietminh were the perfect war cabinet, but at peace, not so much.
 
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