What if USA goes all out in Vietnam War?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by polyharmonic, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. polyharmonic Well-Known Member

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    IOTL, the USA eventually lost the Vietnam War. It lost not because it was defeated militarily but because the war kept dragging on and became a quagmire and lost American domestic support. But most importantly, it lost because it never went all out to win.

    But what if instead of fighting the war in a limited fashion, the USA wages total war in Vietnam?

    That is to say, the USA fully mobilizes milliions of troops, invades and occupies North Vietnam and any neighboring countries harboring NVA forces, and fights the enemy using all out brutal and ruthless tactics with little regard for collateral damage or civilians.

    I'm definitely not saying I endorse this course of action. But it seems to me that if the USA went all out and waged total brutal war, it would win and win overwhelmingly in Vietnam.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
  2. Aainz Ooal Gown Banned

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    By the time the United States ended its Southeast Asian bombing campaigns, the total tonnage of ordnance dropped approximately tripled the totals for World War II. The Indochinese bombings amounted to 7,662,000 tons of explosives, compared to 2,150,000 tons in the world conflict: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bombs_in_the_Vietnam_War

    By 1968 there were over 500 000 US soldiers in Vietnam:http://www.americanwarlibrary.com/vietnam/vwatl.htm

    Not sure how the US can do even more considered these numbers. If they pump even more soldiers into Vietnam (not sure if they could be supplied though) their losses will increase and the war will become even less popular than it was OTL.
     
  3. Ramontxo Believes San Mames is Heaven Donor

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    Invade North Vietnam and tell the Chinese you will stop sort of the border but that if they come is total war. It is a (really) big risk but if you are not ready to go that far then forget about the whole mess. The absurd ROEs were a recipe for disaster.
     
  4. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

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    Goes "all out" after 1945 means using nukes.

    The problem with these scnarios is that Vietnam justi isn't worth it. Remember OTL the Commies won and got everything they wanted and that led to----- absolutely nothing.
     
  5. Hammerbolt Well-Known Member

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    Those numbers are mostly useless, because of the mishandling of the whole affair. Simply throwing bombs at a jungle or dropping troops all over the place doesn't do anything besides filling statistics and body bags.

    Linebacker II showed something of what would happen: a full scale, all out bombing campaign ws the only way North Vietnam was forced to negociate. Go full on from day 1, actually invade North Vietnam and don't stop untill it capitulates or the US reaches the chinese border.

    Ofrc, this runs the risk of Chinese intervertion... or even soviet...
     
  6. TDM Well-Known Member

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    Problem is even in the height of the red scare domino theory etc, America flys halfway round the globe and bombs a half of a post colonial vientenm flat, and then invades the rubble looks bad (and what then turn round to South Vietnam and say "your welcome er but you might need to get the big brooms out"). The North Vietnamese deaths would be in the millions in very short order, all just so the US can claim the win :)?

    and that's the win scenario where China and Russia don't get involved or it doesn't escalate into Laos, etc (and then China).


    if you drop lots of bombs it's hard to stop dominos falling over!
     
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  7. Seandineen Member

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    The problem was also purpose. Abstract ideals like capitalism and even the limited freedom of South Vietnam mean little to isolated and abused peasants. The north promoted order and unity. The United States didn’t adopt Australian and Philipino methods of controlling the land barons and giving ARVN something to fight for beyond the coup of the week.
     
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  8. Rufus Shinra Statistical unlikeliness

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    Winning a war means achieving one’s political goals, not murdering as many people as possible. The US utterly demolished Iraq in 2003, occupied it, set up a puppet government, yet what political goal was achieved? The population loathed the US, insurgency became rampant, welcomed support from the previously hated neighbour, Iran, and in the end, the US had to leave because, just as France in Algeria, the only alternative was to keep killing until there was noone left to kill.

    The US lost that war because, like many people, its leadership started thinking wars are won through destroying more and more. Iraq 2003 demonstrates that even destroying the leadership and political structure of the opponent is not enough to win. The Algeria War demonstrated that sixty years ago. Afghanistan demonstrates it right now: even with astronomical amounts of firepower, the US loses its wars with frightening regularity, its only clear win since 1945 being Iraq 1991 thanks to proper political planning and well-defined realistic goals.

    No amount of technology and firepower can win a war when the leadership does not understand how to win it politically.
     
  9. Veiovis Well-Known Member

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    How so? The strategic situation would actually stay pretty much the same,the millions of US troops controll everything in sight,just like the hundreds of thousands in OTL did,while the vietnamese run the country everywhere not currently and directly observed by an american,just like OTL. So you would never actually end the war,because as soon as your men go,the Vietnamese pop up and controll the entire country.

    Note how I didn't bother writing "North Vietnamese" or "Vietcong",but just "Vietnamese". Thats because "total brutal warfare" in vast excess of OTL will end the civil war and make it all Vietnamese vs the United States only. The eventual US defeat would be even worse in the end.
     
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  10. Orcbuster Well-Known Member

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    Further ends up degrading the US military quality and reputation.

    By the end of vietnam it was demoralized and drug addled to a truly ludicrous extent. This could end up making it worse even if we discard the possibility of war with the chinese or russians in vietnam. If a conventional conflict with the abovementioned had erupted at that point the US Army would have suffered a major embarrasment to say the least.
     
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  11. Veiovis Well-Known Member

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    this. It should be remembered that during the early 70s,internal studies of the Bundeswehr all but dismissed the US military as significant factor if the Pact invaded...and the rebuild US army later certainly never feeled the need to argue about that.
     
  12. Rufus Shinra Statistical unlikeliness

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    It’s a huge point, but I fear even that is kinda secondary. When you are completely, totally and utterly out-thought to the point that your strategy itself doesn’t lead to a victory even if left executed without obstacle, defeat is unavoidable. That’s what scares me about the current US military doctrine: it’s centered once again on procurement, designing, building and buying wunderwaffen that are supposed to win the war by themselves in shiny Powerpoint files that turn wars into a sum of small, controlled, tactical battles that are supposed to play to the strengths of each individual piece of kit. That’s a recipe for defeat if I ever saw one: planning for the actual shooting part of the battle to the most intricate of detail, hoping the war will take place according to the plan. It’s like France in 1940, and it leads to goat-herders holding their own and strategically winning against a military that spends every month the GDP of said goat-herders’ country.

    To win the Vietnam War without better doctrine, without a rethinking of the nature of war by the civilian and military leadership? You’d need Doctor Manhattan, from Watchmen.
     
  13. TDM Well-Known Member

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    Yep all very good points, I think the 1991 gulf war was important here in two very different ways:

    1). the up side as you say limited and achievable goals. Destroy and/or push the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, continue to destroy Iraq army as it retreats into Iraq, destroy as much of it as you can but don't stay on the ground in Iraq. All good, all done all boxes ticked.

    2). the down side, the GW1 gives us the modern post cold war popular images of the US waging and more importantly winning wars with apparent ease*, i.e all those Low light pictures of iraqi tanks getting blown up at night etc. And I think there is still many who see the US defeating enemies and getting results as a live fire video game. But blowing shit up in the dark is not the same as achieving your foreign policy. Even if it is a handy capability at some stages.


    Another point here that kind of impact on both above, while at the time it was seen as pretty likely that the Coalition was going win, it wasn't seen as going to be the curb stomping it was. Iraq on paper had a big relatively modern army, we hadn't actually seen a top western army let alone the US go at it with combined arms at a large scale for a while. GW1 was a bit of an "OH shit" moment for a lot of people, if nothing else it showed that having as many export T-72's and as many man as you could press gang into a cool uniform and call then guards, (with obligatory PR video of them smashing bottles on their heads to demonstrate their "eliteness") might not give the warm safe feeling it may have previously done!

    On top of this GW1 was the US military's come back and vindication after Vietnam (i know that sounds like a stretch but I remember the comparisons to Vietnam were already coming out in the build up to GW1, and I think it hard to underestimate how much of an impact vietnam had on the US in that 20 odd year period)


    *and not like the US (or other coalition militaires) just turned up on the day and half arsed it, there had been a lot of work, resources and time taken to get to a point where they could do this!
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018 at 1:29 AM
  14. Hammerbolt Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely; the political side of a "proper" miltary solution is a nightmare. At the very least, we'd get a new Korean War...
     
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  15. RamscoopRaider Some Sort of Were-Orca, probably an Akhlut Donor

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    Total War?

    Over in 45 minutes. Only question is if the ICBM strikes cause things to spiral into WWI

    Anyways North Vietnam took OTL 3.57% of its population dead counting only military losses, counting civilian dead 4.63%. That is a higher casualty rate than most of the losers in WWI took. Increase the casualties too much and they are going to have issues continuing to be able to keep throwing manpower at US guns

    Of course the other issue is how much equipment they have, OTL their last offensive was conducted with large chunks of obsolete equipment they pulled out of storage. If you destroy their equipment faster or impact their ability to resupply (could have been done much earlier than it was) and they don't have the ability to conduct high intensity operations, and thus cause casualties

    Whether a surviving South Vietnam is worth the issues with nuking it, almost definitely not. Worth the extra US blood and treasure to hurt the North enough conventionally to make it unable to send its armored columns south? More probable but still unlikely
     
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  16. Rufus Shinra Statistical unlikeliness

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    Amen to this. The GW1 was won politically the instant Saddam refused to back down from an ultimatum that announced a limited but well-defined campaign. That his forces were pretty much playing along every single strength of the US toys was, however, a long-term disaster for the US: it sowed a terrible, terrible seed we see to this very day growing in the mind of civilians and officers alike, the idea that wars are won technologically. The awful thing about that idea is that even after being disproven hard, people are still clinging to it at all levels.
     
  17. TDM Well-Known Member

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    Thing is you can see why they do, it would be great if long term military / foreign policy success was just a matter of clever application of technology, especially when you are part of the country that has invested a lot of time and effort in becoming the world leader in it!

    And it not just the US, everyone's thought that they're new technology will make what was previously impossible, possible.

    On top of that there is the natural temptation that having spent a lot of resources and time building a world beating capability in something to want to maximise the return in that investment i.e you're going to want to play to your strengths. when solving problems*. Or put it another way if when you have a hammer all you see is nails, its even more true if you spent a huge amount of time and resources developing the worlds greatest hammer that hammers nails like no other hammer before it.

    However TBF America has developed it's capabilities to a point where it can be used in different ways (flexibility is a strength after all, as well as strength in depth) but I do think still basically revolves around blowing shit up in impressive ways "Shock and awe".


    "This time the afghans will be beaten" to reference an oft (over**) quoted situation


    *which is not to say the US just goes out picking fights to show off, more that it operates its foreign policy knowing it has an advantage in that if it comes up. (It also by no means it's only advantage)

    **as in yes I know it's more complicated then that!
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
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  18. Tanc49 Domitian Truther

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    One of the big reason the war was lost was because of the unpopularity of the South Government and communist infiltration in the South. If you go and turn everything north of Hué into glass, you will not get any friends in the South and you can bet you'll have to start again and will be glassing the South in a couple years.
     
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  19. Ashley Pomeroy Member

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    Off the top of my head we won the Malayan Emergency by essentially herding the rural population into concentration camps and then burning villages suspected of harbouring communists. But the people of Malaya weren't mad keen on communism and didn't have a relentless and well-supplied neighbour trying to force communism on them; the second Malaysia communist emergency of the 1970s amounted to very little mainly because the communists fought amongst themselves; today Malaysia is by all accounts a nice place to visit.

    If the allied forces had gone "all out" in Vietnam I suspect the communists would have simply fled across the border to China until the allies withdrew, at which point they would flood back. If a lasting peace was established the Vietnam War would probably be as obscure nowadays as the Malayan Emergency. What would Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos be like now if they hadn't been bombed to oblivion and then stripped by the communists? I have no idea. Boring, they would be boring.

    I'm sure that some former French colonial possessions are doing fine. They can't have messed up all of them. Ours are mostly doing pretty well. Canada for example.
     
  20. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Then it sounds like the initial response after Gulf of Tonkin needed to be much stronger. Where and were the forces available? How much longer would the response have been delayed?