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Homsuplo
1st July 03, 06:17 PM
Hellooo! I noticed that there are a few people on this board with interests in international affairs and thought I'd try to get your opinion on the VN War. A friend of mine and I have been arguing this for a while now, but who really won the Vietnam War? My friend says that we (America) did, but I've been arguing that we need to agree on a definition of victory. If we're talking about bodycount, then yes, I'd say that America does come out ahead. Opinions?

elipson
1st July 03, 06:22 PM
Seeing how the states got chased out of the country with the NVA on their heels, I find it difficult to believe the Americans won. But this one of the few wars I know little about.

The Wastrel
1st July 03, 06:54 PM
Well, the goal of the Vietnam War was to prevent the spread of communism to South Vietnam, so...chalk that up as a loss.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."

poet
1st July 03, 07:59 PM
Food or question for thought.
With the disilusionment of communism in Vietnam and the acceptance of tourism and small steps toward capitalism are we winning out in the long run without the military?

The Wastrel
1st July 03, 08:12 PM
Probably. Let's hope anyway.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."

Samuel Browning
1st July 03, 08:20 PM
Elipson and Wastrel are correct since America clearly lost based on its stated reason for intervention (to prevent South Vietnam from "going" communist). I have seen people make the argument your friend did on two particular grounds and I'll try to address those.

There is a school of American military thought of which Colonel Harry Summers Jr, leads which argues that America won the Vietnam war militarily but lost it strategically. Summers makes the point that unlike the French at Dienbienphu whenever the Americans and the North Vietnamese and Vietcong clashed in large unit confrontations the Americans controlled the territory after the battle and usually came out ahead in the body count. See the Tet offensive, and the battle of Khesanh. And in World War II terms there is some truth to this claim, though on the small unit scale (battalion and smaller level) American forces were often walking into ambushes that cost them plenty of casualties with no return.

In Summer's view America lost by getting worn down by the casualties associated with small unit counterinsergency(sp) when it should have left such responsibilities to the South Vietnamese military and focused on chasing North Vietnamese main force units out of Laos where they ran the Ho Chi Minh trail which helped keep their forces in South Vietnam stocked with Ammunition and food. Summers points out that in 1975 Saigon was overrun by NVA conventional forces using tanks, and not barefoot irregulars. But there are flaws in this argument.

1) The South Vietnamese Army in 1964 and 1965 could not handle the Viet Cong even with American advisors. They were unequal to the job and could not adequately carry out their counterinsurgency mission because they were led by corrupt, usually incompetent officers who usually had no greater cause then themselves.

2) Because the South Vietnamese could not handle its counterinsurgency mission in 1964 and 1965 the U.S. would still have gotten involved in a counterinsurgency mission even if Johnson had gotten up the political support to cut the Ho Chi Minh trail with a US conventional force invasion. Unless we had then perminently stationed an occupation force in Laos the North Vietnamese would have simply reopened this route though after Cambodian invasion it took the NVA at least a year to recover from the damage we did to their supply lines.

3) If you read Col David Hackworth's book "About Face" he makes the point that the U.S. Army did not adopt tactics that would have allowed them to win small unit ambush style encounters with the Viet Cong and NVA which meant these forces could bleed the American Army and Marines on their time schedule until America got sick of the bloodshed and went home. The NVA then went conventional because the Americans had left and they could stage a conventional invasion without fear of American air support or combat troops.

4) The North Vietnamese and Vietcong had essentially planned to tire America out this way figuring that they could endure and we wouldn't. See Stanley Karnow's book "Vietnam a History" page 20 for Ho Chi Minh's comments on this matter. They were willing to take horrendous casulties but could could avoid ground combat when they wanted to(by hiding forces in Laos and Cambodia) we couldn't and didn't.

I have also seen the domino theory argued, saying in essence that by running the North Vietnamese army through the meat grinder this tired them out and prevented them from ever trying to invade Thailand. The problem is that as it is, even with American intervention, both Laos and Cambodia ended up being taken over by Communist insurgents who were backed by the North Vietnamese. Would the North Vietnamese have backed their surrogates in Cambodia and Laos helping them to victory had they won in South Vietnam in 1965 and no longer needed a supply trail in these countries. I do not know.

I think that Laos which was highly unstable would have gone communist even without major NVA intervention, but that there is a possibility that Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh might have been able to cut a self serving deal despite North Vietnam's long standing relationship with the Khmer Rouge. Ultimately whether we came out ahead in the bargin re Cambodia is unknowable, but the end result of our efforts here were not in our interest.

Vargas
1st July 03, 11:09 PM
One theory that I've heard is that if there had been no Vietnam War, there would have been a similar 'release valve' for Cold War tensions somewhere else on the globe. Middle East, Africa, Latin America, there were plenty of places for the superpowers to square off without igniting a nuclear exchange or European battle royal. When held up against what happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan, I can see where this idea makes sense. As for who won, I tend to believe the old quote about guerilla wars having no winners, only losers of varying degree.

"Go cry about it Vargas. Aren't you late for your shift at McDonald's?"

cyrijl
2nd July 03, 08:21 AM
We morally lost that war with the bombing of lao and cambodia

but who cares they got gap and mcdonalds now

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I found the cure for hope

Homsuplo
2nd July 03, 11:41 AM
Yeh, I see your point. Personally I think there's something fallacious about meat-grinder warfare and it's "If we kill 2 of them for every one of us they kill"...

About victory, if the US was trying to stop communism from spreading in SE Asia, then yes, the US failed. But in the long run, would't you say that the US is ultimately winning? Vietnam's economy and countryside were left in shambles at the war's end, millions were dead...so the Communists didn't exactly inherit much of a country. Travelling back to Vietnam today, there is still anti-American sentiment, but nowhere near the level one would expect. Everyone is hungry for American trade and business. An American victory could be argued on those terms.

Eh...I'm actually in the school of an American loss in Vietnam, but I like trying to argue both sides.

Samuel Browning
2nd July 03, 12:34 PM
Yes, Homsuplo we helped leave the economy and countryside in ruins, but the ruthless argument in favor of such a result is that this would be so the Vietnames would not have the strength to invade and occupy their neighbors. However when the Vietnamese did decide to invade Cambodia to get rid of Pol Pot in 1978, they did so rather efficently. In the end the North Vietnamese/Vietnamese almost ran out of places to invade. Of course one could say that the carnage that was created would serve to dissuade other leaders of communist and anti-colonel movements from fighting US backed governments but this was not the lesson that was generally drawn. Instead such people said 'hey, we can beat the US if we cause enough casualties' see Somalia.

Dochter
2nd July 03, 12:59 PM
There also should be a distinction made about victory in terms of ideological incorporation and commercial/cultural homogenization. IMO one is a positive and the other encourages lowest common denominator preeminence.

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My single chopstick is bad at serving soup, cutting steaks and basting roasts and chickens. Besides that it owns.

The Wastrel
2nd July 03, 01:33 PM
No Homsuplo, because this *victory* that you refer to could have been managed without the war. If, as we appear to be discovering, communism softens through soft pressure/power better than hard, what was the point of any of it.

They made a huge mistake in reading Vietnam as a communist issue. It was anti-imperialist and national. Ho Chi Minh was a Europeanized nationalist. Communism just happened to be a countervalent ideology with appeal to everyday Vietnamese, especially in the pverty-stricken North.

We went to war because American presidents were too afraid of the electoral consequences of losing an nation to communism. This ideological lunacy was one of the legacies of...Joltin' joe McCarthy. Whoopee!!

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."

Dochter
2nd July 03, 01:51 PM
I remember hearing a long time ago that Ho Chi Minh approached the president at the time (Truman or Eisenhower?) with essentially a rewritten version of the Dec. of Independence and asked for if not assistance at least neutrality for their fighting the French. Any actually basis for this? I believe it was in one of Howard Zinh's books.

The report of events said that only after rejection did Minh turn to communism.


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My single chopstick is bad at serving soup, cutting steaks and basting roasts and chickens. Besides that it owns.

Homsuplo
2nd July 03, 01:53 PM
Like I said earlier, I like trying to argue both sides. About Ho Chi Minh, though, the question whether he was a Europeanized nationalist or simply just another Communist leader is debatable. I've read accounts that describe him as using Communism simply as a means to overthrow the French and other accounts that he was always a devoted Communist. Btw, what sources are you using?

cyrijl
2nd July 03, 02:03 PM
i went to lao and before i went i tried to read as much as possible about lao and comabodia...it seems to me that lao just wanted to be free from colonial powers so they joined the vietnamese who joined the soviet union....again, in order to shake of colonial rule. Ironically cambodia chose sides with china who was also in a cold was with the soviet union...in addition cambodia (khmer rouge) sided up and was trained by the vietnamese. Cambodia became the center of a proxy was between china and the soviet union...then we bombed them, pol pot disavowed any connection with vietnam and the rest is history...

________________________________________________
Objects in life are closer than they appear

The Wastrel
2nd July 03, 03:47 PM
Homsuplo,
What sources? For what?

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."

Homsuplo
7th July 03, 11:04 PM
Oh, sorry about the delay...I was just curious about the sources that led you to say "Ho Chi Minh was a Europeanized nationalist. Communism just happened to be a countervalent ideology with appeal to everyday Vietnamese, especially in the pverty-stricken North." Most of the Vietnamese I talk to think of him as a devoted Communist first, and a nationalist second.

I apologize for any abrasiveness in my earlier question...I'm not trying to be rude or anything. I'm always like this. :)

The Wastrel
8th July 03, 12:51 AM
It's entirely my opinion based on the progression of communism through East Asia that nationalism was in fact the motivating force behind the most successful movements. China, North Korea, and Vietnam are the most consolidated of EA communist states. Each of them had post-imperial revolutions. As someone else pointed out Ho actually courted the U.S.

I think whether he's a communist or not, it's irrelevant.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever."

9chambers
8th July 03, 01:49 AM
300,000 men women and children were killed in Saigon just on the day we pulled out. I guess if you consider media pressure the reason we left then you can indirectly call the media a bunch of baby killers.

Samuel Browning
8th July 03, 02:14 PM
Hey 9chambers, what is your source for that assertion, not that the NVA were particularly concerned with human life but I've never seen that figure anywhere else. BTW not even that many people died on any particular day of the Tet offensive so its a suspect figure.

9chambers
8th July 03, 10:05 PM
That does seem a little high, I swear I remember my professor saying that though .. maybe I am thinking of the Nanjing Massacre in WW II. Crap, I don't know. All I know is a lot of people died. I have a Vietnam History text book right over there *points* so I guess I could look it up.

.. but I'm way over here and it's way over there.

Maybe it was more like 5,000. Whatever. Here let me re-write my statement:

5,000 people were killed in Saigon just on the day we pulled out. I guess if you consider media pressure the reason we left then you can indirectly call the media a bunch of baby killers.

Samuel Browning
8th July 03, 10:30 PM
yes approximately 300,000 people did die during the "rape" of Nanjing though I believe it took the Japanese weeks to achieve this number. I looked through Stanley Karnow's book 'Vietnam a history' and it did not provide a number for this final battle though you would probably be safe in saying well over 1,000 people died in the final fall of Saigon.