The U.S’ government decision to wage war on Vietnam without a good plan of war involving clear-cut strategies and plans was one decision they poorly made. Therefore, it resulted to a prolonged Vietnam War and made the victory indeterminate for them (Yancey, 2001). The war was between the North Vietnam which was a communist state backed by other communist nations such as the Soviets and China, against the U.S, South Vietnam forces together with other anti-communist nations. People fought the war in North Vietnam. This war took place as a way to stop the spread of communism as the North Vietnam government fought to unify the whole of Vietnam under communism (Anderson, 2005). According to the U.S’ domino theory, that conversion of one state into communism would lead the rest of the states to follow and for them, this was unacceptable. As for the northern government, U.S involvement together with other anti-communist nations such as Britain and France was a form of colonialism and to them the war was to fight away colonization.
During the war both the U.S and the South Vietnam forces relied very much on air support using bombs that they dropped, with poor ground strategies, tactics, and techniques (Carter, 2010). They were well advantaged in terms of weaponry and technology but failed to use effective plans such as the operational art of war that had been used and improved throughout history. The war resulted into high casualties because of poor plans and decisions made and after the North’s Tet offensive; the south could not defend themselves against the north even though the offensive failed. U.S victory could not be easily determined, and so troops began to withdraw and leave the war to the South Vietnamese. The war began in December 1956 and ended in April 1975. It is clear that the U.S made its decision based on an expected outcome for which they compared to the previous outcomes. Therefore, they used the same war technique as they had used in their previous victorious wars. They also tried to avoid self-blame and regret because of losing the war, and it is for this reason they used military weaponry of quality and sophisticated technologies such as helicopters, bombs, and jets (Murray, 2005).
In the above situation, decisions made by the Americans to wage war relying only on air support and sophisticated weaponry without a good ground war plan made the war a top down approach rather than the bottom up approach. They could instead use the South Vietnamese forces more in the war than they did. As a result, high number of casualties caused by multiple bombings coupled with undesirable results such as lack of the south to defend itself when the U.S troops started to be withdrawn against the north after being highly supported by the U.S forces (Colimore, 2000). The happenings clearly show that the decision was poor in terms of assessing possible outcomes as well as evaluating alternatives to the completely problematic situation and that the U.S did not meet the objectives of the war fully. The U.S based its decisions and forecasted its outcomes according to past victories of past wars such as the world war two. They overestimated the extent of their regret if they nearly lost in the war, which was smaller than the preceding ones and, therefore, resulted to using of advanced weaponry that only increased the number of casualties but did not win them the war. This scenario shows that, in the process of avoiding self-blame and regret, the U.S forces unleashed their full wrath upon the North Vietnam forces with disregard to many important factors that saw the war end in a manner that was not expected (Carter, 2010).
In the Vietnam War, the U.S government together with the other anti-communist nations incorporated a top down approach to this war. They did this because to it was a war they had to win against not just the North Vietnam state but also the other communist nations of the Soviet and China (Yancey, 2001). A better approach could have been the use of South Vietnam forces that were more used to the harsh conditions of the forests in Vietnam, infested with mosquito’s diseases and undesirable weather that took a toll on the American troops. This approach would have been more of a bottom up approach that would involve more, the people themselves rather than outside forces that tried to use force and brutality instead of wisdom, wit, and good judgment (Colimore, 2000). They could also try to attack the north forces from the inside out, such as trying to divide them by catalyzing conflict between those in power making them go against and turn on each other. This approach would reduce the strength of the northern forces. Another strategy would have been to cut supplies for the north to render them helpless as well as to try to cut the links between the North Vietnams with other communists’ nations. These approaches would have been ideal for a successful victory with minimum casualties and reduced losses in terms of time and resources. The reason the U.S did not use this approach is that first they had underestimated the North Vietnam forces who then ended up killing many U.S troops and highly enduring the war even though they were not as equipped as the enemy forces (Murray, 2005). Secondly, the U.S forces did not incorporate a good war plan with clear strategies that define an ultimate art of war and instead used strength over wisdom approach.
The choice of this decision to wage war and incorporate the bombing and airstrike strategy appeared rational based on experiences in previous wars and their victories. Therefore, the outcome of the war could be easily predicted based on this, but other important factors such as other alternatives that would bear positive outcomes, history of past wars tactics and techniques did not become a part of this. For this reason, the decisions became readily accepted, and there was a declaration of war. If the choices had appeared irrational, more research and evaluation of alternatives would have been made, therefore, increasing the quality of the decisions with more choices that are rational and strategies that would help the Americans win the war against communism in Vietnam. The irrational choice would appear vague and under evaluated, therefore, creating the need to go back to planning, strategizing in order to choose the best alternative, to formulate the most efficient, and effective war plan that is objective oriented with minimum casualties and high chance of success (Carter, 2010).
The Americans involvement in the Vietnamese war was a decision made in a way to avoid regrets and disappointment but ended up doing the exact opposite. The reason being the basis of the choices made was irrational but made to appear rational about the experiences and fear of self-blame and regret of the expected outcome. It relates to a theory called decision justification theory that explains regret because of the decision, which includes evaluating expected outcome and the self-blame felt for having made a bad choice. This theory is clear in the above scenario where choices made by the Americans have basis on the way to avoid regret based on the decisions they made. Therefore, they made choices that had worked for them best and since at that time, when they were the superpowers, after winning the second world, an opportunity to show off their might came forward. With disregard to effective war plans, tactics and techniques, and the fact that they underestimated the North Vietnams forces, they got shocked when their efforts victory could not be determined, and they could not meet all their desired objectives (Carter, 2010).
They chose a crude way to solve the problem involving the use of strength rather than tactics, a top-down approach rather than the most effective bottom up approach in an attempt to avoid regret because of decisions. Other better alternatives were available such as fighting from the inside out through dividing and conquer. They could have used the South Vietnams forces more that would be more effective as they are more used to the harsh conditions of the forests in Vietnam. Another alternative would have been to do more research on the best possible strategy to attack the enemy forces. This can be through formulating effective war plans, incorporating operational art of war that includes war techniques and tactics, use of better ground approach that is a target-oriented one that would reduce the number of casualties and maximized on accomplishing the wars intended goals and objectives. Throughout this scenario, it is clear that the choices made by the Americans are biased because of circumstances; past, present as well as the future. It is because of these circumstances choices appeared rational when they were not. It is because of this; the decisions made during this war led to poor outcome, in terms of the high number of deaths but no actual victory. Regret is a key factor in the decision-making process, but it should not be the main factor; decisions should not be made based on fear of regret.
Anderson, D. L. (2005). The Vietnam War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Carter, J. M. (2010, September 1). Making Sense of the Vietnam Wars: Local, National, and Transnational Perspectives.(Book review). Journal of World History, 1, 23.
Colimore, E. (2000, April 21). ^The Vietnam War changed the way the American military behaves today.(Knight Ridder Newspapers). Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, p. 17.
Murray, S. (2005). Vietnam War. New York: DK Publishing.
Yancey, D. (2001). The Vietnam War. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.