The United States was and still the most powerful military and economic force around the globe. The country’s number one position is maintained through intervention into some countries they believe unfriendly to the United States interest. However, the superpower position has not brought victory at all times. There may have some points wherein power is not always the winning side of the war. The United States may have lacked some concrete insurgency and guerilla warfare plans throughout the war in Vietnam. Way back 1973; fifty eight thousand American soldiers lost their lives during the war in Vietnam in which they were defeated. This is regardless of outstripping the northern part of Vietnam and the VC’s guerillas entirely. This writing will precisely discuss views about why the United States lose the war in Vietnam in the concept of insurgency and guerilla warfare.
In the history of the United States, the Vietnam War is the longest operation the United States Armed Forces has ever engaged. Even though there was no formal war declaration former US President John F. Kennedy decided to initially send more than two thousand military advisers to the southern part of Vietnam in 1961 in which became the start of a twelve-year military combat of the United States Armed Forces. There was an enormous effort spent by the US military including the total of 2.7 million Americans who served the war as well as the $140 billion spent by the country’s government (illinois.edu). However, despite all of these efforts and spending, the United States still lose the war and was not able to achieve its goal, which is to make the South Vietnam a non-communist, independent state (illinois.edu).
As what David Anderson wrote, guerilla warfare was prevalent in South Vietnam in the year 1961. The National Liberation Front, a South Vietnam communist group, was behind the numerous terrorist attacks monthly (illinois.edu). The National Liberation Front of South Vietnam was so trained when it comes to guerilla warfare tactics. Having this expertise, even the Republic of Vietnam’s Army was not able to defeat and contain this group’s insurgency. This became the reason for 740 uniformed American troops who were sent by President Eisenhower to provide extensive logistic and training assistance to Republic of Vietnam’s Army (illinois.edu). This type of help needed by the country’s armed forces was an indication as to how insurgency’s guerilla warfare can rule over the United States’ military power.
Jeffrey Record asserts that United States foreign policy makers in the mid-1960s dedicated a superior act of misjudgment by directly intervening in the Vietnam War. The intervention turned out to be calamitous. Among other factors, it violated the established ideal injunction against choosing U.S. army power to a large-scale ground war on mainland Asia. During World War II, U.S. military leaders, such as Douglas MacArthur, Matthew Ridgway, and Omar Bradley, informed against ground war involvement in conflicts on Mainland Asia, where, it was believed, air power and U.S. naval efficiency will be diluted, and where enemies in Asia could use their excellent brilliance in manpower and overpower the United States down in a prolonged issue. This strategically sound aversion underpinned President Truman administration's rejection to commit United States ground forces on part of the Nationalist Chinese leadership in the latter part of 1940s as well as its resistance to General MacArthur's pleas in 1951 to expand the Korean War (nytimes.com). This also affected the Vietnams War’s defeating result that time. The importance that U.S. policymakers connected to activities in Indochina in the Sixties was obvious both in the strength of recognized domestic governmental imperatives that made any consideration of leaving South Vietnam without a war unthinkable, and in the openly announced reasons for intervention. Political imperatives realized intensely in the United States decision have an intervention in Vietnam.
In addition, Jeffrey Record also wrote that the war in Vietnam is a good example of a nation in which guerilla tactics and insurgencies were the acts of defending their nation’s liberty (nytimes.com). During that time, these kinds of techniques were suggested being a widespread as being able to fight for liberation was extensive in the nations such as Vietnam. If the United States Armed Forces were somehow capable of defeating the communism in South Vietnam if they were able to have a more concrete plans against guerilla warfare tactics in the 1960s.
Moreover about the losing side of the United States during the Vietnam War, George Olswing claims that some of the reasons why United States lose the war is because of the fact that apart from the country’s foreign policy, the United States was not able to remove communism from its powerful status. Additionally, the VCs were equipped with manpower and tactics such as the guerilla warfare (thehistoryforum.com). Because of these strategies, the United States Armed Forces were pulled out and for some; it was not a losing point, but a decision to pull the forces back from the South Vietnam as they were not able to achieve their goal. Some others may say that since the primary goal of the United States is to stop the communism in Vietnam, they were not able to achieve it because their goal is not to get rid of it, but just to prevent it. It can be two different things in terms of their goals, but originally, United States Forces do not have the congressional approval to be at war against communism, but just to be peacekeeping advisers (thehistoryforum.com). This event did not let the United States military forces to exercise some additional counter-insurgency tactics as they did not have the accorded purpose against communism.
The United States definitely is a superpower when it comes to military tactics. However, being one of the most powerful may not be enough as far as the Vietnam War is concerned. Raymond Hain asserts that being engaged in a sophisticated military science is different from exercising it through military art (prisonplanet.com). The difference between the military art and military science can be different as to answer the question why the Unites States lose the Vietnam War. What Hain was trying to imply is if a country is being more dependent on its military science, it is more likely that it will not be able to use it in terms of military art. In other words, the United States should have defeated Vietnam communists if they were able to have more concrete plans on how to use their power as their advantages during the war. Raymond Hain added that the United States military almost ignored the guerilla warfare and insurgent portions of the war (prisonplanet.com). These tactics were not almost part of the plans and most of the tactics focused mainly on the conventional way of being engaged in a war. If the United States military forces were able to combine both their military science and military art, they were to win the fight against the communism.
It has been a focus debate as to why the United States loses the war in Vietnam. One of the most vital points to consider is that the war was about insurgency. There may be some required concepts so as to defeat it. Major Frank Pelli asserts that book author Andrew Krepinivich accused the United States Army leaders as they failed to apply their tactics and strategy in accordance with counterinsurgency (tamilnation.co). This is when the United States Army failed to counter attack the Vietnam communist in which they used their previous strategies in fighting against insurgents. In this claim, book author Krepinivich may have asserted that the United States military forces must have been overlooked the Vietnamese insurgents’ capability in terms of guerilla war tactics in which became the reason of their unsuccessful plans.
In the United States’ counterinsurgency plans, it includes relocation of the villagers to another place in which they were provided with financial assistance and ownership of the land. Stephen Coleman wrote that this technique was used by the United States military to relocate ethnic villagers away from the insurgents as majority of the support comes from these ethnic groups (tamu.edu). However, this tactic was clearly unsuccessful to defeat insurgents as the relocation and the standard of living that was provided to villagers and ethnics were lower than what they already have. As a result, it was people were not contented with what the militaries provided and they did not withdraw their support towards the insurgents and communists (tamu.edu). Being able to win the community’s support to go against the local insurgents may not be an easy task for the United States military. Even though it can be considered a minor factor, it still counts over the reasons as to why the United States loses the war in Vietnam.
Based on the history research published in BBC’s website, there are differences between the Americans and Vietcong forces as to be the reason that the first loses the war. Even though the Americans have the hi-tech strategies, they continue to kill wrong people leaving their own troops demoralized. On the other hand, the Vietcong’s guerilla warfare tactics were suitable to the conflict’s nature (bbc.co.uk). Additionally, the South Vietnamese peasants were giving support and providing shelters to the Vietcong in addition to their continuous war against the Japanese regime during the Second World War making them more consistent with the tactics and strategies they were using from the start (bbc.co.uk). These points in time made the Vietcong more powerful in terms of being determined to fight using their guerilla tactics.
Not being clearly aware of the South Vietnamese capabilities, United States military forces lose the war. Robert Elegant asserts that guerilla forces from the South Vietnam, who were primarily made up by Northerners, were actually capable neither of maneuvering hundreds of tanks in usual formations nor creating and operating pipelines that fill those tanks with fuel from the North (wellesley.edu). However, these South Vietnamese were equipped with strategies that fit their goals along with their geographical expertise, which made their guerilla tactics worked.
Losing the Vietnam War may have been one of the experiences that the U.S. military uses to improve on the things that made them lose the war in 1960s. It was proven that power is not a sufficient force to win the war, but it should come along with more knowledge about the enemies. Being equipped like what the U.S. military is a winning factor especially if it will be used with military art of winning the battle. In this war Vietnamese fighter exercised great tactics in terms of guerilla that made them win over the powerful force of the United States.
Anderson, David L. "The Military and Diplomatic Course of the Vietnam War." Welcome to English: Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois. N.p., 1999. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
"BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Why did America lose the war?" BBC - Homepage. British Broadcasting Company, 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Coleman, Stephen. "Good Strategy, Bad Tactics: Ethical Considerations in Counter-InsurgencyWarfare." International Society for Military Ethics (Formerly JSCOPE). N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Elegant, Robert. "How to Lose a War: The Press and Viet Nam." Encounter London 52.2 (1981): 73-90. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Hain, Raymond F. "USAF: The Use and Abuse of Technology In Insurgent Warfare." PrisonPlanet Forum - Index. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Olswing, George. "Why did the US Lose the Vietnam War?" The History Forum. Siberian Fox Network, 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Pelli, Frank D. "Insurgency, Counterinsurgency, and The Marines in Vietnam." Tamil Nation & Beyond. N.p., 1990. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Record, Jeffrey. "The Wrong War." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. The New York Times Company, 1998. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.