VIETNAM – A COMPLICATED CONFLICT

Why was war fought in Vietnam?
Who exactly was fighting whom and for what reasons?
The answers are not so simple. Who exactly “WON”? Who “LOST”?
Who exactly WON/LOST the “BATTLE[s]”, BUT WON/LOST the “WAR[s]”?

from Iraq: Learning the Lessons of Vietnam, by Melvin Laird, former U.S. Secretary of Defense:
“It is time for a reasonable look at both Vietnam and Iraq – and at what the former can teach us about the latter. The Vietnam War that I saw, cannot be wrapped in a tidy [“clean”] package and tagged “bad idea.” It was far more complex than that: a mixture of good and evil from which there are many valuable lessons to be learned.”

VIETNAM: CAUSES

WAR of NATIONALISM
NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE and “SELF-DETERMINATION”
Vietnamese revolutionary “Ho Chi Minh” was in Paris in 1919, admiring U.S. President Wilson’s call for national self-determination around the world. (“save the world for democracy”)
FOREIGN DOMINATION of Vietnam: China; France (1700s-1954); U.S. (1950s-73)
Did Ho heroically lead “his people/nation” to independence from foreign oppression”?
Ho Chi Minh – “We have a SECRET WEAPON – it is called NATIONALISM”.

“COLD” WAR

WESTERN IMPERIALISM VS COMMUNIST EXPANSION – ”EMPIRE”
gunboat/dollar diplomacy violent global revolution – workers of world unite violent – greedy “dictatorship of the proletariat” (workers)
Containment – U.S. policy to limit spread of communist “imperialism” around the world
Truman Doctrine – U.S. aid (military-economic)to nations fighting communist revolution
Domino theory – fall of one country in southeast Asia to communism
will lead to eventual fall of all neighboring countries
HO CHI MINH was a COMMUNIST: history is class (haves vs. have nots), not nationalism
CIVIL WAR
Communist “North” Vietnamese invaded and fought Western backed “South”Vietnamese
Was Ho Chi Minh a nationalistic “freedom fighter” [fighting foreign “oppression”] ?
OR communist“dictator”and“oppressor” [killing Vietnamese for power/ political gain] ?

VIETNAM: “RESULTS”

NATIONALISM RESULTS:
When asked how long they would have resisted, Ho stated, “Twenty years, maybe 100 years — as long as it took to win, regardless of cost.”; “You will kill 10 of our men, and we will kill 1 of yours, and in the end it will be you who tire of it.”

TET OFFENSIVE (1968) Battered in conventional combat, the communist north launched a major surprise offensive on the eve of their New Year celebrations (“Tet”) to break America’s will to carry on – “We don’t need to win military victories, we only need to hit them until they give up and get out.” Tet was designed to influence American public opinion – “The WAR WILL BE WON on the AMERICAN HOME FRONT”. Ho Chi Minh

The cost in North Vietnamese casualties was tremendous. The Tet offensive itself was a military victory for South Vietnam and devastated the North Vietnamese army. The fact that the enemy suffered far more (the battle) and had “lost” mattered little in “the war”. The growing U.S. peace movement caused deep divisions in American society. The Western media turned a military success by the south to a political victory for the north. The war looked like a never ending conflict with no real objective to many Americans.
“America lost because of its democracy; through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a
will to win.” – North Vietnamese general BUI TIN
“In Vietnam, we defeated ourselves, with domestic divisions.”
HENRY KISSINGER National Security Advisor, U.S. negotiator, Paris Peace talks to end the war

Was HO and communist aggression responsible for MASS MURDER of his “own” people – THREE (3) MILLION Vietnamese DIED during the war in which more than 58,000 Americans died. (1962-73) Instead of 10 Vietnamese dying for every one American death, as Ho predicted, it ended up being about a 52:1 ratio. “Progress” had a “price”.

COLD WAR “RESULTS”

The U.S. and its South Vietnamese allies won most of the military “battles”.
Yet, the Russian-backed North Vietnamese ended up winning the military “war”.
The Soviet-backed North Vietnamese won the Cold War “battle” for Vietnam,
The U.S. won the “war” to stop the spread of communism in southeast Asia.
(the “dominos” did not fall, except for Cambodia)

The Soviet-backed North Vietnamese WON the BATTLE for communist expansion in Vietnam, but LOST the [COLD] WAR around the world, in part due to economic issues.
The Russians spent much of their limited economic resources to gain communist victory in Vietnam. Soviet resources to Vietnam diverted resources for communist expansion elsewhere in the world. Melvin Laird: “They failed in large part because the U.S.drew a line at Vietnam that distracted and sucked resources away from its Cold War nemesis, the Soviet Union.

Did “victory” in Vietnam “CONTAIN” the spread of communism elsewhere?
As far as western/American aggression is concerned, more people died in southeast Asia under a Communist “peace” since 1975 than during the previous 25 years of war.

CIVIL WAR RESULTS

The South continued to fight the North after U.S. military forces left in 1973. From the Tet offensive in 1968 up to the fall of Saigon in 1975, South Vietnam never lost a major battle. The American Congress discontinued economic aid to the South, while Russians continued to fund the North, violating the 1973 Paris Peace Accords.

The North finally took over the South in 1975, bringing national “re-unification”.
1.5 million Vietnamese fled “their” nation. Communists killed, persecuted or imprisoned many. Over one million were sent to concentration/“re-education” camps to “forget” their past and “adjust” to life under Communist rule. Thousands fled on land to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand. Thousands of “Boat People” migrated to the U.S.

The communist government of Vietnam confiscated property, nationalized all means of production, evicted people from their homes and stripped people of their savings. Before the end of the war, South Vietnam was at par with other developing countries in the region. After years of “liberation”, Vietnam ranks with the poorest and most politically corrupt countries in the world. Conditions were bad, in contrast with the prosperity of the nearby states that rejected communism. Intellectuals, artists, Buddhist monks, Catholic priests, tribal people, even communist war heroes were subject to arrest, torture, harassment and imprisonment for demanding freedom and “democracy”.

Did communist promises of “dictatorship of the proletariat” and economic equality end up bringing just “plain” dictatorship and make all Vietnamese equally “poor”?

In the CONFLICT in Vietnam,
WHO WON the BATTLE[s]?; WHO WON the[nationalistic, cold, civil] WAR[s] ???