I've been watching a lot of documentaries on the Vietnam War recently. I'm not sure why, I guess that's just how my brain works, jumping from topic to topic without any real purpose.
Documentaries I'd recommend more than any other (which can all thankfully can be found easily on youtube) are:
1. "Vietnam in HD", narrated by everyone's favorite serial killer Michael C. Hall
2. The Vietnam segment of the History Channel's documentary "The Art of War", and
3. Any one of the numerous episodes on the Vietnam War on the show "Battleplan".
Of course, given my obsession overall military tactics and especially military strategy, I took a great interest in how this war could have been won. First, let us establish that yes, the US lost the war. If you think they won the war but pulled out too early or ceased funding too early, that's fine, and most likely at least partially true in both cases, but you still have to realize that this is still an overall loss
in the situation of Vietnam for the US, as the North did conquer the South after all.
I like a lot of what the Art of War documentary brings up, but still, I disagree with the idea of a completely territory based campaign. The thinking there is too conventional, and this was not a conventional war.
This is not to say thought that the body count strategy was correct, nor is to say that territory is not extremely important in a counter insurgency. I personally believe that the body count strategy was absurd on the basis that it clearly violates the Victory Equation I've explained many times before here on DTT. This is basically me combining the strategic thinking of Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and a collection of US Army officers at the US Army War College (where in their lectures online I first heard of something like this equation) into a single compressed look at war:
Resources x Morale = Capability to fight
The goal of a strategist is to bring one of these on the enemy's side to 0, so that the other factor doesn't play in and the capability to fight automatically still becomes zero. This has to be done before the enemy can do the same to you.
Now, the body count strategy is attacking enemy resources, but the resource of man power. However, the North Vietmanese and the Viet Cong were fighting a total war
(their entire society was entirely devoted to the cause of war - everyone is an essential part of the war machine and everyone is dedicated to the cause) while the Americans were fighting a limited war
(unlike in WW1 and WW2 not everyone is part of the war machine and certainly not everyone is dedicated to the cause). Of course this was the case, as the Vietnamese believed they were fighting for their independence, their way of life and international communism. While the Americans were going through a counter culture, were limited by the geopolitics of the Cold War and were fighting a type of war they'd never really fought before.
Therefore, there was no way the Americans could kill enough of the enemy for it to not be replaced by more men or destroy enemy morale. Meanwhile, the NVA and VC could easily avoid targeting the nearly limitless resources of the US and simply attack their morale, which however strong, would eventually collapse given the restrictions in place noted above.
So, I would suggest still attacking enemy resources, but in a different manner. I would suggest an almost entirely defensive campaign with offensive operations limited to massive conventional movements to completely annihilate an enemy army and actions taken by special forces. Troop numbers should be as high as possible, but without using the draft beyond its original number and frequency at the start of the war. This is because the US must do everything it can to keep its troops elite, motivated and the public on the homefront content (maybe the wrong word but it was the best I can think of in English).
No more search and destroy, no more patrols, no more taking hills then leaving them to be reconquered by the enemy in a couple days. All that these things did was get US troops killed. Sure plenty of the enemy died but like I said, that's our new objective. US losses must be minimized. At least the US Commanders got that right, but their strategy made that almost impossible. The enemy knew the land, had it mined, and tunnel ridden everywhere, to the point that US troops weren't seeking out the enemy and engaging them, but walking into traps: the NVA and VC almost always chose when, where and how battles would be fought. This also made airstrikes and strategic bombing almost completely ineffective as the commies would "grab the enemy by the belt" to limit deaths via airstrikes through concentrating their forces basically right on top of US troops, while also forcing on occasion US friendly fire.
In defending key areas such as cities, supply routes and rivers, the US could choose when, where and how battles would be fought, and also give clear targets for airstrikes and strategic bombing, thus maximizing its effectiveness: the enemy would have to move a lot, and more frequently in larger numbers, allowing the air forces to pick them off and harass them while also giving the defenders time to prepare for a fight. Also, when attacking a fortified area, they're less likely to be able to use the grab the belt technique. Just look at the Battle of Khe Sanh, where artillery and airstrikes where devastating to the VC and NVA. Lastly, and most importantly, the US public would be used to a more conventional style of war: the Tet Offensive shocked viewers at home with the attack coming out of nowhere, and the scale and awful carnage of it all terrifying them. It alos came during a time of many crises in the States: 68 was not a good year. However with this strategy such a type of war would be commonplace in Vietnam and a regular sight on TVs or in newspapers.
Finally, such a strategy could give the US valuable time to train the South Vietnamese as they simply sat by at their bases waiting for the enemy to gather their strength and attack. Many have said that by the 70s the ARVN was a decently capable conventional force, especially with American logistical and air support. So, they could be involved far more in the war effort as well. This strategy also would allow the US and ARVN to use a crawling technique of establishing bases. They would defeat the enemy, make a base, and use it as a launch point for future operations or an additional area to support other important bases, supply routes, and villages.
Tell me what you guys think about my ideas. Don't be shy and don't hold back.
Here are some articles about others' ideas on how the war could have been won if you want to do some reading first: https://contraryperspective.com/2014...tnam-war-1982/ http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/01/op...-have-won.html PARAMETERS, US Army War College Quarterly - Winter 1996-97