Many countries that boast of political stability and world superiority have had a history of war and violence that has, in one way or another, been a stepping-stone for their development into such powerful states. A series of physical and non-physical wars have unfolded in several battlefields around the world, with critics pointing out significant outcomes of these wars being positive, despite their devastating effects. The need for independence has caused some of them, other uprisings resulting from the need to end oppression while some arise due to the need for equality among minority groups. Just to pick a few, the First Indochina War and the U.S Vietnam wars have had significant impacts in the course of history. The reason for this is that they share war fronts and can, therefore, set a comparison with each other. This article briefly outlines the course of these wars that were fought at particular times in history, the lessons that can be learnt from them and their application to issues in contrast to the both of them. This paper also illustrates the views of critics concerning the experience of the French in the Indochina War and how important aspects of this war could have aided in the U.S war in Vietnam by the presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
In order o meet my objectives, I have divided my paper into three main sections. The first part entails an account of the French Indochina War and the U.S war in Vietnam and the circumstances surrounding their occurrence. In the second section, I discuss the criticism by David Halberstam and the lessons that can be acquired from the French experience in Vietnam while the third section ends the paper by providing a discussion on how the US in Vietnam could have applied these lessons.
Account of the Wars
French Indochina War. Foremost, the first Indochina War that is also known as the Anti-French Resistance War in the present-day Vietnam was fought by the French and their opponents the Viet Minh from 19th December 1946 to 1st August 1954. However, this war dates back to September 1945 when the tension between the warring parties started building up, leading to the Viet Minh rebelling against the French power governing the colonies of French Indochina. The fighting took place majorly in Tonkin in Northern Vietnam, but its effects were felt everywhere, swallowing up the neighboring French protectorates too. The forces that participated in this battle were the French Unions French Far East Expeditionary Corps led by the French against the Viet Minhs Peoples Army of Vietnam. The war escalated when the Chinese communists reached northern Vietnam in 1949, turning the conflict into a war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union. In the end, Viet Minh emerged victoriously. The French left Vietnam and Vietnam was partitioned between the North and South, being governed by the Viet Minh and the State of Vietnam respectively. It also resulted in the signing of American War. The US war in Vietnam also referred to as the Second Indochina War, or the Resistance War against America was a cold war that took place from 1st November 1955 in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The war was between North Vietnam, which had the support of the Soviet Union, and China and the government of South Vietnam, which had, back up by the United States and other anti-communist allies. The war came to an end when the North Vietnamese won in 1975, leading to the withdrawal of American-led troops from Indochina and the annexation of South Vietnam by North Vietnam.
Criticism by David Halberstam
Halberstam wrote about historical events that transpired when he was alive and was reporting first hand. This assertion makes his work and books more than just a series of educated guesses concerning these historical events. The political analyst David Halberstam in his book The best and the brightest explains why America got itself into what seemed to be the messiest war in its history. He analyses what made America lose the war with a tiny country yet the American troops were the best and the brightest. From his book, Halberstam claims that America lost the Vietnam War because it was unwilling to learn from the past experiences. In addition, it is accurate to say that they were carried away by their total belief in anti-communism, by the sense of power, glory, and Americas omnipotence. He mentions that American wanted to the regard as a strong and powerful nation and presents his facts and ideas in a compelling manner that makes it difficult to contradict his ideologies. Although he is persuasive in his work, he has partially failed to address some of the crucial questions he formulated by himself.
The criticisms of the American War done by American critics like Halberstam bring about the ideology that legal considerations triumphed over ideological considerations or common sense. He uses metaphors to communicate his points. In the argument between the state and Military about whether or not the explosives could close the Mu Ghia Pass, the state argued against it, but the military was sure it works. As a fact, Halberstam says that the President would ask for a vote, leading to him following the vote by the mass. This act shows that the government did not protect its capacity to go against its wisdom. In an account of what happened when Colonel William Crossen was asked to estimate the enemy capacity for reinforcement in April 1965 for Westmoreland, he was shocked by the number of soldiers that were ill-fated. After double-checking the numbers, he took it to Westmorelands staff, who opposed the idea of showing it to the people in Washington. Thus, the numbers were scaled down, insinuating how the Army system works protecting their commander from what he did not want to see or hear and avoiding to challenge his opinion.
According to Halberstam, Presidents Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Nixon were faced by a dilemma in Vietnam. The reason is that Ho Chi Minh could not give up, while under threat or pressure, neither could he be paid off to abandon the resistance because he was confident. He discovered that Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist who accepted the Western political ideology and would fights until the Americans were tired, just like the French. His scrutiny shows that America did not back down since it needed to win the Vietnam War. This action by America came after the Second World War when America emerged as a global superpower, making them feel threatened by the fact that the war with Korea settled as a tie. The decision in 1950 to fight in Korea seemed to violate Americas injunction against mainland wars. Hence, America needed to recover its lost glory. He explains in general why America did not take into account many issues that France went through during the first Indochina War, making them lose the war themselves.
Lessons That Ought to Have Been Learnt by the U.S.
The Frenchs defeat in the first Indochina war was because of outright strategic incompetence, as well as the factor of a unified front in Vietnam. Though both France and America had won many battles at that time, they both failed to take into account the consistency of the threat posed by the Soviet Union to constrain their aggression.
Indeed, the United States made a mistake of entering the war in Vietnam. The incidences that unfolded in that war show that America made errors that could have they were able to rectify in the course of the war of before their entry into the war, neither to stop them from going to the war nor to reinforce their tactics for them to have an advantage in it. Critics like the above-mentioned David Halberstam and others view this loss as America not being able to learn from the French experience in Vietnam. This idea has got incorporation in many theatric films like the Apocalypse Now. To mention a few, the US did not learn the limits of Imperial power. What began as the U.S giving help to the South Vietnamese became an authorization to retaliate and get full involvement in the Vietnam War. Taking into account that the Vietnamese Communists were making a definite bold stand for unification by 1959, the world powers looked to protect their interests in Vietnam, since there was a power vacuum that was in existence, with the other communist powers like China and the Soviet Union openly supporting the North Vietnamese course. This situation indicated that if Vietnam fell, the rest of Southeast Asia would fall with it, creating a domino effect that made the US become involved as a supporter of the South Vietnamese
After the French defeat in Vietnam, it was clear that the Viet Minh had better strategies that won them the war against France. This point is one of the lessons that ought to have been learnt by America before entering the war in Vietnam. Gen. Maxwell Taylor, the then U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, recommended the dispatch of American troops despite his estimation that the strategic reserve of U.S. forces was weak at that time, and that the first contingent was likely to fail since it was not enough to accomplish the necessary results. Thus, it would be difficult to resist the pressure to reinforce, given the terrain and the war tactics that the natives were deploying. He stated that the troops would produce the desired effect on national morale in South Vietnam and on international opinion, steering America ahead into a war that he had doubts.
In as much as the US had skilled field officials and a well-trained army with better equipment that their opponents in Vietnam, they still failed to produce favorable results in the war. There was, however, a grave misjudgment on their side, making them think that since the peninsular geography and the barrenness of the Korean topography permitted a very efficient use of conventional U.S. military forces, primarily naval and air power, they would also use these approaches to the war against Minhs forces. Having watched France fail, America did not heed to the advice of an older generation of advisors, making them suffer the loss on the battlefield, which provided communist forces vast fighting areas and infiltration routes impervious to permanent denial of U.S. air or ground forces. The French had also suffered in the same manner from the guerilla warfare, making this one of the highlights that America should have taken into consideration while planning their war strategies.
Another significant point of concern was the Viet Ho Chi Minhs relentlessness that America overlooked. Minh had learnt from the French experience and developed a relentless drive in structuring his strategies against the US invasion. He was liberal minded and had a well-coordinated army of his own that waged a series of well-planned attacks against the Americans. This factor was clearly not one of the points of focus for the US, who stuck to their naval and air strike teams, which proved to be ineffective in this kind of war. The U.S. lost a remarkable amount of prestige as the French had done. Ho Chi Minh focused on his dream of unification and the failing of the South Vietnam economy. The domino theory held waters, making the north conquer the South Vietnam, which led to America losing the war.
In conclusion, the U.S. certainly did not learn how to live at peace with other nations, which were ultimately of Muslim descent. Just like France, this invaded Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, America failed in its war in Vietnam for reasons that likely exist in both cases. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson could have sought more advice during the war in Vietnam, regarding the conditions of the troops, and taken into consideration the factors that led to Frances defeat. America was power hungry and was blinded by the need for the rest of the world to regard it as a world super power. These and m...
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