Archive for Tet Offensive 1968

The Victory That Never Was

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History with tags , , , , on October 10, 2011 by Ian Pham

The Vietnam War.  Arguably the most controversial conflict that America had ever gotten herself into.  The outcome of the war should be no secret to anybody, we lost, big time.  From the American entrance into Vietnam in 1963 to their humiliating exit in 1972, the United States had been fighting a losing war, or so they thought.  Many in the U.S. during this era called Vietnam a quagmire, a lost cause, a war that can’t be won.  These kinds of descriptions have convinced us for decades that by moving into Vietnam, the U.S. was hurling itself into impending doom.  However, a stark contrast arises from what the media falsely described and what actually went on in the front lines.

Despite what historians, analysts, and the media have claimed for the past five decades, the Vietnam War was not an impossible war.  The U.S. had many opportunities for victory prior to their entry, during their engagement, and even after they’ve pulled out.  If one were to look at the war from a more hands on point of view, one would see that even though the U.S. lost the war politically, the American soldiers, along with their South Vietnamese allies, were actually victorious on the battlefield.

The U.S. Army and the A.R.V.N. fought brilliantly, defeating the N.V.A. and the Viet Cong in many confrontations.  For instance, the famous Tet Offensive saw the forces of the North ransack and bombard the city of Saigon with heavy artillery and thunderous force.  Even with the ambitious nature of this onslaught, the Viet Cong were conclusively defeated in this attack, driven out of Saigon, and resulted in the failure of the North Vietnamese operation.

The successful warding of the North Vietnamese from Saigon in the Tet Offensive is a good example of how the Americans, despite winning the battles, could not prevent the North from breaking their will.  On many occasions, the allied forces of South Vietnam and the U.S. had crushed the Communists in battle.  Even so, the U.S. could not maintain their high spirits and their determination to fight.  As a result, the Americans began to accept defeat, not realizing how much strain they and A.R.V.N. had put on the Communists.

It is true that the U.S. should never have entered Vietnam in the first place.  They knew nothing about Vietnam, and had no business messing with another’s domestic affairs.  Their involvement put South Vietnam in a very difficult position in the eyes of the world, giving North Vietnam the ammunition to demonize them.  Even with this obstacle, victory over the Communists was still a real possibility.  As I have pointed out before, the Americans, as well as the South Vietnamese, were actually more successful than the Communists were in the field of battle.  The difference maker was the breaking of the American will, their subsequent withdrawal, and the cutting of all American aid at the end of the war.

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was largely responsible for increased American involvement in Vietnam.The ideal recipe for victory would have been for the Americans to not have entered at all.  If the U.S. had just supported South Vietnam morally and financially, letting them deal with the Communists in their own way, victory may have come much quicker, and the war may have never been an American quagmire.  Even after the U.S. made the mistake of joining, they could still have defeated the Communists, for their military capabilities were much superior to the North Vietnamese, making them victorious on many confrontations.  In the last scenario, the Americans should still have funded South Vietnam’s war efforts after their withdrawal, instead of accepting defeat and leaving the South to crumble.

It was America’s ignorance of Vietnam that led to such a disastrous outcome.  The Americans knew nothing of Vietnam, as a result, they had made all the wrong moves in dealing with the war.  For every major mistake that they had made, there was a solution that could have been acted upon.  Unfortunately, the Americans could never understand the situation, ultimately leading them to the complete and utter failure that still reverberates in the hearts of the White House today.  The war in Vietnam could have gone in a much different direction, America could have won.  Sadly, the U.S. failed to understand their own capabilities and the capabilities of their allies.  As a result, the chances were lost, and the victory never came.