How was Vietnam different from other wars

Sep 2006
1,453
Korea (but I'm American!)
#11
"kept the reds busy"?
It kept the Americans busy if anything and hastened an end to America's supremacy. The problem was that the whole perception was wrong. The end result was Nixon declaring that the US wasn't gonna fight in Asia anymore and the US looking like a humbled dragon. America's reputation was ruined. The global alliance obviously wasn't true as in 1969, China and Russia were shooting at each other, and in 1979 China and Vietnam were going at it. I think if they had cracked open a book of Sino-Vietnamese history, they'd see that the relationship has been pretty hostile for the last 2000 years.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
#12
and didn't result in a nuclear apocalypse so was Vietnam really just peripheral damage?
The "peripheral damage" included like from two to four million casualties:
  • 1,021,442 (COWP)
  • 1,216,000 (military only, S&S)
  • 1,312,000 (Summers)
  • 1,353,000 (Lewy)
  • 1,520,453 (WHPSI: S. Vietnamese only, 1965-75)
  • 1,637,000 (Olson)
  • 1,721,000 (Kutler)
  • 1,749,000 (Wallechinsky*)
  • 1,800,000 (B&J*, 1960-75)
  • 2,058,000 (Eckhardt)
  • 2,163,000 (Britannica)
  • 2,500,000 (Grenville*)
  • 3,000,000 (1965-75, Chomsky* (1987))
  • >3,100,000 (Tucker*; Official VN*)
MEDIAN of TOTALS: ca. 2,750,000.

Plus like 600,000 Cambodians and 100,000 to 200,000 Laosians dead.

Including some 58,153 Americans KIA (Wallechinsky, Vietnam alone) plus some 1,724 MIA & 303,635 WIA (Ulrich).
(For comparison purposes, there were some 55,145 American deaths among battle casualties for the Pacific theatre in WW2, 1941-1945 [ L.Jewell & P.Clancey, HyperWar Foundation]).

According to Daggett, in 1965-1975, the US spent like 111 billion dollars on this war (some $686 billion in 2008 dollars).

I have still not found estimates on the material destruction of this war on Vietnam and its neighbors.

As of 2006, the Vietnamese government estimates that there were over 4,000,000 victims of dioxin poisoning in Vietnam (Agent Orange).
 
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Mar 2010
2,141
Baltimore, Maryland
#13
I don't minimize the consequence of the war, but in the context of what could have been (global nuclear conflict or the massive use of nukes on North Vietnam, which was seriously considered), what did happen was quantitatively lesser. A series of presidents, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, got dragged into that computational quagmire. As for weakinging the US...absolutely yes, but that process started after Korea, which was also indecisive and muddled. There's no way we could have maintained the lofty perch we had at the end of WW II.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
#14
I don't minimize the consequence of the war, but in the context of what could have been (global nuclear conflict or the massive use of nukes on North Vietnam, which was seriously considered), what did happen was quantitatively lesser. A series of presidents, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, got dragged into that computational quagmire. As for weakinging the US...absolutely yes, but that process started after Korea, which was also indecisive and muddled. There's no way we could have maintained the lofty perch we had at the end of WW II.
That sounds like the Pangloss of Candide; by the same yardstick, absolutely all tragedies could have been worse.

Aside form the obvious tautology that a defeat is still a defeat (especially noteworthy if it is the one and only), it was a terrible blunder from the very beginning and some of its negative consequences can still be felt; if the famous quote of Santayana ("those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it") could ever by applied, the Vietnam's War must be one of the best examples.
 
Mar 2010
2,141
Baltimore, Maryland
#15
You won't find any defenses of the Viet Nam war from me, but that "coulda been worse" logic was prevalent in that time of proxy wars. That was the whole theory behind them.

I don't put much stock in the Santanaya maxim...nobody ever thinks they are re-doing history; they do it differently so they can make NEW mistakes.
 
Feb 2010
10
Phoenix, AZ
#17
Kissinger once gave a nice explanation on Vietnam's war as an analogy with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; if I remember rightly, the core idea was essentially that there's no way any army of any size or power can win a war with a resolute enemy that could entirely mix themselves with a largely sympathizing local civilian population (which in turn can't or shouldn't be entirely destroyed) and that were unlimitedly supplied by unreachable third parties.
I completely agree with the above statement. The enemy was so resolute that they would have fought until the last man. American soldiers found it very difficult to distinguish their friends from their foes, which were often their friends by day and their foes at night. Another thing that makes the Vietnam War different from other wars is that there was no official declaration of war, nor was there a direct attack against the US, such as Pearl Harbor. It is much easier to garner the support of the public when there was a direct attack against our homeland, because going to war over a direct attack makes sense to the public. Also, when America became involved in South Vietnam it was in an advisory role. But most of what I have read, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that the ARVN forces were not nearly as effective as American forces.
 
Jul 2009
400
#18
It was not popular like the world wars were. There was not a general togetherness of the nation to fight, like the world wars, and more decided not to fight, as they saw no reason to it.
 

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
#19
In my opinion, Vietnam was the first, real sign that America was intent on shaping the post WW2 world to suit itself, usually by going against principles of self determination and by inflicting unwanted (pro US) governments onto other countries.

The Vietnam conflict was a hangover from European imperialism. Post WW2, the British usually gave up their former colonies without a protest. Usually. However, France wanted to regain Vietnam. The USA initially vetoed this and discouraged France. However, as Skizzerflake points out, fear of a communist- or mere socialist- government made the USA interfere. This was a sign of things to come, and whilst modern US opinion tends to believe that America lost at Vietnam, in real terms, they did not: America's losses and long term survival were negligible compared to what the Vietnamese- north and south- endured and endure. I believe they call that a Pyrrhic victory. Really, the post WW2 American belief in peace was badly hijacked and forced both the USA and USSR into a long, drawn out war by proxy (as Skizzerflake rightly says). Proxies include over 50 governments overthrown by the USA since WW2: many of them popular democracies. This continues today, as America establishes bases in Colombia to attack Venezuela and Bolivia. Their crimes? To remove unpopular US sponsored puppet governments and set up popular democracies. A dangerous precedent.

The legacy of Vietnam is twofold: for those with their fingers on the pulse, it was when the American Dream started to become a nightmare; for the ordinary American, it was a baffling waste of time, effort and lives. However, it formed the way America was to go for the foreseeable future. See Saddam Hussein (a US puppet), Noriega (ditto) and also how they can be demonised at the drop of a hat to justify America's self proclaimed role as final arbiter. From "one of us" to villain in the blink of an eye once they stop doing as the US wishes. Taliban's main crime is not their treatment of women, but their refusal to hand over their oil: Saudi Arabia or Kuwait scarcely treats women any better, but are playing the game.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
#20
This was a sign of things to come, and whilst modern US opinion tends to believe that America lost at Vietnam, in real terms, they did not: America's losses and long term survival were negligible compared to what the Vietnamese- north and south- endured and endure. I believe they call that a Pyrrhic victory.
An interesting point; however, by the same standard the victory of the USSR over the III Reich was equally "Pyrrhic" or even the American Revolution; the casualties of all those winners were far greater than from the losers. I must strongly disagree on all three counts; far from that, all those victories were in fact definitive. Victory is simply not defined just by the number of casualties.

Aside from that, Hanoi was the winner against a coalition that included mainly the US & South Vietnam; it seems to me that you have still not added the casualties of the latter to the American tally.