How was Vietnam different from other wars

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
The point of a Pyhrric victory is where a side wins, but is so badly knocked about that they're in no shape for anything else. You know the old saying: he won the battle but lost the war. This could not apply to America at all: not only did they lose far less soldiers, (and had far more in the first place), the Vietnam war had virtually no impact on America's political power or economy. Most Americans, however, see Vietnam as a military defeat. I tend to agree that it was not: that is the thrust of my post, really.

Vietnam, on the other hand, was economically shattered and thanks to vindictive post war western policies, would not get any help from there. Vietnam was, in effect, on its own: Soviet support was not adequate at all, nor was Chinese. Vietnam would eventually be drawn into the American co-ordinated disgrace in Cambodia, and would encounter western hostility when it tried to save the Cambodians from Pol Pot's murderous ( US and British sanctioned) regime. Cambodia was being clobbered for merely helping Vietnam. The fruits of victory for Vietnam against the USA were virtually non existent: the penalties for the USA for "losing" at Vietnam were also practically non existent. The very definition of a Pyrrhic Victory:)
 
Dec 2009
19,933
The point of a Pyhrric victory is where a side wins, but is so badly knocked about that they're in no shape for anything else. You know the old saying: he won the battle but lost the war. This could not apply to America at all: not only did they lose far less soldiers, (and had far more in the first place), the Vietnam war had virtually no impact on America's political power or economy. Most Americans, however, see Vietnam as a military defeat. I tend to agree that it was not: that is the thrust of my post, really.

Vietnam, on the other hand, was economically shattered and thanks to vindictive post war western policies, would not get any help from there. Vietnam was, in effect, on its own: Soviet support was not adequate at all, nor was Chinese. Vietnam would eventually be drawn into the American co-ordinated disgrace in Cambodia, and would encounter western hostility when it tried to save the Cambodians from Pol Pot's murderous ( US and British sanctioned) regime. Cambodia was being clobbered for merely helping Vietnam. The fruits of victory for Vietnam against the USA were virtually non existent: the penalties for the USA for "losing" at Vietnam were also practically non existent. The very definition of a Pyrrhic Victory:)
Of course I understand the concept of a Pyrrhic victory; as you rightly pointed out, "won the battle but lost the war", which was certainly not the case of either Vietnam or the other two examples that I quoted before (USSR victory over III Reich and the American Revolution).
In fact, the vast majority of a long list of colonial powers defeats would show you the same pattern; the European colonialism ended by what you insist in calling "Pyrrhic victories"; for example, the French in North Africa, or in Indochina itself; the Portuguese in Angola, and so on. Colonies are usually in disadvantage in their independence wars, so they suffer far more casualties even when winning. And of course, colonial powers usually remained untouched by such wars.
And again; the American side included South Vietnam; Saigon couldn't have been defeated any more by Hanoi.
Now, if after all that you still want to call the rose by another name, I have no problem with that; it still smells the same:cool: .
 

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
Well, I aver that Vietnam which, whilst on paper saw off the USA, nevertheless was so damaged by the war- not just materially- that it could have all the attributes of a defeat except in name. On the ground, one can opt for a peaceful life as an American puppet, or gain "freedom" in a country so knocked about, and made an international pariah, that freedom seems worse than thralldom. American hostility which also includes her allies - has never gone away. Nor is it likely to, and this also had serious consequences for neighbouring Cambodia, a victim of American petulance.

I am not defining victory by how many casualties a side suffers: as you say, the colonies are at a disadvantage straight away, and empires like the British and American long ago learnt to get others to do their dirty work for them: enter Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein; the latter installed to fight a 10 year war against the latest Pariah, Iran. Colombia against Venezuela.

No, it is the shape the country is in afterwards, not just materially, but also politically. The UN and other agencies were banned from flying in aid to Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime. Oxfam in Britain was threatened by Thatcher that it would lose its charity status if it did so. Such are the fruits of taking on the big boys and beating them.

South Vietnam? Their rapid defeat was predicted by just about everyone but the American politicians who armed them as an escape route. How long did they last on their own? A week?

The bottom line is: America "lost" but came out with loss of face, and that's all. Vietnam "won" but condemned herself to years of hard times, international pariah status and probably a style of government most did not want: whilst the majority did not want an American puppet government, that's not to say that they had to want Uncle Ho's alternative. The war condemned them to this. What other options were there?

Do you think that Vietnam might have been better off now, had they either accepted the American enforced government, or allowed the French to rule them as a colony? Or are they better off under the current post war regime? A far from rosy future ! ;)
 
Dec 2009
19,933
Well, I aver that Vietnam which, whilst on paper saw off the USA, nevertheless was so damaged by the war- not just materially- that it could have all the attributes of a defeat except in name. On the ground, one can opt for a peaceful life as an American puppet, or gain "freedom" in a country so knocked about, and made an international pariah, that freedom seems worse than thralldom. American hostility which also includes her allies - has never gone away. Nor is it likely to, and this also had serious consequences for neighbouring Cambodia, a victim of American petulance.

I am not defining victory by how many casualties a side suffers: as you say, the colonies are at a disadvantage straight away, and empires like the British and American long ago learnt to get others to do their dirty work for them: enter Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein; the latter installed to fight a 10 year war against the latest Pariah, Iran. Colombia against Venezuela.

No, it is the shape the country is in afterwards, not just materially, but also politically. The UN and other agencies were banned from flying in aid to Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime. Oxfam in Britain was threatened by Thatcher that it would lose its charity status if it did so. Such are the fruits of taking on the big boys and beating them.

South Vietnam? Their rapid defeat was predicted by just about everyone but the American politicians who armed them as an escape route. How long did they last on their own? A week?

The bottom line is: America "lost" but came out with loss of face, and that's all. Vietnam "won" but condemned herself to years of hard times, international pariah status and probably a style of government most did not want: whilst the majority did not want an American puppet government, that's not to say that they had to want Uncle Ho's alternative. The war condemned them to this. What other options were there?

Do you think that Vietnam might have been better off now, had they either accepted the American enforced government, or allowed the French to rule them as a colony? Or are they better off under the current post war regime? A far from rosy future ! ;)
I think the consequences for America were considerably more than just "loosing face"; if the Cold War was eventually won, that was in spite of Vietnam.

And of course, you can't simply magically erase the loss of South Vietnam from the American tally.

Your second question is interesting; my impression is that most people and nations all over the world overwhelmingly prefer to run against the odds of failure or success on their own and not as colonies.

In any case, most former French colonies are currently in a terrible state, even for the standards of the third world; far indeed from any "rosy future".
 

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
Yes, Vietnam did America's military standing no good in the eyes of the Soviets: but the same could be said of the Korean war.

The fact that there was a South Vietnamese army kind of proves that there was a divide on opinion in Vietnam: some preferred to throw their lot in with America; some with Uncle Ho. I suggest that it is reasonable to assume that a lot of people wanted neither. The "Victory" in Vietnam saddled with all with Ho, whilst defeat would have meant an American imposed government.

I tend to agree that most nations would prefer to be self determined and take their chances, rather than being a colony. However, how realistic is that? In Vietnam's case, they exchanged being a colony or puppet for a state where they were still subject to the imposed will of America on the international stage. Like in Orwell's "Animal Farm", where the animals went from working hard for humans, then ended up working harder for the pigs :)

Yes, the former French colonies, and many British, too, are in a terrible mess. What price freedom? Eventually, they will end up being part of a colony again whether they like it or not. Like Papua New Guinea and other states now subject to enormous pressure from bigger, wealthier, pro-USA states.
 
Dec 2009
19,933
Yes, Vietnam did America's military standing no good in the eyes of the Soviets: but the same could be said of the Korean war.
Korea was a stalemate against China, like 1/5 of the world population; Vietnam was a defeat against half a little third world country; that may be a difference.
The fact that there was a South Vietnamese army kind of proves that there was a divide on opinion in Vietnam: some preferred to throw their lot in with America; some with Uncle Ho. I suggest that it is reasonable to assume that a lot of people wanted neither. The "Victory" in Vietnam saddled with all with Ho, whilst defeat would have meant an American imposed government.
The division of Vietnam was due to many factors, but hardly to the popular preference for any side.
The Victory (without "quotation marks") of the Communists in spite of the massive American help to the South suggests that their popular support was considerable.
I tend to agree that most nations would prefer to be self determined and take their chances, rather than being a colony. However, how realistic is that? In Vietnam's case, they exchanged being a colony or puppet for a state where they were still subject to the imposed will of America on the international stage. Like in Orwell's "Animal Farm", where the animals went from working hard for humans, then ended up working harder for the pigs :)
Most nations tend to agree; however, you may be right; maybe if the UK had let the III Reich conquered them, they will still hold the Empire happy together. :eek: .
Yes, the former French colonies, and many British, too, are in a terrible mess. What price freedom? Eventually, they will end up being part of a colony again whether they like it or not. Like Papua New Guinea and other states now subject to enormous pressure from bigger, wealthier, pro-USA states.
Maybe some of those former colonies were previously in an even worse state; that might explain a lot.
 

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
Korea was a stalemate against China, like 1/5 of the world population; Vietnam was a defeat against half a little third world country; that may be a difference.
:D Excellent point! But I still reckon the US army chiefs got a nasty surprise in Korea.

Well, the South Vietnamese, US trained army was almost legendarily predicted for utter collapse: after all, if you, yourself, can't beat an enemy, training someone else to isn't going to work:) In hindsight, perhaps America should just have left Vietnam, and not risk losing more prestige when the South Vietnamese were so roundly thrashed?
 

pablo668

Ad Honorem
Apr 2010
2,200
Perth, Western Australia. or....hickville.
The ARVN was riddled with Viet Cong from the get go. The ARVN and hence the US was a major supplier of arms and equipment for the Viet Cong in the early years of the war at least.
Most of what I have read about the ARVN concerns them shirking battle and being basically corrupt.
The US went in and tried to set up an unpopular minority (upper class Vietnamese catholics) as a ruling body or puppet govt.
The lion share of viets wanted nothing of this.

The US never lost a major military confrontation in Vietnam that I know of, they did cop the worst of many skirmishes and guerilla actions.

The US also badly misunderstood the reality of the political situation in Vietnam. Sure the North were communists as were many in the south, but they were nationalists as well, perhaps more so. They were never going to become part of a massive communist block.
They took the help they recieved from the USSR and China because they had to, but they were never going to subsume themselve to the will of the Chinese....or the USSR.
It's a damn pity that the US couldn't have come to see Vietnam as an asian equivalent to Tito's Yugoslavia.
 

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
Good post, Pablo668, and I agree. That was the main problem with the Cold War world; if a country wanted to seek independence (in Vietnam's case, from France), it had to approach either the USSR or USA, and by seeking out one, a country becomes the enemy of the other.
 
Apr 2010
48
No where near you
One thing about the war that I've seen is that it was the first time the media had major Involvement in a war and it shaped a lot of the public opinion which turned out not in the governments favor. (Also didn't help the poor guys going home)


[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqayiS3NnuY"]YouTube - Vietnam War - The Impact of Media[/ame]
(Could anyone tell me how accurate this video is?)
It's a video talking about the impact of the media on the war.