In spite of the fact that history is constantly repeating itself and the sad lessons that then next generation is about to learn, in fact, do not differ from the ones taught to the ancestors, people go on and on making the same mistakes. That goes for all wars that have ever been carried out on the Earth, and the Vietnam War is of no exception. One of the hardest questions that have ever occurred as the war broke out was why – why it all had to start. It was needless, useless and frightening; yet it was, as shocking and daring as it could be.
There are many points of view on what has happened during the long eleven years of fighting. It could be a good idea to take a closer look at all of them, analyzing the ideas that underlay them – if war could have something that underlay it. The brilliant scheme worked by Napoleon was supposed to be of great help to the general, the commanders and their troops.
Starting from the very bottom of the army roster, that is, from the soldiers, it would be important to say that these people fought basically because they were said to do so. Inflamed by the ideas of the patriotic behavior and the mission of protecting the interests of the native land, the American soldiers were eager to start the battle. However, they soon felt that there was something wrong about the whole situation.
With Moss’s book, it becomes clear that the battalion commanders knew only what was going on below, where the warriors were serving their country and doing their prior duty. They were merely the people who were acting according to the orders that were coming from the upper circles.
The same went for the individual commanders. They were aware of what they were supposed to as it came to the war and the strategy of the future actions, but that was as far as their plans went. The individual commanders were supposed to create the plans that would make the warriors stronger and create the system of the actions that could make the American troops benefit in the battle. Their prior goal was to build up a strong army of soldiers that could fight decently and make the country win in this fight, wherever it could take them.
It was a bit more complicated with General Westmoreland. In fact, he was the backbone of the whole idea and it was him to command to the whole army and the officers. The commanders followed his orders, and he was the brain of the tactics of the war. However, that did not mean that he persuaded the economical interests that actually lay in the basis of the war.
What was the goal that he pursued? Was it just making an advertising campaign of his own personality, as Moss suggests? For there was no actual reason for the war to get started. As Addington suggested, this could be an extremely complicated strategy of the general that put the campaign at such risks and proved wrong for the thousands of people.
By the time President Johnson had decided to commit a large American ground force to the defense of the ROV, Westmoreland had conceived of a three-stage strategy for using it. (Addington 2000, 88)
Why did it end in the failure? Was it the fact that the soldiers were not trained well enough? The very fact seems absurd. Just as insane sounds the idea that the equipment of the American soldiers was worse than the one of the Vietnamese. Perhaps, that was the lack of certain something that the Vietnamese had. It is not for the sake of the word that Moss emphasizes,
From the gaining of their independence in 939, the Vietnamese endured a precarious national existence. They were threatened eventually by powerful foes, particularly China, the colossus of the North. Internally, Vietnam was frequently ruled by inept leaders, riven by civil wars, and suffered from a fragmentation of power. But the Vietnamese managed to maintain their independence for over 900 years. (Moss 2010, 6-7)
It all started to fall apart when people understood that there was something unsaid about the whole business.
“I cannot seem to convince the embassy that this is Vietnam – not the United States”, said Diem at the beginning of August 1963” (Moyar 2006, 229) – this phrase was the first sign of the fact that there was something deeply wrong about the whole idea of the war.
Every single citizen in the US started having doubts of whether the war was held the way it was described. The tragic consequences have not been forgotten, but in the light that Moss has shed on the war and its idea, they seem in quite different way. What goal did Robert McNamara pursue in this puzzle? What was his prior aim?
McNamara was desperate to end the war, and repeatedly implored me to extract from my invisible interlocutions any hint, however oblique, that would enable him to promote the cause of a negotiated outcome. (Kissinger 2003, 42)
A brilliant strategist, President Johnson was the Napoleon in this game for the power. Lyndon Johnson was the one who knew exactly every single detail about the idea of the war and the goals that the country was pursuing. He thought that he had calculated everything, but, unfortunately, his plans went wrong when he did not suppose anything or anyone to fail.
The Colossus took a step on his feet of clay, swayed in the air for a second and collapsed with a terrible racket. That was the battle that could not end in victory. The stakes were high, but there were too many things that the government did not take into account, among then the mentality of the people that they were going to fight with.
The idea of the orders delegated from the upper part of the governmental pyramid to its bottom, the basis of the war – the soldiers, was more than brilliant – it was genial, for it was the genius of Napoleon who created it. The American strategists improved it, creating the specific routes for the military actions and making the whole scheme closer to the present days, yet preserving the idea of the war held with the fierce temper of a tiger.
Rather unexpectedly, this proved to be a failure. However, there was nothing to blame the structure that Napoleon created for. The main reason for the defeat was the miscalculation that the government made when thinking through the strategy for the battle. The Communist forces that the American troops were to meet in June were the last straw that broke the camel’s neck.
Since it was understood quite well from the very beginning that the whole war was a big and tragic mistake for the entire United States, the actions that have been undertaken were the very kind of bravery that was supposed to show that even when losing, there must be the spirits kept up. And the top, the government and the structures that it was connected to, had a perfect view of the war result, with all the tragic consequences.
Once trying to get their brilliant idea to working, the government forgot about the fact that these were actually live people whom they were against, and their prior arms were live people as well. There are certain things that have to be remembered despite the bitter feeling they cause. Otherwise, the next generation will make the same mistake once again. Thus, people have to keep in mind all the things that they have learned from the past experiences, and derive the necessary lessons from these events.
Addington, L. H. (2000) America’s War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Kissinger, H. (2003) Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America’s Involvement in an Extrication from the Vietnam War. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Moss, G. (2010) Vietnam: An American Ordeal, 6th Edition. London: Pearson Publishing
Moyar, M. (2006) Triumph Forsaken. The Vietnam War, 1954-1965. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.