[The Vietnam War was the longest U.S. involvement in any major military campaign. It lasted from 1959 - 1973. In this article, I will only discuss on the diplomatic solution implemented by the U.S. leaders and military brass in Vietnam and the reason why it failed thus escalate the war to the point of no return. Please take note that the Vietnam war lasted until 1973 - Richard Nixon ended it through his triangular diplomacy in 1973]
By: Ahmad Syah Ejaz Bin Hj. Ismail
President Johnson crying over the American losses reported by his son serving in Vietnam
The war was started as the best of
The United States interest in Vietnam
What did actually went wrong for the
Early in the 1950s in
The failure of
For the French government, the
Since the guerrilla army is not tied to the defence of any particular territory and are not bound to any military protocol and civil law, it is in an advantage position to determine the field of a battle to a considerable extent and to regulate the casualties of both sides. As such, the situation in Malayan Emergency 1948-1960 was a testament to the above statement where the ambush of the security forces by the bandits were rampant and casualties for the security forces were high compared to the casualties suffered by whole insurgents of Malayan Communist Party during the whole 1st Malayan Emergency. During the span of 1948- 1960 in Malayan Emergency, a number of 12,818 casualties were counted on the Communist terrorist while security forces suffered a heavy 8,850 casualties, the civilians on the other hand suffered 4,668 casualties.
According to Henry Kissinger, in a conventional war, a success rate in battle of 75 percent would guarantee victory. In a guerrilla war, protecting the population only 75 percent of the time would only ensure defeat. One hundred percent security in 75 percent of the country is better than 75 percent security in 100 percent of the country. If defending forces cannot bring about nearly perfect security for the population – at least in the area they consider essential the guerrilla is bound to win sooner or later.
The guerrilla army wins as long as it can keep its movement from losing; meanwhile the conventional army is bound to lose unless it wins decisively. Stalemate never occurs. Any country which engage in a guerrilla war must be prepared for a long struggle as such that were experienced by the British in Malaya which took them 13 years to end the first emergency (1948-1960). The guerrilla army can continue its hit and run tactics for a long period even with its decreasing numbers. A clear cut victory is very rare which push the government in power to install a modern and efficient spy network in order to keep up with the reforming guerrilla tactics waged upon by the bandits from time to time. The most notable examples of victory over guerrilla forces took place in Malaya and Greece, where the defending forces succeeded because the guerrillas were cut off from outside supply sources (in Malaya by geography, in Greece due to Tito’s break with Moscow).
Neither the French nor the
The failure of
After the 1954 Geneva Accords, everything depended on whether the new emerging states of
The existing authorities of
In 1954, there was little foundation in
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem, the new South Vietnamese leader was formerly the son of an official at the imperial court of Hue. Educated in Catholic schools and had for a few years served as an official in the colonial administration in
After the 1954 Geneva Accords, the
John Foster Dulles had urged backing Ngo Dinh Diem on the ground that he was the only option available for democracy in
Events soon revealed that the
By 1960, some 2,500 South Vietnamese officials were being assassinated every year. Only a small number of the most highly motivated and a much larger percentage of the most corrupt would run such risks. In the contest between nation building and chaos, between democracy and repression, the guerrilla enjoyed a huge advantage. Even if Diem had been a reformer on the American model, it is questionable whether he could have won the unequal race between the time scale needed for reform and the time scale sufficient to bring about chaos.
To be sure, even if his country had not been entangled in a guerrilla war, Diem would not have proven to be a significantly more democratic leader. Diem believes that as a model the Confucian ruler governing by virtue and not by consensus, he strived for legitimacy through the mandate of heaven and by success. Diem shunned any political opposition considering them as a threat to
In the early 1960s, Diem’s achievements in a nation building obscured the lagging pace of democratic reform. However, as security within
The final break point with Ngo Dinh Diem government was provoked by a conflict between the South Vietnamese Buddhists and Diem in 1963. Diem government had issued an edict prohibiting the flying of flags by sects, religious groups, or political parties. The Buddhist, who was as authoritarian as Diem in
Diem’s overthrow handed that objective to
Diem’s removal did not unify the people behind the military administration. The underpinning of pluralistic society is consensus on underlying values, which implicitly sets a limit to the claims of competing individuals or groups. In
All of these tendencies later were magnified in a guerrilla war. For the guerrillas’ strategy is to undermine systematically whatever cohesion the governing institutions have managed to install. In
From the moment the American military strategist arrived in
If political reform was the chip that they lay to defeat guerrillas, their growing power mean that American recommendations were not being correctly applied, or that these recommendations were simply not relevant, at least at the stage of the struggle? And if Vietnam was indeed as important to the global balance as nearly all of America’s leaders were asserting, did it not mean that geopolitical necessities would, in the end, override all others and oblige America directly involve in an all out war in Vietnam – far away from the American cities.
Not until the very end of the Eisenhower Administration did
Even though the neutrality of
Eisenhower apparently told Kennedy during the transition that he was prepared to intervene in
As Eisenhower were passing the baton of administration to Kennedy, the level and the nature of America’s involvement in Indochina were not yet of a scale that staked America’s global credibility beyond the point of repair. The American effort still bore some relation to regional security objectives; and it was not yet of a magnitude that the act of vindicating it would provide its own justification. The real issues posed by Vietnam were not whether communism should be resisted in Asia, but whether the 17th Parallel was the right place to draw the line; not what would happen in Indochina if the South Vietnamese domino fell, but whether another defence line could be drawn, perhaps, at the borders of Malaya.
While developing the logistics network which later dubbed the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the North Vietnamese stalled any negotiations with the
For not only did the supply routes through Laos lie open, but Prince Sihanouk of
The nightmare of
They should have asked two basic questions; (1) is it possible to establish democracy and achieve military victory more or less simultaneously? And even more crucial; (2) Will the benefits justify the costs? The presidents or presidential advisers who committed
The successful conduct of a guerrilla war requires the subtle blending of military, administrative and political strategies. American military leaders however have been comfortable with gearing its vast military to political objectives Throughout the Vietnam War, the means were insufficient for the stated objectives, and objectives were only achievable – if at all – by risks which Americans at home was not prepared to take.
1. Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks. 1994;
2. Lt. Col (R) Mohd Azzam Mohd Hanif Ghows, The Malayan Emergency – Revisited 1948 – 1960: AMR Holding Sdn. Bhd. 2006;
3. Lee Kuan Yew, From Third World to First: The
4. Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life – John F. Kennedy: 1917 – 1963: Little, Brown and Company. 2004; and
5. Time 1968: War Abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Lunar Dreams - The Year that Changed the World: Time. 2008.
 Lee Kuan Yew, From Third World to First: The
 Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life – John F. Kennedy: 1917 – 1963: Little, Brown and Company. 2004
 Time 1968: War Abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Lunar Dreams - The Year that Changed the World: Time. 2008
 Ibid iix.
 Lt. Col (R) Mohd Azzam Mohd Hanif Ghows, The Malayan Emergency – Revisited 1948 – 1960: AMR Holding Sdn. Bhd. 2006
 Ibid 378.
 Ibid 378.
 Ibid 378.
 John Foster Dulles served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959.
 Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 1994. page 639.
 Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 1994. page 646.
 Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 1994. page 647.