Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > My Thoughts about the “Vietnam in HD” Series

My Thoughts about the “Vietnam in HD” Series

How many of you have seen the new-ish “Vietnam in HD” series about the Vietnam war? If you have not, I would strongly recommend you do so- partly because it is has lots of unsanitized footage about what war is really like. I will however concentrate on less obvious, but far more important, messages in that series which are obvious after watching a few episodes.

So let us begin..

1. American soldiers who fought in that war were, at least in the first 2-3 years of extensive ground involvement, unaware of what they were fighting for and the nature of that war. They actually believed that they were fighting a reasonably conventional war against a poorly equipped and racially inferior enemy rather than an incredibly large and nasty insurgency.

They saw themselves as the liberators in post D-day France, when in reality they were surrounded by people who deeply detested them while acting polite. A large number of american soldiers also believed that they were fighting communism rather than acting as the goons for an imperialist power.

2. They routinely underestimated the intelligence, tenacity and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese. They did not understand that the Vietnamese fought the war with an intention to bleed the american armed forces rather than win against them. The Americans might have fought to win, but the Vietnamese fought with the aim of increasing the cost of US occupation to levels where they were not sustainable.

The USA was spending then-astronomical sums of money on newer and ever more expensive weapons against targets that were inexpensive, redundant or often not even worth hitting. Furthermore, while most Vietnamese casualties were deaths the majority of US casualties were severe and often permanent injuries- which were far more economically damaging.

3. The Americans underestimated the efficacy of weapons like AK-47, RPG-7, small-caliber mortars, improvised explosive devices and booby traps. While these weapons did not win the war for Vietnam, they increased the cost of maintaining US ground presence in Vietnam to then unprecedented levels. To put it another way, no American soldier could ever feel safe in Vietnam whether he was in his camp or on patrol.

Between this constant vulnerability and the inability to separate combatants from civilians- the USA simply could not pursue any viable strategy to win the war. Every ambush made the US armed forces kill more civilians thereby creating even more Vietcong recruits and supporters.

4. The various leaders, regimes and armed forces propped up the USA in Vietnam were supremely corrupt, greedy and unmotivated. They were in it for money, power and other payoffs. They had little interest in actually fighting or killing other Vietnamese on any significant scale. Did I mention that they were also seen as greedy traitors by their own people..

Furthermore many of the soldiers in the US-backed Vietnamese armed forces had strong pro-Vietnamese nationalistic beliefs. They saw their jobs as a means to earn a living by doing the absolute minimum required to keep it. The USA had no real Vietnamese allies- just “friends” of convenience.

To make a long story short, USA made pretty much the same mistakes in 1960-era Vietnam as they made (and are still making) in post-2001 Iraq and Afghanistan.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. John
    January 30, 2012 at 7:15 am

    In Vietnam the U.S was using 2nd Generation warfare tactics in its first 4th generation warfare engagement, and as you pointed out the collective “we” completely failed to understand who and what we were fighting. Again as you so pointed out, welcome to Afghanistan and Iraq. Outside of the obscene monies made by the usual suspects, loss is guaranteed/

    I would suggest a thorough read of Michael Lind’s ongoing appraisals of the past and current state of affairs regarding our “vaunted” military. The time spend will be well invested. In my own observations, sooner or later the side using guerilla tactics (fourth generation) that also has the luxury of an indigenous population sympathetic to their cause will always prevail in the end. Under those circumstances there is always a place to hide by simply blending in, leaving absolute genocide as the only option for the invading force.

    History will eventually teach us a lesson learned often by those who who have preceded us, that being a repeat of the the dictum, “Mind your own business.” Those four words have eternal relevance. Our collective arrogance and hubris have so blinded our thinking that we have come to believe that history no longer matters. The dustbin awaits.

  2. Matt Strictland
    January 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I agree with John.

    A good rule of warfare either mind your own business or wipe them out and take their land. Anything less is failure.

  3. Conquistador
    January 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Well said John.

    Like Matt I also believe unless you’re prepared to fight Mongol style warfare don’t bother.

  4. January 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Oh, Aryan Demon, we’ve been mostly on our own roads lately but I’m afraid we intersect again.

    A few low effort booby traps or a few hidden snipers has a panoptic effect on entire armies.
    If there’s an army of 10,000 men, not one of them wants to be the one that gets killed. The whole expensive army is slowed to a standstill.

    We see the same principle at work with airport security. How much money and time has been devoted to foiling a very small number of miscreants?
    If we reasoned in terms of a collective it would be far more efficient to have minimal security measures and just suck up occasional casualties.

  5. January 31, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    history repeats itself….

    what’s new…

    I guess history is one big ouroboros…

  6. February 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    “To make a long story short, USA made pretty much the same mistakes in 1960-era Vietnam as they made (and are still making) in post-2001 Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    Are we repeating mistakes, or repeating military industry business plans?


  7. February 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    durty d,

    might find this interesting….


    unlike the jarawa (so far as I know) they seem willing to shoot people with bows and arrows….

  8. doclove
    February 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    As a U.S. Army veteran of both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War, I’d like to say John and Matt Strickland are right. General Petraeus whom I served under in both wars is a bright man. Considereing he wasn’t allowed to commit genocide and the enemy knew it, he had the best strategy to win. However, Iraq became better for the U.S. military, because the Sunnis came over to our side when Al Qaeda of Iraq made mistakes and abused the Sunni Iraqis. The former enemy Sunni Iraqis came over to support the U.S. military in droves and help destroy those few Sunni Iraqis still fighting the U.S. military. The Shiite Iraqis divided against eachother and the more patient Shiites, which the U.S. military supported, won telling the impetuous Shiites to stand down and wait for the USA to leave after things calmed down enough which American military forces did. The Iraqi Kurds would elect President Bush over and over if they could because they got what they wanted which is semi-sovereignty after the USA invaded with options to get full sovereignty and to create a Kurdistan out of Iraq, Iran and Turkey if they still want it in the future. It remains to be seen if the Iraqis maintain the peace instead of break out into devastating civil war as they did under the American occupation. Remember it was as much of a civil war as a war for independence when American military forces were in Iraq. Maybe it was more of a civil war than a war for independence.

    You could say the same about Afghanistan. It’s at least as much of a civil war against eachother if not more so than a war of independence. It was like this when the USSR invaded, and it seems like that now the USA is in Afghanistan. The only difference is that the Sunni Iraqis turned against al Qaeda and recalcitrant Sunni independence fighter against the USA because of abuse and them being foreign fighters and their Sunni Iraqi allies. This has not happened yet against al Qaeda of Afghanistan to nearly the same degree and certainly to a much lesser degree against the native Taliban. The Taliban enjoy support among many but not all in Afghanistan especially among the Pashtoons and even the Nuristanis who are located primarily in the south and east of the country. The Taliban have less support among the Dari, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras among others. There are many Pashtoons in Pakistan too who also support the Taliban. Pakistan like Afghanistan has many different ethnic groups, but most people in both nations are Sunni Muslim. The USA and the Afghan government struggle endlessly against the Taliban. The Pakistani government is afraid of the Pashtoons in the rugged Northwest frontier. Pashtoons have a strong reputation for joining the Pakistani military just like American southerners have a strong reputation for joining the U.S. military. American Southerners like the Pashtoons of Afghanistan may on average be less educated, but they have well deserved reputations for being fierce fighters and good at shooting. It makes sense as guns are widely carried and used among American Southerners and Pashtoons even in civilian life. Pashtoons are in some respects like American Southerners, and they are the Muslim Bubbas, hillbillies and rednecks of central and southern Asian countries in my opinion. I respect both groups and I’m a Gentile White man from the Northern part of the USA.

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