Why the US lost the war in Vietnam

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Why the US lost the war in Vietnam

Why did the US lose the war in Vietnam? Was it primarily a consequence of military or political failure?

The prolonged Vietnam War started in the year 1954 and ended in 1975. The conflict was between the South Vietnam which was backed by the US armies and North Vietnam who were supported by the communist armies from China  (Spector, 2017). Although the South Vietnamese government had the support of the US, they still lost the battle considering they had a financial and technological advantage over Vietnam. There are many factors that lead them to lose, which include: the failure of the US to understand the Vietnamese people and their context, military failure, the influence of the media and weak political will. The Political will of the US failed because the loss of the war was an unavoidable consequence due to the gradual pressure that was escalated by a civilian government on the US military. Politically it did not seem like a good move for the US to win the war even though they knew with more effort they would have easily won.

In 1954, Ho Chi Mihn, who was a Vietnamese communist and politician, had strong support from the north, renounced the support of the US. In the same year, Vietnam was divided into two by treaty. The leaders of the new Republic of Vietnam refused to participate in elections as they realized that Ho Chi would definitely win. They began to ask for assistance from the US to protect them from being attacked by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Despite the government of South Vietnam being unpopular among its people, the US still recognized the South Vietnam as a nation. In 1955, the American government was providing the republic of Vietnam with military personnel and up to two hundred million dollars a year. The leader of South Vietnam was a man named Ngo Diem. Ngo and his employees were Catholics in a country whose predominant religion was Buddhism. This led the people of South Vietnam to associate him with old French colonizers. When his government became unstable and lost popularity, he began to take measures against the communists. In protest, Buddhist Monks took to the streets and set themselves on fire. This shocked the entire world but helped the north gain strength. The Buddhists went against Ngo Diem because it did not make sense having a Catholic President in a Buddhist country  (Jacobs, 2004).

One of the most powerful reasons why America lost the war was because they undertook traditional military strategies to fight their wars. The fear of facing international embarrassment drove Johnson to rage war on Vietnam.  The United States military, however, did not have an effective plan on how they would fight and win the Vietnam War. Military leaders based the war on previous experiences using strategies they used to win the war on other Asian nations like Korea. In order to keep US military personnel causalities down, they decided to use bombs. In the year1967, the US military had used more bombs than the entire World War II. One thousand bombs were dropped every week destroying fields, crops as well as the rainforests (Morelock, 2017). The bombing strategy only drew more support for North Vietnam from the Chinese. It is right to say that the war was therefore lost as a result of military failure.


Encyclopedia.com. (2016). Vietnam War (1960–1975). Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/asia-and-africa/southeast-asia-history/vietnam-war

Jacobs, S. (2004). America’s miracle man in Vietnam : Ngo Dinh Diem, religion, race, and U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia, 1950-1957. Durham : Duke University Press.

Morelock, J. D. (2017, April 14). Strategy for Failure: America’s War in Vietnam. Retrieved from Histort Net : http://www.historynet.com/strategy-failure-americas-war-vietnam.htm

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