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Military History Chapter 21 Vietnam War. Vietnam War- Strategic Overview. Vietnam was longest US combat deployment (so far): US combat units fought hostile actions (1965-72) SOF also involved before & after that (1961-73) Military advisor role started in 1959

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Military history chapter 21 vietnam war l.jpg

Military HistoryChapter 21Vietnam War

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Vietnam War- Strategic Overview

  • Vietnam was longest US combat deployment (so far):

    • US combat units fought hostile actions (1965-72)

    • SOF also involved before & after that (1961-73)

    • Military advisor role started in 1959

  • But no fixed date of start of US involvement

    • No Lexington & Concord or Pearl Harbor

    • or… New York Trade Center Towers

  • US entered & left incrementally

    • In series of incremental steps => 1950s-1970s

  • Successive US Administrations actively participated in the War:

    • From Truman to Nixon

      • All tried to save Vietnam from Communist take-over (as part of Containment Policy)

      • All would ultimately fail

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Brief Historical Outline

  • Truman (May 1950)=> authorized $$Mil to aid French=>

    • preserve post-WW2 French Indochina colonies (image)

  • Ike continued US support, even following Dien Bien Phu

    • Aim: build Vn Nation out of diverse political factions

    • After French defeat, US took control of bad situation

    • Deployed military advisors to build SVN’s military

    • Tasked CIA to conduct psychological war against NVN

  • JFK: tripled $$ aid to SVN & increased military advisors:

    • Early ‘61 secretly deployed 400 SF & 30 Navy SEALs:

    • Tasked to “advise” ARVN & SVN Navy: CItactics & techniques

      • Covert direct action against North Vietnam (Oplan 34A) & VC in South

    • By Nov ‘63 16,300 advisors operate thru-out N/S Vietnam

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Johnson’s War

  • After JFK’s assassination, LBJ took over war

    • Determined not to “lose” Vietnam like Truman “lost” China

    • Embarked on a limited war strategy to convince NVN to cease infiltration of South Vietnam

  • After Tonkin Gulfincident & itsresolutionin Aug 1964:

    • LBJ secured Congress support (as equivalent of war):

    • Authorized by resolution to “take all necessary actions”

    • Following his 1964 re-election, LBJ did just that

  • Result: US military commitment intensified incrementally:

    • LBJ personally directed sustained bombing of targets in NVN

    • Mar ‘65=> Rolling Thunderbegan=> would last until 31Oct68

  • US also deployed first combat units (USMC) in March 1965*

    • US took over war from ‘65-’69 when force levels peak @ 543K+

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Statistics & “Vietnam Syndrome”

  • Statistic totals: 2.7M served in Vietnam => 1.6 in combat:

    • 58K+ KIA & 300,000 WIA, ~ approx 2500 remain MIA

  • US spent between $140B to $175Bon the war

  • American outlook deeply influenced by Vietnam War:

    • Future Presidential Foreign Policy decisions affected as result

    • “Vietnam syndrome” hovered always in background to present

  • Not since Civil War has a conflict divided US society so

    • America’s first war ever lost

    • Humiliating political defeat for USG institutions

    • Especially for the US military- long time to recover

  • VN vetscame home as Nation tried to forget & move on

    • VN Vets were ignored at best & blamed for war at worst

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Vietnam’s History of People’s War

  • Vietnam has had a long tradition of war against outsiders

    • rebellion against China: the Trung sisters;

    • Later Trieu Au would lead another revolt in 248 AD

    • 10th century: defeated China’s Fleet & won independence

  • 13th century: Vietnam repulsed Kublai Khan 3 times

    • In process became experts in employing GW =>

    • Stressed protracted war to wear a superior military power down

    • Raid & ambush tactics on the enemy’s over-extended LOCs

  • Outlined in Dao’s“Essential Summary of Military Arts”

    • Strategy: drew enemy into protracted campaign to wear him down

    • (Also applied these techniques to1st& 2nd Indo-China wars)

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Historical Experience with Outside Threats

  • Vietnam’s defeat of Mongols & Chinese=>

    • Now key part of Vietnam’s martial tradition & history:

      • i.e. struggle & resistance against superior outside forces

      • All became part of Vietnam’s military heritage

      • (In addition to Vietnam’s civil war that soon followed)

  • French involvement came in late 1850s:

    • Vn persecuted Fr & Euro missionaries & their converts

    • Gradually (late 1800s) => Fr establish & expand their colonies

    • French then expanded throughout all of Indo-China =>

      • Also suppressed Vietnam’s civil war in process

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“On Protracted War” – An Overview

  • Mao’s Guerilla Warmodel:

    • “On Protracted War”

    • Vietnam drew heavily on Mao’s model for war

  • Model instructed followers to proceed by 3 stages:

    • 1st - defensive stage:

      • survive, establish base & gain people’s support

      • conduct hit & run raids & ambush of soft targets

    • 2nd - equilibrium:

      • gradually expand offensive campaigns =>

      • stage larger battles of a more conventional nature

    • 3rd - Counter-Offensive:

      • Incorporate conventional military ops with guerilla warfare

      • Then ramp up to full scale conventional war (when ready)

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First Indo-China War

  • WW2: Japan occupied & controlled Vietnam since 1940

    • Vietnamese allied with China to fight Japanese (GW)

  • Following Japan’s defeat, Ho Chi Minh asserted his leadership:

    • Led coalition of Communists Nationalists

    • Declared Vietnam independence on 2Sept45

    • Began talks with French

    • But both sides failed to agree on basic strategic aims

  • Nov’46=> Viet Minh attacked French garrisons =>

    • 1st Indochina war began => would last 8 yrs (1946-54)

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Escalation to Major Battle

  • Jan’48: Viet Minh begin 2nd stage:

    • Expand military operations

    • Conduct bigger battles against French

  • Meanwhile (late ’49)=> China became Communist state under Mao:

    • Result=> China provides Vietnam with economic & political support

    • Also sanctuaries within China’s sovereign territory

  • 1951: Vietnam launched stage 3 prematurely:

    • Result: suffers major conventional defeat

    • Temporary set back for Viet Minh

  • 1953: at China’s insistence Vn lures French Commander (Navarre) into:

    • Plain of Reeds=> near a place called (?)

    • ?_______ __________ ____________

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Dien Bien Phu (Nov53-May54)

  • Gen Navarre established several strong French Firebases on surrounding hills near main base:

    • All manned by paratroops & Fr Foreign Legion

    • supplied thru airstrip by airlift

  • 1954: Chinese press Vietnamese to act decisively:

    • Giap orders arty/ammo towed into surrounding mtns

    • Complete surprise (operational and tactical surprise)

  • Viet Minh bombard French outposts from mountain sites:

    • Paratroops forced to abandon outposts 1 by 1 =>

    • 13Mar’54:Beatrice falls within hours of attack

    • Gabrielle & Anne Marie overrun during next 2 days

    • Impact: denied French airfield-key to French defense

      • Reinforcement & re-supply (also Fr artysuppressed)

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Dien Bien Phu(final assault)

  • Remaining outposts must be re-supplied by airdrop (men/supplies):

    • Drops inaccurate (high altitude drops due to Vn AAA)

  • French situation now desperate

    • French government requests US help

    • Ike refuses to send US troops or tactical Nukes

  • Many French Foreign Legion troops desert

    • Hide in caves along Nam Yum & scavenge for food

    • Paratroopers left to fight alone until the end

  • 7 May’54: Last French position overrun

    • Fr survivors marched into captivity & humiliation

  • At on going Peace talks in Geneva

    • French must now accept distasteful political terms

    • Unfavorable terms a direct result of French tactical defeat

    • US must now take up containment directly

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Expanded US involvement

  • By ‘54 US paying close to 80% of War’s cost

    • French viewed as containing communism in Asia

  • Ike refused to sign Geneva Accords:

    • Rejects VN’s temporary 2 year partition at 17th parallel

    • Wary of nation wide elections to determine fate in 1956

    • Well aware of who is most likely to win (who?)

  • Instead US used 2 yr time to back separate non-communist Government below 17th parallel

    • Government in South to be led by who?

    • ?________ ______ ________- a Catholic

    • What is the faith of Vietnam majority?

    • ?_________________

  • 1956 elections overwhelmingly favor Ho Chi Minh:

    • Vote results ignored by US & new RVN Gov

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Second Indochina War

  • Following South Vietnam refusal to allow free election=>

    • Ho Chi Minh began modernization of his forces

    • Prepares to deploy NVN advisors south

    • Begins armed struggle in South Vietnam(SVN)

  • Diemstarts search to rout out Viet Minh south in 1956

    • Included all viewed as opposed to his rule:

    • i.e. All non-Catholics & minorities alike

  • By ’57: Viet Minh in South close to all but eliminated

    • Result: Viet Minh launched major rebellion against Diem’s Government

    • Initiate guerilla warfare, intelligence ops, propaganda

    • Focus: develop support base in rural villages

    • Diem’s harsh policies facilitate Viet Minhefforts

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Violence Escalates

  • Raids & assassinations escalate between 1958 => 1960:

    • 1958: 700 gov. officials killed

    • 1960: 2500 killed

  • By 1960: National Liberation Front (NLF) established

    • (Political arm of Viet Minh rebellion)

    • By Dec’63: PAVN (NVA) escalated infiltration/support to Viet Minh

    • Ho Chi Minh Trail established

    • NVN sends men & supplies south

  • By 1965: full blown insurgency was established in SVN:

    • US concludes Diem’s regime will fall without direct military support

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NLF’s War Aims & Strategy

  • Political Aim:

    • Unite South under NVN government of Ho Chi Minh

  • NLF Grand Strategy:

    • Combine political & military aspects of struggle

    • Undermine SVN political & military positions

    • Rally people & popular support for NLF cause

  • Political Tactics:

    • Conduct “Agitprop”

    • Tactical focus: village level

      • Establish a tight political & military structure

    • By’63: NLF was successful =>

      • Signed up 300K supporters in countryside

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NLF Military Strategy & Tactics

  • Tacticsformulated to serve strategic & political ends:

    • 1st stage: hit & run raids & just survive

    • Targets selected for maximum psychological impact

  • Assassination: target most effective & most despised

    • Mayors, village chiefs, teachers

    • Ambush ARVN troops & government strategic Hamlets

    • Sabotage commercial transport infrastructure

  • Strategic Objective:

    • Provoke government to react w/repressive actions:

    • Aim: alienate the very people government is suppose to protect

    • Demonstrate to people ineffectiveness of Gov efforts

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Chinese Tactical Model

  • By’65:PAVN provided direct support to SVN insurgents:

    • Employed Chinese model, tactics, & techniques

    • Totaled 500K troops with 500K in reserve

    • Divisions comprised 10K Troops:

      • Used 7.62 AK-47s w/3-5 grenades each member

    • 3 infantry regiments in South:

      • Weapons company attached: 60/82 mm mortars

      • 57/75mm recoilless rifles, RPGs & Machine Guns

  • Train extensively in night ops & effective concealment

    • Small unit tactics employing stealth

    • Meticulous planning & full scale rehearsals

    • Detailed withdrawal plans & back-up contingencies

    • Preposition supplies & ammo & escape routes

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Tactical Focus

  • Bottom line:

    • a well respected opponent:

    • NVAsoldier was good, dedicated,

    • Well trained & highly motivated troop:

    • Extensive training & battlefield prep

  • NVA tactics & doctrine’s focus:

    • Raid & ambush=> (became experts at)

    • Small unit mobility to minimize US technology:

      • Extreme close contact

      • (often at “Danger Close” ranges)

    • Concentrate on weak point, overwhelm & encircle

    • Then quickly withdraw => rarely held territory

  • Key Lesson Learned:

    • Never follow a blood trail – why? ?_________________

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US Counter Insurgency (CI) & Limited War

  • US foreign policy (FP) focused on Containment:

    • Halt communist expansion directed from Moscow

    • Main focus of US FP throughout Cold War (CW)

  • Vietnam War viewed as just another communist threat of attempted expansion:

    • Specific attempt at communist expansion in SE Asia

    • Ho Chi Minh & NVN inspired by Moscow & Beijing

  • During’60s=> Vietnam became test case for JFK’s CI doctrine:

    • JFKcampaigned to replace Ike’s massive retaliation=>

      • Replacement National Security Strategy?

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Result: Flexible Response

  • JFK placed major emphasis onCI:

    • To counter Mao’s guerilla warfare in SE Asia

    • Carried out by SOF advisors

      • 400 SF & 30 SEALs May 1961

      • 16,300 military advisors by Nov 1963

  • Also JFK ordered covert actions against NVN

    • (OPLAN 34A) by SOG Teams

  • CI Strategy against NLF:

    • Build-up of military support to ARVN:

      • APCs, CV air support, Helos, TACAIR

    • SF advisors conducted training & civic action:

    • US Helo support to ARVN:

      • Infiltration/extraction & Medivac

    • Direct support, to include “advising” SVN SOF teams into enemy held areas

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Strategic Hamlet Program

  • Another attempt to protect people from insurgents by isolating them

  • Theory: serve as instrument of $$ & social reform & security:

    • Attract the people to SVN gov programs

    • Convince peasant SVN gov better than NLF

  • Objective: relegate insurgents to outlaw status

    • Lose support of masses => force revised NLF aims:

    • Return insurgent to Survival mode (stage 1)

  • Reality: program failed in both concept & execution:

    • Dislocated peasants from village bred resentment

    • SVN Government (notNLF) viewed as bad guy

    • Poor security => vulnerable villages easy to overrun

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Factors in Failure

  • Result: opposite of desired government objective

    • People’s discontent rose while security & safety fell

    • Atrocious execution by Nhu alienated peasants

  • Another factor – conventional military mindset:

    • Conventional US Army leaders resisted CI

    • Did not support CI concept

    • Conflict in philosophies of war: Clausewitz vs. Sun Tzu

  • Conventional military preferred conventional methods:

    • Bigger = better mindset employing modern weapons

    • Even though jungle warfare very tough environment

    • Conventional infantry & armor profile ineffective

    • Tactical surprise unlikely – operational surprise hard

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Battle of Ap Bac (2 Jan 1963)

  • LTC John Paul Vann:

    • Pressed IV Corps tactical zone Cmdr MG Cao, & Col Dam, Cmdr of 7thARVN, to attack 3 VC radio companies (350 men) near hamlet of Ap Bac

    • Located 65 KM southwest of Saigon in theMekong Delta

    • Plan: 3 pronged pincer attack from different directions by 3 Battalions of 7th Infantry,

      • Supported by regional units, 13 APCs (3500 men), ABN & US Helos (CH-21s & UH-1s)

    • Objective: Surprise & overwhelm enemy with numbers

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  • Executionbadly flawed:

    • ARVN commander delayed attack too long

    • Allowed enemy to discover Cmdr’s intent:

    • Time to prepare defense to receive attack

  • No tactical surprise =>

    • First sign of resistance ARVN froze

    • 1 prong of offense refused to even attack

    • Remaining units purposely failed to block enemy’s escape

  • Result: numerous ARVN casualties (friendly fire):

    • 61 KIA & 100 WIA

    • Viet Cong slip away undetected (3 KIA)

  • Victory claimed anyway (why?)

    • Rationale: conventionally- held ground

    • ARVN performance does not bold well for future

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Tonkin Gulf Incident

  • SVN maritimesea commandos & advisors

    • Conduct sea-borne & raids on NVN radar

    • Raids conducted in/around Tonkin gulfop area

  • Objective:

    • Force NVN to light off radar’s ELINT

    • Permit US DDs w/special ELINT collection

  • NVN Response:

    • Torpedo boats attack SVN commandos:

    • SOF insertion craft (NASTIES) in vicinity

  • NVN craft see US DD Maddox & engage:

    • Result: 3 enemy PT sunk or damaged

  • 2 days later- NVN PT appear to fire on US DDs:

    • USS Maddox & Turner Joycall for CV air CAS

      • Who find nothing

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Tonkin Gulf Resolution

  • Capt of USS Maddox not sure second NVN attack actually occurred, but...

    • Files report to CINCPAC via chain of command

  • LBJ sees opportunity to exploit NVN “attack”:

    • Applies much political pressure to confirm attack

    • Meanwhile=> Admin prepared draft resolution for Congress:

      • Resolved for President to “take all action necessary”

      • Protect US forces & its allies

  • While Navy still try to figure out what really occurred:

    • LBJ exploits incident: Tonkin Gulf Resolution

    • Passed unanimously by House & all but 2 in Senate

    • (Just as administration drafted it) => significance?

    • Future impact on US involvement?

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NLF Threat Grows

  • By 1965 => NLF secured Mekong Delta (Map) =>

    • Appeared to have gained both momentum & initiative, especially in the Delta

    • Appeared to US that SVN Gov about to fail

  • USconcluded it must send massive assistance to prevent its collapse

    • Specially configured armored landing craft were deployed

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Operation Rolling Thunder (Mar’65- Nov‘68)

  • Mar ‘65 (after LBJ safely re-elected)=> US strikes:

    • Launched massive strategic bombing of North

    • Longest sustained air bombing campaign in US history

  • Targets primarily along northern areas of DMZ:

    • Included bridges, railheads, & logistic supply dumps

    • Also re-supply routes along Ho Chi Minh Trail

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Major US Ground Combat Introduced

  • LBJ also deployed USMC to DaNang in late July’65:

    • Two Battalion Landing Teams waded ashore

    • Prepare to conduct active forward defense & search & destroy ops

  • From then on, US begins to take direct control of war =>

    • Major ground combat & key battles conducted by US

    • More US combat units deploy

    • ARVNrelegated primarily to garrison defense duties as the US directly takes over the War

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Theory & Practice of Limited War

  • Flexible Response (review):

    • Tailored action required only to meet political aim

    • Avoids dilemma of massive retaliationas only option

    • Result:military instruments limited to minimum needed to send the enemy a message

      • Target hit to modify enemy’s behavior (political end)

  • Limited War theories& civilian theorists:

    • Flexible Responseprovided basis of limited war theories

    • Ltd War Theoriesprovide set of broad guidelines:

      • Focused on attaining US political objectives

      • Military considerations not taken into account

    • Craft military response to send clear signalto enemy

      • Convey political intent to attain desired enemy response

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Theory vs. Reality

  • Result in practice:

    • Political considerationsdominated military actions

    • Military responses limited to minimum required

    • Civilian leadership prevalent thru-out all operations

      • LBJselected many of the bomb targets personally

      • Limited geographic battle areas of operations

    • BDA unimportant =>only political message sent is central

  • Theory’s Flaw?

    • Reality of war - military factors do count:

    • Assumptionregarding enemy’s response& friction’s role?

    • Precisionof message sent & how it is received & interpreted

    • How theenemy will respond remains uncertain

    • Gradual escalationin attempt to get desired response flawed

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Modern Hi-tech Military Advances

  • Flexible Response strategy => conventional forces

    • SECDEF McNamaramodernized US forces

    • Established “Brush War” capability (for Vietnam)

  • USAF & USNbuild-up:

    • WWII BBs refitted & updated

    • CV/CVNon Yankee Station in Tokin Gulf launch F-4/A-4 strikes

    • B-52 (Guam) & F105/F-4 (Thailand): Rolling Thunder

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Weapons Technology Advances

  • High Tech Equipment:

    • Radar units small & portable developed

    • Sniffersattached to skids of UH-1s to detect infiltrators’ odors

    • Sensors & passive transmitters alert SF teams

    • IBM computers predict enemy movements

    • Puff (AC-47 gunships) &

    • AFSOC AC-130 Specter Gunships

      • provide devastating fire support

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Troops, Weapons, & Equipment

  • Troops: best ever trained & equipped to date:

    • 1 Million men combat ready & divisions expand:11 to 16

    • Airlift & equipment stockpiles expanded

    • Army reorganization:

      • Task oriented for specific jobs

  • Direct ground support weapons & equipment:

    • Armor Personnel Carriers

    • Weapon advances: (M-60, M-16, Stoner LMG, M-79)

    • Helo & its role: UH-1, Cobra, CH-47, 1st Air Cavalry

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Next: Military History

Chapter 21b

Vietnam War

(to be continued)

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US Combat Units: Direct Ground Operations

  • US also deployed first full combat units in March 1965:

    • 3500 USMCs land on DaNang beaches for combat ops

    • Key US threshold passed

    • (Many to follow incrementally)

  • From then until April 1969, US commitment gradually increased:

    • US ground troop levels & combat units grew steadily

    • US combat actions rose incrementally for next 4 yrs

    • Operation Starlite was typical

  • From ‘65-69: US took over most fighting from ARVN

    • US troop levels peaked at 543,400 troops by early 1969

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Conflicting post-War Analysis

  • Several hard lessons were learned as a result of Vietnam

  • For some=> we simply backed the wrong horse:

    • US Military power & $$$ support never be enough regardless=>

    • Military & $ pwr couldn’t prop upRVN’s corrupt & failed regime

    • Local revolutionary war fought for nationalistic & political aims

      • Therefore US caught in middle of bitter civil war

  • For others: war too hard to win under political constraints:

    • War considered integral part of global Cold War threat

    • Key political concern for LBJ administration: avoid escalation

      • Both in intensity of fighting & geographic region

  • Result: US attempted to fight limited conventional war

    • Without a coherent & realistic operational strategy

    • While applying separate poorly chosen tactics to support it

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Serious Strategic Disconnect

  • US approach to war appeared to have serious disconnects:

    • Political Aims were unrealistic given military constraints

    • Operational Strategy poorly matched to those strategic aims

    • Tactics employedserved a failing strategy

  • Result: Tactical success served poor operational strategy

    • Which in turn attempted to achieve Unrealistic strategic aims =>

    • Which ultimately resulted in political failureat the end of the day

  • Political decisions makers failed to realize until too late:

    • That superior American military power can’t make up forwhat?

    • American people’s lack of political will to continue war indefinitely!

  • These failures would affect many in different ways

    • Including foreign policy decisions taken following the Cold War