Why did the US lose the Vietnam War?

Why did the US lose the Vietnam War? by Khalid Elhassan

Answer by Khalid Elhassan:

As a preliminary, of course we lost the war.  The US spent 10 years, hundreds of billions of dollars (trillions, in today's money), sacrificed almost 60,000 American lives, and suffered hundreds of thousands of American wounded.  Aside from the millions of deaths suffered by our Vietnamese allies, Vietnamese foes, but mostly by innocent Vietnamese civilians.  The justification for all that blood and sacrifice was to prop up the South Vietnamese government, maintain the sovereignty of South Vietnam, and keep her from going communist.  It was all for nothing: when the dust settled South Vietnam no longer existed, had been swallowed up by North Vietnam, and was now communist.

Sacrificing so much for nothing counts as a loss by any objective standard.  The US killed more Vietnamese than Vietnamese killed Americans, but that's irrelevant.  We went into Vietnam in order to accomplish something other than simply running up a high body count of unarmed or poorly armed Third Worlders.  We spent a lot and sacrificed a lot in order to accomplish that something.  That something wasn't accomplished.  Ergo, "loss".

As to why we lost, myriad reasons, but the most important one is that our enemies simply wanted it more than we did, and were willing to endure far more punishment and make far greater sacrifices to achieve their goals than we were willing to endure and make to accomplish ours.  It was their country at the end of the day, and we were a foreign armed presence in a country whose national identity and history revolves around and was shaped by a 1000+ year struggle against armed foreign hegemony.

For the average Vietnamese arrayed against us, the sacrifice necessary to get rid of the armed foreigner in their country was worth it, while for the average American the sacrifice necessary to prop up a corrupt and inept government in some far off place eventually became too much.

There were also moral factors – Americans never collectively rallied around and supported this war because much of the country couldn't bring itself to see America as the good guys in Vietnam.  For the good reason that we really were not the good guys:

First, we started our involvement by supporting the French in their fight to hold on to their colony.  So in a fight between a foreign colonizing power trying to maintain its hegemony vs an occupied colonized people fighting for their freedom, we sided with the oppressor and against the oppressed underdog.

Second, after the Viet Minh defeated the French and liberated their country, we prevented free democratic elections from taking place because we knew the winner would be Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh, whom we opposed.  I.e.; we stood in the way of democracy/ were anti-democracy.

Third, we ensured that instead of a unified country, which was the clear will of the majority (a majority will we made sure would never get expressed in the polls by preventing elections from taking place), Vietnam was split between a nationalist North which, commie or not, had successfully fought to free their country from foreign occupation, and a corrupt US stooge government in the South with little popular support or legitimacy.

Fourth, we killed a few million Vietnamese when points one through three resulted in the inevitable war for reunification.  And the reunification, by the Viet Minh, still happened despite all our efforts. 

And our military's treatment of the Vietnamese throughout was often unconscionable, such as in the My Lai Massacre when a US infantry company went on a rampage of rape and murder that resulted in over 500 dead Vietnamese civilians, mostly women and children, even infants.  Only one American was prosecuted, and he served only 3 years, under house arrest, before being pardoned by Nixon.

There were good wars this country fought, and some iffy ones.  But the only war in which we were the clear cut evil guys who deserved to lose was Vietnam.

Why did the US lose the Vietnam War?


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