Often described by the media and some political pundits as an unnecessary war, the Vietnam War is one of the historical events that have received both criticism and admiration with an equal measure. Nevertheless, there are many political and military lessons to be learnt.
One of the most important lessons learned from the Vietnam War is that we should always have an end goal. The reason why the war was unnecessarily prolonged for such a long duration is because there was no exit strategy. According to Hunt Jr. (2004), the US military went to the Republic of Vietnam with the sole objective of ensuring peace and stability of a noncommunist state in South Vietnam. United States was to play the role of reconstructing and rehabilitating the government in South Vietnam to be responsive to the needs of its citizens (Hunt Jr., 2004). However, somewhere along the line, the US government failed to get out of Vietnam, even when the odds were stacked against them.
Consequently, United States found itself entangled in a military combat hat lasted twelve years, losing 58, 000 soldiers in the process. After spending $ 140 billion in the war, and sending more than 2. 7 million American soldiers into the battle, the United States government not only failed to attain its military objective, but was also left with a bitter diplomatic outcome (Hunt Jr., 2004). The enormous military effort notwithstanding, the US military did not achieve its mission of preserving a stable state in South Vietnam.
In the aftermath of all this, questions have to be asked on why the government did not find it necessary to end the military combat. Successive governments continued to commit more resources into the war, without a clear exit strategy (Hunt Jr., 2004). Without doubt, this is a military lesson learned through the hard way, and mission-driven organizations have a lot to learn from this experience; there has to be an exit strategy, and it must be planned in advance.
Another important military lesson learned from the Vietnam War is that mission-driven organizations always require tacit cooperation, especially in the areas of strategic thinking, tactical planning, and logistical execution. The reason why the Vietnam War prolonged for long is because strategic objectives were not well-thought out, tactical planning was not a major strength for the US military and logistical support was also lacking.
One of the areas that exemplify failure in strategic thinking, tactical planning and logistical execution is the fact that the US military continued to use air power to defeat insurgents in a predominantly country. Despite the several bombings, and the amount of money used, the insurgents continued to destabilize Saigon and the situation grew worse day by day. Again, the decision to send military personnel to South Vietnam was against the initial plan, which was to advise ARN on how to fight against Vietcong. Although it is indeed true that the Vietcong insurgents lot more infantrymen in the war than the US military, that is not enough justification for the grey areas exposed on the part of the US military; better results could have been achieved with effective cooperation between the strategic thinkers, tactical planners and the logisticians.
In retrospect, the experiences of the Vietnam War make me to think of the area where I’m my ability would be utilized in a mission-driven organization. I think of myself as a strategic thinker because I do look back in history, analyze any relevant trends, and utilize that information to come up with rational inferences about the most pertinent events. Additionally, I look at some of the most pertinent events in history to find any correlation which would facilitate predicting the outcome of similar events in future. Strategic thinking comes naturally to me because I take time to analyze events and I am a perfectionist in everything that I do.
With the understanding that cooperation and support is needed from other people as well to accomplish my work successfully, I have also learned that achievement of my objectives is interlinked with the successful cooperation of other as well. The US military had to forge alliances with the South Vietnam Saigon forces to achieve their mission of establishing a noncommunist state in the South East nation. Without that cooperation, it would have been difficult for the military to understand the local terrain and acquire the intelligence required to defeat the insurgents. This experience teaches me to identify the areas where I need to cooperate with others and forge beneficial alliances which lead to the achievement of my goals. As the saying goes “ no man is an island” and I intend to make cooperation in my work a priority.
Another military lesson is that wars are not won on the battle only; the public must also feel as part of the military success. When the US military was withdrawn from Vietnam, the impression created in the government circles was that a new nation had been created, and the people had finally been rescued from the yoke of communism. However, the reality on the ground was that there were several indoctrination camps established in Vietnam, and mass killings continued to be abated in Cambodia. As a result, the feeling on the ground was that the “ American sacrifice of lives and treasures had been in vain”. However, this situation would have been avoided is the US had continued to adequately support its allies.
The Vietnam War provides many lessons for military advisors, strategic planners and people working with mission-driven organizations. First, it is always good to think strategically, plan critically, and execute the plan flawlessly using the relevant logistical support. Again, it is always important for the subjects to feel part of the process; otherwise, the targets will not appreciate the mission. Lastly, it is good to have an exit strategy. The lack of a clear exit strategy led to a protracted military combat that cost lives and a huge amount of resources.
Harari, Y. N. (2005). Martial Illusions: War and Disillusionment in Twentieth-Century and
Renaissance Military Memoirs. The Journal of Military History , 69 (1): 43-72.
Hunt Jr., I. A. (2004). Losing Vietnam: How America Abandoned Southeast Asia. Lexington: