John Fitzgerald Kennedy was so successful using negotiation and saber rattling to convince the Soviet Union to remove its offensive missiles that it convinced his cabinet to deal with the Viet Cong the same way. It wouldn’t be the right policy to succeed.
.One of the reasons why South Vietnam lost the war was the simple unadulterated, ineluctable fact that they could not control their own porous borders. Also the Viet Cong were unimpressed with saber rattling and came to fight back as they had historically many many times.
The US fought back in typical fashion, robustly, with high technology, new ideas like extremely mobile combat, electronically networked commanders, and new precision munitions.
One of the things that were perfected in the Vienam war was the use of the helicopter in conjunction with ground forces. The helicopter revolutionized infantry combat. Suddenly, you could have troops in front of the enemy and then before hey can effectively react you can put troops behind them as well.
By 1966, even South Vietnamese Divisions were supported by robust rotorcraft, the new UH-1 which replaced the CH-21. The new air-crews were wildly successful for a short period of time. Helicopters first transported troops and supplies, and it wasn’t long before M60s were installed in the doors. OV1 Mohawks provided artillery surveillance support, and the rest of the air tasking was supplied by the USAF and Navy. Of course the Air Force Began bleating complaints when the Army wanted to expand its own air power, but with the tacit support of Secretary of Defense Robert A. McNamara air mobility grew indeed and especially with the advent of air cavalry. The first official air cav unit was the 1st Air Cavary in 1965. Doctrine followed by lessons of maneuver with mounted cavalry and with the tanks and armor of mechanized warfare. Before long the M60 machine gun and rocket pods made the helicopter an offensive weapon.
Helicopters, pilotless drones, do these things win wars?
In many ways we are seeing an exact replay of Vietnam today in Afghanistan, where a Democratic reform president escalates an ill advised military response using more and more Special Forces and high technology. Democrats always get plastered with a reputation for being soft in warfare but the fact is few presidents did more to advance the operational infrastructure of covet operations than Kennedy and Johnson. Kennedy had CIA operatives crawling all over South East Asia coming up with the “strategic hamlet” debacle where in South Vietnamese villagers were forced to relocate into the discreet barbed wire areas where Viet Cong could not penetrate. Guess what? It didn’t work. Today we are trying to win hearts and minds at the same time that we kill innocent non-combatants whilst targeting out actual enemies. It seems just as heavy handed as the strategic hamlet initiative.
Watching the news media miss this story, purposely or perhaps because our mainstream media lacks the power to report, only spin. But there was no spinning this. Moments after we exited the Korengal Valley where we had fought and bled and died, the Taliban were inside of our outposts posting videotapes of the reoccupation on social media outlets.
Like Afghanistan, the increase of special ops and high tech weapons is being met with increased resistance and cleverly applied asymmetrical warfare. Despite our use of drones we have had to pull out of the Korengal Valley and we barely control any of Marja outside of our outposts. And the Kandahar offensive has stalled. Even the Pentagon reports a deteriorating situation, increased casualties, whack a mole like pursuit of an enemy that more and more attacks us ferociously and cleverly. My guess is that the public only has to see stealth bombers and drones and it doesn’t really matter anymore whether we are winning or losing.
Technology cannot win a war. It can only make the killing part more efficient. While we are perfecting drone technology and tactics, we have to remember that codifying rotorcraft warfare didn’t guarantee us a win in Vietnam either. But there seems to be a never-ending fascination with/and a recently ended review of the results of our military adventures. Few Americans realize the desperate fighting going on now in Afghanistan, nor do many seem particularly comfortable with he notion of why we are there or whether we even should be. It’s like a war that doesn’t really exist in America.
Plus ça change, plus ça la meme chose.