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The long-term, offensive, total war strategy of the resolute DRV Politburo was superior to the short-term, defensive, limited war strategy of the vacillating U.S. President in the critical years from 1964 to 1969. Lyndon Johnson was an egomaniacal narcissist and a professional legislator with no foreign policy or executive experience of any kind. His primary interest was manipulating and dominating his legislative peers to achieve their collective consensus and shared responsibility for his socialistic domestic programs. He had no knowledge of Vietnamese Communism, no knowledge of military strategy, and no respect for the professional military knowledge and war-fighting experience of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He refused to let them conventionally and decisively win the war directly against North Vietnam, where the war originated and was controlled, with a maximum strategic air campaign focused on Hanoi and Haiphong and a maximum strategic land campaign focused on the Ho Chi Minh Trail system in Cambodia and Laos.
The DRV Politburo clung fanatically to their belief that eventually the U.S. Congress would not permit the U.S. military to continue winning strategically meaningless tactical battles at an increasingly unsustainable political cost. They gambled that the key to a long-term attrition victory over the superior U.S. military forces was simply surviving to buy time. They knew they could never defeat the U.S. military’s capacity to continue the war, but believed they could eventually defeat the U.S. government’s political will to do so, and they were right. The North Vietnamese Politburo won their American War strategically in America by political default, not tactically in Vietnam by combat victories over conventional U.S. forces.
The Politburo correctly identified and effectively exploited the critical U.S. strategic vulnerability. It was the inevitable rejection by the Congress of an undeclared, ambiguously defined, indefinitely prolonged, and increasingly costly war that was stigmatized by the mainstream media after 1967 as an unnecessary and unwinnable misadventure of questionable morality and doubtful national security value.
The North Vietnamese Army did not have to win any big tactical battles against U.S. forces, because they had six critical strategic advantages: 1) a constant supply of Soviet and Chinese war material, 2) politically protected ports in North Vietnam, 3) politically protected routes and base areas in Laos and Cambodia, 4) no fear of a U.S. strategic expansion of the war after 1968, 5) no domestic opposition in their Stalinist police state, and 6) a callous willingness to continue incurring huge casualties with increasingly younger troops for no military gain. With those six advantages they dared to gamble that their ability to prolong the war militarily, regardless of the human and economic costs, was greater than the U.S. Presidents’ ability to prolong it politically.
They were willing to continue losing battles tactically at a cost that would have been unsustainable, if they had been forced to fight them at times and places controlled by the U.S. forces. The NVA could outlast the U.S. forces only because they did not have to fight simultaneously in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. They could always retreat to their political sanctuaries in those countries to resupply their combat units with more Soviet weapons and more expendable young NVA troops, while preparing to fight and retreat again, whenever they were ready.
For seven years from 1965 to 1973 U.S. combat forces took every major position they were ordered to take in South Vietnam, defended every major position they were ordered to defend in South Vietnam, won all the big battles, and killed more than ten times as many NVA and VC troops as they lost. They did not fight a seven-year strategic war to prevent DRV hegemony in SE Asia, however. By the time Nixon was in charge of U.S. forces in the war in 1969, it was too late to implement a new grand strategy to permanently protect the RVN from future DRV aggression.
Because of Johnson's pathological ego and strategic incompetence as the U.S. Commander-In-Chief for four years, the U.S. military fought a one-year tactical war for South Vietnam seven times, won it tactically every year for seven years, lost more than 58,000 troops, and were withdrawn by a leftist Congressional majority that abandoned South Vietnam and permitted the NVA conquest of it two years later.
This is a "stump" essay which will be revisited when time permits.