The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Ends, Ways, and Means in Vietnam

Through the Tet offensive in 1968, some have argued that the United States did not have a firm strategy in Vietnam. For a strategy to be coherent it must logically connect ends, ways, and means. If you assume that the U.S. end was a stable South Vietnamese government, and that the U.S. had the means to achieve that end, how do you evaluate the ways the U.S. pursued the strategy? Some things to think about: What were the U.S. ways? Were they logically connected to the end? What was missing from the U.S. strategy?

March 21, 2014 - Posted by | COIN, H300, military history, Professional Military Education

1 Comment »

  1. The “ways” that the US tried to achieve the “end” of a stable South Vietnamese government was packaged as “Vietnamization;” essentially the US providing advisors, training and equipment to the South Vietnamese government in order to build their capabilities and capacity to a point where they could independently hold-off North Vietnamese attack.

    While the US “ways” were logically connected to the “end,” they missed addressing stability and efforts to bolster support for the South Vietnamese government. Furthermore, the US approached their “ways” as an exit strategy; while the military “end” may have been a stable South Vietnam, the political “end” appears to have been more simply the end of US involvement in Vietnam (as evidenced by President Nixon’s promise to bring troops home in his first term). Supporting this was the unrealistic withdrawal timeline of Vietnamization.

    This real “end” resulted in an unrealistic withdrawal timeline, one which did not enable the US to properly support or even assess capabilities of South Vietnam or the effectiveness of Vietnamization. Political pressure on the homefront drove US force withdrawal faster then the “ways” could realistically take effect and were not tied to the an assessment of how effective South Vietnam would be in defending against future North Vietnamese offensive operations. US forces were going to leave Vietnam regardless of what or how events transpired and once US forces departed, they would not be returning or even in a position to support.

    Comment by LCDR Matt Krull | March 28, 2014

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