The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H305: 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 9, 2016 - Posted by | COIN, H300, Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. While I agree that the United States’ intention in the Vietnam War was the bolstering of the South Vietnamese government, the reality of discombobulated ends, ways, and means doomed the Vietnam War. The United States did not account for the threat in aligning ends, ways, and means through comprehensive risk analysis and operational employment. Instead of addressing the political goals and guerilla elements, the United States instead adopted a limited conventional war solution. Unfortunately, conventional forces could not achieve the strategic victories needed against an ideology and an unhindered guerilla force.
    Missing from America’s strategy in Vietnam was the political shaping mechanism focused on isolating the North Vietnamese ideology. The conventional American force did not augment its operations with political elements that could partner and inform the populace on the political alternative to the communist message. By failing to integrate with civilian IGOs, NGOs, and US agencies that could offer viable alternatives to the political problem posed by North Vietnam, the American strategy could not win in Vietnam.

    Comment by Maj Matt Wunderlich, 19A | March 10, 2016

  2. Before the Tet Offensive in 1968, the US ways was mainly through military action. This was evident in Westmoreland’s belief that the enemy main forces were the most immediate threat. The approach was therefore a war aimed at destroying the enemy’s main force. However, this neglected the political action and guerilla warfare lines of effort in Mao’s revolutionary insurgency theory. Besides targeting conventional forces, the US also needed to counter the political action of the Viet Cong. This eventually took place under Abrams after the Tet Offensive. Abrams implemented a clear-and-hold strategy aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the population in rural areas previously dominated by the Viet Cong.

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG 19B | March 22, 2016

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