Historian David Chandler, like most historians today, believes that the second Indo-China War was a conflict that the United States could never have won. French President Charles de Gaulle said to President Kennedy in 1962, â€˜ I predict that you will, step by step, be sucked into a bottomless military and political quagmir.â€™ Even General Westmoreland said to writer Peter MacDonald, â€˜The politicians in Washington just had no idea about the complexity of the situation in South Vietnam.â€™ The same could be said for the U.S military.
The US underestimated the force and strength of nationalism, supported by communism, in the war. At the same time they overestimated the threat of communism in the context of the Cold War rhetoric. Similarly, the military genius of Vo Nguyen Giap was completely underestimated. After centuries of domination by the Chinese, French and Japanese, the Vietnamese had emerged as one of the most potent military/nationalist forces in history. The US misread the stuggle that was taking place and resorted to military means as a solution when perhaps a diplomatic or political solution would have been wiser and easier. The US military involvement inexorably increased from the 1940â€™s. De Gaulle said it all. There was no pressure placed on Diem to match the reform of the North, and thus the communists were allowed to run the race. The US should have insisted on elections and accepted the result in 1954.
The US and its allies intervened in what was essebtially a local war which some observe was a civil war. Such wars were not unusual in Vietnamâ€™s turbulant history. The Americans backed the wrong side: a weak and popularly dislicked regime. The fear of Chinese expansion through Vietnam seemed to override all foriegn policy considerations. The US failed to develop a popular and democratic government in the South. The corrupt, inefficient and brutal despotic and military governments which emerged in the RVN diverted much US energy and policy.