How true is it of any military conflict you have studied that ‘wars are always won by the side with the most resources’?
Throughout history there have been many events that could possibly be used to argue that the statement isn’t true, and that wars are not always won by the side with the most resources. At the time of World War I Germany was arguably the most powerful country in the world, it can be said that they did not come out victorious. Similarly, it is not completely decisive who won the Gulf War, even though the conflict between Iraq and a coalition of 34 countries was clearly an uneven one. But most notably, in many senses the Vietnam War is one that stands out as arguing against the statement the strongest. This is based mainly on the fact that the US was arguably the most powerful country in the world at the time of the war, and that their opponents, the North of Vietnam, were an undeveloped and fairly powerless country.
WAS IT A WAR?
There are however questions over whether the Vietnam War was in fact a war at all. A dictionary definition of war describes it as “a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation” So, on this reading, it’s quite possible to class the Vietnam War as a war. There are though some stand out elements that disagree with the fact that it was a war. Firstly, historians such as Alan Farmer and Vivienne Sanders have suggested that “Johnson aimed to avoid getting entangled in the war with China, so he never declared a war on North Vietnam”. This is important because is suggests that war was never declared and could possibly determine that it wasn’t ‘officially’ a war. Secondly, the US presidents and high personnel that operated during the war used the term ‘war’ sparingly, using words such as ‘conflict’ to describe the events in Vietnam. It seems that the US would try to hide what was going on in Vietnam, not wanting the events to escalade even further. However, in my opinion, no matter how much the US didn’t want to admit it, by looking at the definition of war and comparing it to the events in Vietnam, the Vietnam War was in fact a war.
In its war against the communist North, the anti-communist South Vietnam was very heavily supported by the United States, so much so that it eventually turned into the United States’ own battle of trying to contain or stop communism. At its peak in 1969, the number of US personnel serving in Vietnam was over 542,000. What’s more, the south also had support from New Zealand and Australia with over 50,000 of their troops serving in the Vietnam War. South Korea also sent troops with over 60,000 men serving after 1965. As well as this, the south also had its own manpower known as the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), which at its peak strength numbered nearly one million men.
On paper the US was at a staggering advantage over the Vietcong and the odds would’ve been clearly against the North on their own. North Vietnam did, however, have their own support, albeit not as much as that of the South and the power of the US, but still good support. For example, China supported by giving military equipment and supplies, and eventually sending troops, with around 170,000 troops serving in Vietnam at its peak. The Soviet Union supplied advanced weapons, as Christine Bragg suggest, these included “the latest surface-to-air missiles”, jet planes including the MiG-21’s, rockets and Grad field artillery shelling systems - which were “highly effective” in attacks on the US bases and airfields. This statement by Bragg is important because it underlines the fact that it was not just the US who had modern technology available. As well as this, there were also over 47,000 North Korean troops that would go on to serve in Vietnam. What’s more, the north had their own army of supporters known as the Vietcong (Or NLF – National Liberation Front),...
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