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Success and Failure in Limited WarInformation and Strategy in the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Iraq Wars$
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Spencer D. Bakich

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226107684

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226107851.001.0001

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The Vietnam War, Little Consolation

The Vietnam War, Little Consolation

(p.97) Chapter Four The Vietnam War, Little Consolation
Success and Failure in Limited War

Spencer D. Bakich

University of Chicago Press

In the Vietnam War, the U.S. sought to preserve the viability of a noncommunist South Vietnam. America waged a ground campaign in South Vietnam and an air campaign, “Rolling Thunder,” over North Vietnam. While the air campaign ran the risk of inducing China's intervention, U.S. strategy avoided that outcome. However, America was unable to defeat its opponent in the ground war because General William Westmoreland incorrectly believed that a conventional military strategy held greater promise than a counterinsurgency strategy. Vietnam was a mixed strategic outcome for the U.S. In the air, strategic intelligence was shared among President Lyndon Johnson, the National Security Council, and the military resulting in rational, timely, and effective strategic adaptation. On the ground, the U.S. Army nearly monopolized information thereby preventing positive strategic change. This chapter argues that America's moderately truncated information institution generated the strategic outcome of diplomatic success, but military failure in the war.

Keywords:   Vietnam War, China, Rolling Thunder, William Westmoreland, National Security Council, Lyndon Johnson, Counterinsurgency, Intelligence

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