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The Gulf War As Compared To Vietnam


"No new taxes." This is a quote that most all of us
remember from the 1992 presidential election. Along with it
we remember that there were new taxes during that
presidents term in office. There are a myriad of promises
made and things done in a presidential election year that
have questionable motives as to whether they are done in
the best interest of the people or in the interests of the
presidential candidate. These hidden interests are one of
the biggest problems with the political aspects of
government in modern society. One of the prime examples of
this is the Vietnam War. Although South Vietnam asked for
our help, which we had previously promised, the entire
conflict was managed in order to meet personal political
agendas and to remain politically correct in the world's
eyes rather than to bring a quick and decisive end to the
conflict. This can be seen in the selective bombing of
Hanoi throughout the course of the Vietnam War. Politically
this strategy looked very good. However, militarily it was
ludicrous. War is the one arena in which politicians have
no place. War is the military's sole purpose. Therefore,
the U. S. Military should be allowed to conduct any war,
conflict, or police action that it has been committed to
without political interference or control because of the
problems and hidden interests which are always present when
dealing with polit
United States involvement in the Vietnam War actually began
in 1950 when the U. S. began to subsidize the French Army
in South Vietnam. This involvement continued to escalate
throughout the 1950's and into the early 1960's. On August
4, 1964 the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred in which
American Naval Vessels in South Vietnamese waters were
fired upon by North Vietnam. On August 5, 1964 President
Johnson requested a resolution expressing the determination
of the United Sates in supporting freedom and in protecting
peace in southeast Asia ( Johnson ). On August 7, 1964, in
response to the presidential request, Congress authorized
President Johnson to take all necessary measures to repel
any attack and to prevent aggression against the U. S. in
southeast Asia ( United States ). The selective bombing of
North Vietnam began immediately in response to this
resolution. In March of the following year U. S. troops
began to arrive.
Although the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution specifically stated
that we had no military, political, or territorial
ambitions in southeast Asia, the interests back home were
quite a different story ( Johnson ). The political
involvement in Vietnam was about much more than just
promised aid to a weak country in order to prevent the
spread of communism. It was about money. After all, wars
require equipment, guns, tools and machinery. Most of which
was produced in the United States. It was about proving
America's commitment to stop communism. Or rather to
confine communism in its present boundaries But most of all
it was about politics. The presidential political
involvement in Vietnam had little to do with Vietnam at
all. It was about China for Eisenhower, about Russia for
Kennedy, about Washington D.C. for Johnson, and about
himself for Nixon ( Post ). The last two of which were the
major players in America's involvement in regards to U. S.
Troops being used ( Wittman ).
The military involvement in Vietnam is directly related to
the political management of the military throughout the
war. The military controlled by the politicians. The micro
management of the military by the White House for political
gain is the primary reason for both the length and cost,
both monetary and human, of the Vietnam War ( Pelland ).
One of the largest problems was the lack of a clear
objective in the war and the support to accomplish it. The
predominant military opinion of the military's role in
Vietnam in respect to the political involvement is seen in
the following quote by General Colin Powell, "If you're
going to put into something then you owe the armed forces,
you owe the American People, you owe just you're own desire
to succeed, a clear statement of what political objective
you're trying to achieve and then you put the sufficient
force to that objective so that you know when you've
accomplished it." The politicians dictated the war in
Vietnam, it was a limited war, the military was never
allowed to fight the war in the manner that they thought
that they needed to in order to win it ( Baker ).
To conclude on the Vietnam War, the political management of
the war made it unwinnable. The military was at the mercy
of politicians who knew very little about what needed to be
done militarily in order to win the war. There is an
enormous difference between political judgment and military
judgment. This difference is the primary reason for the
outcome of the Vietnam War ( Schwarzkopf ).
The Gulf War in the Middle East was almost the exact
opposite in respect to the political influence on the war.
In respect to the military objective of the war the two are
relatively similar. The objective was to liberate a weaker
country from their aggressor. The United Nation's
resolution was explicit in its wording regarding military
force in the Persian Gulf. The resolution specifically
stated "by all means necessary."( Schwarzkopf ).
The President was very aware of the problems with political
management of warfare throughout the war. He was very
determined to let the military call the shots about how the
war was conducted. He made a specific effort to prevent the
suggestion that civilians were going to try to run the war
( Baker ). Painful lessons had been learned in the Vietnam
War, which was still fresh on the minds of many of those
involved in this war ( Baker ).
The military was given full control to use force as they
saw fit. Many of the top military leaders had also been
involved in the Vietnam War. These men exhibited a very
strong never again attitude throughout the planning stages
of this war. General Schwarzkopf made the following
statement about the proposed bombing of Iraq in regards to
the limited bombing in Vietnam, "I had no doubt we would
bomb Iraq if I was going to be the Military Commander." He
went on to say that it would be absolutely stupid to go
into a military campaign against his, Iraq's, forces who
had a tremendous advantage on us on the ground, numbers
wise. It would be ludicrous not to fight the war in the air
as much, if not more, than on the ground ( Schwarzkopf ).
The result of the Gulf War in which the military was given
control, as we know, was a quick, decisive victory. There
were many other factors involved in this than just the
military being given control, particularly in contrast to
Vietnam, but the military having control played a major
part in this victory.
In conclusion, although there are some major differences
between the two conflicts one fact can be seen very
clearly. That is the fact that the military is best suited
for conducting wars. Politicians are not. It is not the
place of a politicians to be involved in the decision
making process in regards to war or military strategy. The
White House has significant control in military matters.
That control should be used to help the military in
achieving its goals as it was in the Gulf War where George
Bush said specifically to let the military do its job. The
only alternative to this is to use political influence in
the same way that it was used in Vietnam. If we do not
learn from these lessons that are so obvious in the
differences between these two conflicts then we are
condemned to repeat the same mistakes. Lets just pray that
it does not take the death of another 58,000 of America's
men to learn that the politicians place is not in war but
in peace ( Roush ). 
Works Cited
"Interview with General Norman Schwarzkopf,
Commander-in-Chief, Central Command." Frontline WGBH
Educational Foundation. PBS, College Station. 9-10 Jan.
"Interview with Secretary of State, James Baker." Frontline
WGBH Educational Foundation. PBS, College Station. 9-10
Jan. 1996. 
Johnson, Lyndon B. "The Tonkin Gulf Incident." Message to
Congress. Aug. 5, 1964. Department of State Bulletin 24
Aug. 1964: n.p.
Leyden, Andrew P. "The Operation Desert Storm Debriefing
Book" Internet Page. University of Notre Dame Law School.
15 Feb. 1995. 
Pelland, Paul. E-mail to the author. 25 June 1996.
Post, James N. E-mail to the author. 26 June 1996
Roush, Gary. Statistics about the Vietnam War Internet
Page. Nov. 1993. 
United States, Joint Resolution of Congress H. J. RES 1145.
Aug. 7, 1964. Department of State Bulletin 24 Aug. 1965. 
Wittman, Sandra M. "Chronology of the Vietnam War."
Vietnam: Yesterday and Today Oakton Community College.
Skokie, Illinois. 16 May 1996: n.p.
Wenglar _ PAGE _6_



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