Visiting Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) for the first time, their Vietnam War museums reminded me of the consequence of a tactical advantage (like air superiority) in the context of a failed strategy (like invading without a good reason).
You lose wars.
The life and business on the streets there reminded me what happens when you don't invade for no reasons.
At least from what you see on the street level, capitalism is doing better there than in the bailout-laden U.S.
Did I oversimplify? Of course. But until the U.S. shows some strategic intelligence like "don't invade countries without a reason" its tactical choices will always fail too.
The holocaust in Cambodia committed by the Khmer communists was one direct result of our failure in Vietnam. And it took the fall of the Berlin Wall and the broad collapse of communist ideology in the 1990s before Vietnam began to liberalize.
Correlation is not causation. One could just as easily argue that it was the intervention of western powers (France and the US) in Southeast Asia that gave the communists legitimacy which then lead to the holocaust in Cambodia. Liberalization in Vietnam had more to do with changes in China and improved relations with the United States, than the Berlin Wall.
> The US was an ally of South Vietnam at their government's invitation
Oh come on. South Vietnam was an American client state from the word go. American advisors helped run Ngo Dinh Diem's campaign in the 1955 referendum that set up the South Vietnamese government. When Diem didn't turn out to be the man the U.S. government had hoped he would, American money helped finance the 1963 coup that killed him.
I can't believe you're not downvoted to oblivion. Your oringal response was as close to incorrect as you can be while still being factual (we installed a new regime when the old regime stopped liking us), and you response with "the soviets did it too"?
"We weren't any worse than the soviets" is not a moral defense, and given that we couldn't hold south vietnam against insurgency, you'd need a hell of a case to support the idea that we could have held north vietnam.
I mean, given that we were dropping napalm and agent orange, what kind of "politically imposed restrictions" would you say held us back from winning?
In military terms, the US did hold South Vietnam against insurgency. The problem is that the source of support for that insurgency was in North Vietnam, and it was impossible for US ground troops to advance there and eliminate that support.
The war effort was also politically micromanaged--for instance, every airstrike had to be individually approved by the White House. This led to delays and, frankly, interference in military affairs from incompetent politicians.
Fighting a counterinsurgent war on the defensive is never strategically sound; one is always better served by being on the move and taking the initiative. This was politically impossible in Vietnam, which is why it took so long.
Now, perhaps there were valid political reasons not to invade north Vietnam. In that case, the answer is not to get involved at all. You either do the job right or you don't do it at all. In either case, the mistake wasn't that the US invaded Vietnam without a good reason--there was no invasion, and there was a good reason. The mistake was that the US didn't fully commit to the objective, and that the White House didn't let the military do their job.
Well, I'm not a military scholar but I'm pretty sure everybody who is disagrees with you here. The battle was entirely political, and armchair general troop movement stuff is completely beside the point.
Here's the fact: Nobody wanted us there. South vietnamese were informing on the US and killing our troops. You think having a few airstrikes being more effective would have made a difference for that? Like if we just killed enough of the bad guys, the rest of them would have given up?
That's not the way asymmetrical warfare works. Every guy you kill has brothers and cousins who want to avenge him. Losing the political battle is losing the war. That's why we won in Iraq (Al Qaeda in Iraq were flown-in nihilists who alienated the population), and that's why we're losing in Afghanistan (the Taliban are a local movement with a local base).
You're seriously saying that had we invaded North Vietnam and bombed more stuff, it would have been fine? Like we could cut the supply of an army that was living off the land? Looks like we would've just been occupying twice as much ground with the same number of troops, unless you're advocating killing every last man, woman and child in the country.
Given that we were fleeing our embassy by helicopter in 1973, I find it hard to believe that the VC were quote "broken" in 1968.
If you're living off the land, conducting guerilla warfare, you can't be broken. "Broken" is for standing armies. Guerillas just leave the field of battle and then bomb your patrols when you try to occupy.
It still doesn't constitute an invasion, any more than it constituted an invasion when China sent troops into North Korea during the Korean war.
I didn't say the people of South Vietnam democratically voted to formally request US involvement, or that the Diem regime was morally legitimate, or even that it was a good idea to get involved in the Vietnam War. Just that there was no actual invasion anywhere in the process.
Given a time when everyone was told there was a great threat from the aggressive expansionism of the Soviet Union and China, they felt they had a good reason. They thought Vietnam would result in a domino effect across the region.
I don't think it was a great reason and most now don't, but then again I thought Afghanistan could never work, and there were very few of us who would say so. It's easy to get swept up by militaristic arguments it seems.
"few of us" were actually quite a majority... Of people who knew what they were talking about. And we were right: Afghanistan cannot be "conquered" or "fixed", as 10+ years of failed occupation have proven.
How can you effect a change in culture down the barrel of a gun while claiming to be friends? That was the gist of the plan at the time. Anyway, we're probably straying too far from the point of the article...
You know something - I just tried to load this website as the article looks interesting. But it was taking forever to load. So I downloaded YSlow to find out what on earth was causing the problem, and the site has:
* 22 external CSS files
* has about 37 different DNS lookups to get access to all the files
On top of this, I've never seen so much analytics and tracking on any website - ever!
Seriously, someone needs to have a good look at the way that this site is constructed. Such a massive bandwidth hog - and noticably slow!
I didn't notice until I read this and pulled up the page again. My connection is apparently fast enough for it not to matter, but I was watching the DNT+ badge. 4... then 6... then incrementing up to 14 blocks. I guess they've got a lot goin' on.
F-35 lacks the F-16's agility in the air-to-air mode and
the F-15E's range and payload in the bombing mode, and it
can't even begin to compare to the A-10 at low-altitude
close air support for troops engaged in combat.
The F-35 is stealthier and has far better avionics than all of those aircraft. It could detect and shoot down an F-16 before it knew it was there, and do the same to ground targets. It doesn't have the low-speed loitering ability of the A-10, but that feature makes sense only for a pre-MANPADS era or battle.
> "My main issue with it is that I can't see that it is needed at all."
I don't usually find myself defending defense spending... but war-related technology is something you don't know you need, until you do, by which time it's too late to procure it.
If the US is going to continue its M.O. of attacking countries whose military air presence can be counted on two hands, and consists mostly of old Soviet cast-offs, then sure, the current level of tech is more than sufficient. Overkill, even. I don't think there has been a single loss of U.S. military aircraft to enemy action since... Kosovo?
I think a main impetus of this particular project is because both Russia and China are rapidly developing their own 5th-generation fighters, and while a head-to-head with China doesn't seem entirely likely, it's certainly less farfetched than the idea was 20 years ago.
Don't take it the wrong way, I'm not defending this particular boondoggle of a project, but the need for a 5th-generation fighter is entirely understandable.
On the plus side, it doesn't look like other countries' 5th-gen fighter projects are doing much better... The Chinese project has faced delay after delay after delay, and the Russians too.
The US is never going to fight China because both countries have nuclear weapons. That tends to put a damper on things. As a Chinese general reportedly put it back in the 90's, "You care a lot more about Los Angeles than you do about Taipei."
Even if you did compare the two, the US is a richer country (so it costs comparatively more to train and outfit the same number of men to the same amount) with a stronger cultural valuation of human life and a stronger cultural and political desire for short-term victories. If the Chinese got into a prolonged military conflict, not only would they be less sensitive to heavy losses, but if it took more than a couple years, no one would be worrying about reelection the way American politicians would. China is content with simply being able to win; the US needs to immediately overwhelm the enemy while suffering minimal friendly losses, or else the war will be lost politically if not militarily.
That's why we have things like the F-22 and F-35; in combat exercises small numbers of F-22's can singlehandedly wipe out entire wings of enemy aircraft without the enemy getting as much as a missile lock on the F-22. The US is in a weird spot--if [one telegenic fighter jock gets shot down](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_OGrady), it becomes national news for a week!
A few years ago, in a wargame predicated around the persian gulf, this retired marine who was playing the bad guys launched a low-tech attack on carrier groups which consisted of a ton of drones and fishing boats filled with high explosives. He won.
Result? They did a "redo" with a new rule that he can't do that stuff. Because carriers are awesome and admirals want to command them.
The good news is that, at least at the time, we still had someone like General Van Riper on our side. If you look at military history, many major wars have an opening stage where outdated doctrines are conclusively beaten and the military suddenly gets really interested in out-of-the-box thinking.
> I don't think there has been asingle loss of U.S. military aircraft to enemy action since... Kosovo?
Not only there have been many, the enemy isn't that needed. Everyone seems perfectly capable of destroying their own machines. Actually it looks like investing in general safety would be a better option for everyone than investing in high tech radar protection.
Of course these are mostly helicopters rather than planes, but still - aircraft.
How is a fifth-generation fighter, getting deployed at the end of this decade, going to possibly evade the AUVs that are going to exist then? It doesn't look like it's at all skating to where the puck is going to be...
It is needed because it is designed to replace all those.
Imagine your wife had Hugh Jackman, Michael Phelps and Bill Gates as her husbands in some strange polyamory type setup (hey you brought your wife into the conversation first ;-) ). And then one day, all those husbands disappeared and she was left with you.
The F-16, F-18, A-10, and Harrier are aging airframes that won't last forever. They need to be replaced. And frankly, stealth is such an improvement in terms of survivability in combat that the marginal expense of stealth technology is easily worth it just to protect the monetary investment the government makes in a trained pilot.
The F-35 might not be the best design (they'd be better off with a cheaper F-22 derivative and a separate replacement for the Harrier I think) but it fulfills a real requirement.
I think a lot of people underestimate the differences between the F-22 and the F-35 on a price standpoint. The F-22 costs $2 billion per plane. The F-35 at $18X million per plan is a pittance in comparison for 80% of the capabilities.
I stand corrected. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-22_Raptor. If you divide the number of aircraft built by the amount spent on the program, the GAO puts that at $412 million per plane. You can still buy more than 3 F-35's for each F-22.
The F-14 served its purpose. You might say, well, there was never any opposing navy that even thought about making air attacks on an American fleet when the F-14 was in service, but my answer to that is "exactly". The whole point of an overwhelming advantage is that no one ever challenges it.
In simulations the stealth (MADL, IFDL, and low radar profile from the front) and the fire-on-remote fused tactical picture the F-22 and F-35 present play out huge. It's mostly about the avionics. Conversations about these fighters are generally uninformed.
The US doesn't need them– but they'd love to sell them to other countries to recoup some of their costs. Too bad their pricing difficulties have pretty much ruined any chance of that working though, as Japan's already announced that they don't want them for more than the original projection.
That's what happens when you have a reasonable idea, i.e. let's replace the F-16 and F/A-18, and all of a sudden someone says "hey, the Harrier is getting old too" and you realize the politicians aren't going to pay for two new planes at once, especially not after how much they've already spent on the F-22 and B-2, so you just throw all the requirements together, so by the time it lands on the desk of an actual engineer who realizes what a hash of things you've made, it's too late to change course.
Oh man, you're right. Can you imagine if it could also turn into a submarine and have to withstand immense water pressure, have an intricate periscope, etc? That would justify 100billion for sure. Note to military: no, please don't. I'm only kidding....
The clusterfuck of competing requirements reminds me almost exactly of the space shuttle, a similar disaster that barely worked.
The shuttle could have been really awesome had its requirements only been set by NASA. Instead they had the NRO and other agencies jumping in there with space-irrelevant stuff that never even got used.