WI: The US de-escalates Vietnam

Now, granted, the question is when, because Vietnam was a long conflict, when was the US finally in too deep? Personally, i'd place that point in March 1965, when Operation Rolling Thunder started and the first US ground troops (as opposed to "advisors" were sent in). Let's say, ITTL, LBJ realizes the futility of continuing, and negotiates, leading to US withdrawal and a neutralized South in March 1965. What next? How is politics, both in the region and in America/the Cold War changed by this? How is pop culture affected? Your thoughts?
 
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Now, granted, the question is when, because Vietnam was a long conflict, when was the US finally in too deep? Personally, i'd place that point in March 1965, when Operation Rolling Thunder started and the first US ground troops (as opposed to "advisors" were sent in). Let's say, ITTL, LBJ realizes the futility of continuing, and negotiates, leading to US withdrawal and a neutralized South in March 1965. What next? How is politics, both in the region and in America/the Cold War changed by this? How is pop culture affected? Your thoughts?
By 1965 there was a clear pattern of neutralization and cease-fire agreements in Indochina only ever amounting to temporary lulls as the communists replenished their resources and manpower and expanded their networks. At which point fighting would resume on the Communists' terms.

It was known that the only "easy" out was admitting defeat (at best, a slightly delayed one).
 
Vietnam was a gradual build up to a point of no return. Involvement was like an arrow head: easy to go deeper, hard to pull back out the deeper it goes in. Therefore, de-escalation looks different and has different consequences based on timing, degree, media attention, narrative, geopolitics, domestic politics and other variables. The deeper in America goes, the variables become established constants and the consequences unalterable.

The best course is to disengage early on. Circa 1963 / 1964, South Vietnam is easily understood as a disaster of intertwined corruption and incompetence. It's fighting a persistent insurgency without effectiveness and legitimacy. It undercuts it's own war effort at every turn. The reality on the ground is stark. All that can be said in it's favor is hope: hope that the government can get itself straightened out, hope for an effective leadership, hope for stability in the government and society, hope for a military lead by merit and competence rather than corruption, hope that US investment and US optimism in what could happen could pan out.

The South Vietnamese fail consistently to merit any optimism. It's the same revolving door of core problems and pleading for the US to stay around because it will be different *this time*. The whole situation was like rotting wood. The problem is that Johnson assumed he could support the South Vietnamese with troops, and it'd end the problem. Then it was that he could take over the war from the South Vietnamese, fix it by US ownership of the conflict, and return the situation to the South Vietnamese once everything was straightened out. He understood the problems as simple, solid issues to pinpoint and remove rather than lingering, malignant issues. He saw moles where those were actually signs of a cancer that had spread and would be hard to excise.

Honestly, my 1963/1964 analysis is only based on the OTL. If Johnson kept the conflict as a simmering issue with an eye towards disengaging, he could have had a longer period. His mistake was thinking he could manage the issue by taking it over. The reality is, he could only manage the issue by not taking it over. He needed to be an investor or stockholder and not a manager. As soon as troops hit the ground, the media will focus on it and the American people will have a stake in it. You lose control of something when people can form an opinion on it, and especially when that opinion becomes more solid and intractable.
 
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The problem was America was supporting the wrong side in the war from the start.

The Vietnamese people deserved a better government than what was provided by South or the North

Uncle Ho did not run a nice place.
Check out that 'Land Reform' in 1956
 
Let's say, ITTL, LBJ realizes the futility of continuing, and negotiates, leading to US withdrawal and a neutralized South in March 1965. What next?

The VWP(s) and VWP(n) as sister and brother both have a significant stake in whether the RVN is "neutralised" or "exists." Both of them were strongly, firmly, and engaged in 6 years of armed struggle (latterly) and 10 years of armed struggle (formerly). The former as a matter of survival. So I am not seeing any plausible scenario where the RVN is "neutralised" in anything more than a dance of seven veils sense.

How is politics, both in the region

The VWP aren't going after Thailand. They're capable, barely, of going after Cambodia and Laos through proxies. Claiming a "regionality" to the war as a revolutionary or nationalist project is dog-whistling code supporting fascism in Thailand. Both at the time, and currently.

and in America/the Cold War changed by this? How is pop culture affected? Your thoughts?

Well pop-culture in revolutionary PRG Vietnam involves a lot less prosecution (persectuion) of Junkies and Whores. The Chinese ethnic community is probably much less persecuted with 10 fewer years of war supporting the RVN elites. Possibly you get a softer, even actual revolution under VWP(s) control. If everyone and their cat is lucky on Monday for three weeks straight. More realistically you get a different VWP(n) assertion of control over the revolution, which would involve less retaliatory nomenklatura persecution of comprador elites; but, correspondingly, a worse nomenklatura attack on VWP(s) revolutionaries and NFL operatives.

My thoughts are that America is not a determinate force, but, rather, a big fat jenga log jammed in place. All other phenomena wait for the jenga log to be removed. But it barely changes the texture of the social configuration; and, then, only to increase war crimes, excess civil mortality (paralegal RVN), heroin use, prostitution, and to increase the general tempo of blood. I'm not going further because all of the NFL PRG VWP(s) and VWP(n) are also liable for their state criminal activities taken outside of a rule of law; retaliatory or no: people died without nominal trials outside of military actions in a war "within" a state. The US certainly upped a tempo, and caused urban proletarianisation in a service (sex) work capacity. But it isn't as determinate as people make out. And everyone admits the South Koreans won the warcrimes attrocity award years running.

Neutralisation?

>Check out that 'Land Reform' in 1956
Check out how the party prosecuted those responsible for the failure of the 1956 campaign under popular complaint. Unlike many other early soviet elites, the VWP(n) was responsive: it held its own rule in higher regard than the positions or lives of its party members.
 
Check out how the party prosecuted those responsible for the failure of the 1956 campaign under popular complaint. Unlike many other early soviet elites, the VWP(n) was responsive: it held its own rule in higher regard than the positions or lives of its party members.
Late after the fact of those who were Dead or Fled from that campaign. Can't get the Toothpaste back into the Tube, despite regrets later on having Execution Quotas for each Province, and letting Mobs wild run with the 'reform' on the Landlords and 'rich' Peasants.

And they didn't give up on Collectivized Farming til the late '80s, as Communism was tottering on the edge of failure
 
But supporting the north would have brought an early end to the war.
Can't think of any US Administration who would actively assist the North.
Washing hands of the South, sure, letting them wither on the vine after the French embarrassment and pull, out, very possible.

But not when the North followed Moscow enthusiastically.
Ho would have needed to be as distant to the USSR and Red China as Tito was.
 
If there was a moment like this. This was last point where Johnson could have gotten out.
The most disastrous decision made by any American President.

Johnson would take a hit in the 1966/1967 period for "losing," South Vietnam. 1965 wouldn't be too different. Most of Johnson's major legislation passed in the first 9 months of 1965. I think Johnson could ultimately ride out the storm and win an upset in 1968. Similar to Truman. I'm thinking in 1968 we get Johnson vs Romney. And Wallace, who has a reduced appeal. Johnson wins, maybe decisively after Romney implodes in a similar manner. Inflation and Social tension will be greatly reduced. A Johnson second term sees Health Care Reform, OSHA, and the EPA. Not sure what else Johnson gets done domestically. I see a schism forming in the Democratic party as New Politics takes root until the leadership of RFK. I lean towards Johnson serving out his entire second term. Reagan gets elected in 1972, as early as 1966, Johnson saw Reagan as someone who could lead a backlash. And I'm thinking that Reagan is still elected in 1966, even without the Vietnam War.


List of Presidents

Lyndon B. Johnson 1963 - 1973
Ronald Reagan 1973 - 1981
Robert F. Kennedy 1981 - 1989
Lloyd Bentsen 1989 - 1993

Jack Kemp 1993 - 2001
 
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Can't think of any US Administration who would actively assist the North.
Washing hands of the South, sure, letting them wither on the vine after the French embarrassment and pull, out, very possible.
North Vietnam? No.

The Viet Kong and other domestic RVN opposition? Perhaps if the trust issues have not been set in stone yet.
 
Five, you forget the Peace Corps
Now there's a POD we haven't done, which plays into the typical dolchstoßlegende of American War threads.

What if the Peace Corps wins the Vietnam War as a political war?
  • Obviously we're going to need literate University-capable cadreised political operatives who speak Vietnamese fluently (even if with Northern Accents a fair bit of the time).
  • Who we're willing to lose at enormous rates in political warfare, and in the assassinations attendant upon military supported political warfare.
  • Who can take direct action against RVN and NFL/PRG state agents in order to achieve necessary outcomes.
  • And who can transform the social and economic life of the village in the interests of the long term support of their ideological position.
My estimate is we're going to need a lot more than 60,000 dead to achieve the outcome, based off a 1% proxy from VWP aligned forces casualties. Might need to conscript people going to University to achieve that outcome.

yours,
Sam R.
 
Can't think of any US Administration who would actively assist the North.
Washing hands of the South, sure, letting them wither on the vine after the French embarrassment and pull, out, very possible.
That could have worked too.
It would have made for better relations with Vietnam post-war and saved the Americans a lot of money.
But not when the North followed Moscow enthusiastically.
Ho would have needed to be as distant to the USSR and Red China as Tito was.
HO was criticised in Moscow for being more nationalist than communist.
 
This is a thread where US policy is being tested against a Vietnamese nomenklatura (formed from a Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist influenced intelligentsia largely,) that read Marx. Things aren't one thing or another; but, both, simultaneously, in a relationship.

Ho slavishly followed Moscow's lines and was criticised for being more nationalist than communist. Both these features are significant. Helpfully Duan's cementing of power allowed the VWP(n) to be both Pro-Moscow and receive modern armaments without Chinese ethnic influence, and to weight the national struggle as an anti-imperialist struggle over the proletarian struggle as an anti-imperialist struggle. Also wipe out those dangerous New Courseish peaceful development cadre.

The Red River land reform campaign successfully eliminated a large majority of landlords, forced the eviction of a dangerously anti-communist Catholic social base, and uselessly and horrifically eliminated the best elements of the rural social landscape while weakening the Party's ability to mould and shape rural ideology. Publicly apologising helped. Publicly apologising when most of the catholics weren't present, and most of the rich weren't alive, to hear certainly helped rebuild public confidence. Arresting and purging the "local officials" who "went too far," certainly helped; the party cement control over itself; oh and, incidentally, rebuild public confidence.

If America knew how to run a mass political assassination campaign while retaining a positive public good (circa 1968) well we wouldn't be talking about the failure of Phoenix, but the success of the Peace corps.

yours,
Sam R.
 
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