Vietnam, a small country sitting quietly in South East Asia, exploded onto the world scene and became the face of the flawed American foreign policy and strategy. The United States went around the globe to an area that most of its citizens had never heard of and set out to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of its wider communist containment policy. In June of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson assigned General William Westmoreland to command the United States Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV), a position he held for four years. This paper will evaluate General Westmoreland and his strategic actions during his tenure as the MACV commander from 1964 to 1968.
Background: “During World War II, Westmoreland fought…show more content… General Westmoreland’s formal power came from the President appointing him to the position. He was able to use this formal power, but also his informal authority to help shape the commands of the Australians and South Koreans when they arrived in the Vietnam area of operations. The Secretary of Defense envisioned his strategy for Vietnam and passed it on to Westmoreland, however, when executed they were in complete contrast to one another. Westmoreland believed in the strategy of escalation or attrition warfare and the “President allowed the troop strength to grow to 175,000…and granted him freedom of maneuver as he saw fit.” On 7 June 1965, Westmoreland sent a dispatch to the Joint Chiefs of Staff outlining the situation in South Vietnam. Westmoreland indicated that if President Johnson wanted to maintain an independent South Vietnam, he would have to deploy U.S. forces immediately. “I see no course of action open to us except to reinforce our efforts in South Vietnam with additional U.S. or third country forces as rapidly as is practical during the critical weeks ahead. Additionally, studies must continue and plans developed to deploy even…show more content… Paradoxically, embedded in success may be the very seeds that begin the downfall of the leader and the organization. Westmoreland denied senior civilian officials accurate data on enemy strength and composition during the development of a 1967 Special National Intelligence Estimate. “He imposed a ceiling on the number of enemy forces his intelligence officers could report or agree to and personally removed from the order of battle entire categories that had long been included, thus falsely portraying progress in reducing enemy strength.” Westmoreland violated his personal ethics during the fight in order to paint a rubicund picture that obscured the truth…Vietnam was in a mess. When a leader loses his ethics, the organization will not unite around those shared values and the leader and the organization will fail. Sadly, the price for this failure was human