Cover: Vietnam


Lessons and Mislessons

Published 1969

by Melvin Gurtov, Konrad Kellen


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A caveat against the mislessons and nonlessons that might be drawn from the Vietnam War, and a discussion of principal areas of disagreement about policy and objectives. Experience may be the worst rather than the best teacher, because, first, the truths of one situation are not always transferable to another; and, second, lessons may be found where none exist. Politically, it is uncertain how much the United States has influenced Vietnamese politics or social structure, whether "nationbuilding" is either desirable or feasible, how the united-front approach will affect our alliances, or whether the new information analysis techniques actually facilitate the conduct of the war or increase our understanding of either enemy or ally. Militarily, the Vietnam experience has discredited all strategies and tactics "learned" from prior wars — e.g., massive retaliation and flexible response. Moreover, it has demonstrated that the capacity for resistance depends on morale as much as on military might.

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