The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

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The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 17:55

What would have happened had the United States would have decided to invade North Vietnam during the Vietnam War? A Chinese military intervention would have of course been likely:

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/ch ... ms-scholar
ZHAI: One common misperception has to do with Lyndon Johnson's handling of the war in the 1960s. Critics say that Johnson allowed his fear of China to impede his handling of the war. When he escalated the war in Vietnam, he gradually expanded the bombing from south to north as he was afraid of incurring China's wrath. Like the Chinese side, Johnson remembered the Korean War and wanted to avoid another confrontation. He remembered that during the Korean War, the U.S. had failed to heed Chinese warnings after MacArthur crossed the 38th parallel, thus triggering a clash with China.

This time, Johnson and his advisers paid close attention to the Chinese role. They were afraid that if the United States pushed too hard or attacked North Vietnam without restraint, they would have a replay of the Korean War. Johnson's critics later said that China was just bluffing, that the Chinese weren't serious about intervening. Harry Summers and other military writers criticized Johnson for allowing his fear of Chinese intervention to undermine his bombing campaign.

However, the new evidence from China suggests that Mao was seriously prepared to intervene. There was a secret agreement between Hanoi and Beijing that if the Americans launched a ground invasion of North Vietnam (at that time, the United States had restricted itself to a bombing campaign), China would send ground troops into North Vietnam and would not allow the United States to defeat Hanoi. If the Americans bombed North Vietnam, China would match the American military action by taking measures to protect North Vietnamese cities and to rebuild roads and bridges. They would also send anti-aircraft artillery units and army engineers to support North Vietnamese troops and help them deal with the air bombing pressure.

Meanwhile back in China, Mao was making preparations in anticipation of war with the United States. He relocated industries, universities, and research institutions in the coastal areas of eastern China to the mountainous areas of southwest China. He ordered his people to build anti-air shelters throughout China.

Mao himself had staked a lot on the outcome of the Vietnamese War in terms of security as well as ideology. Mao took the American escalation seriously; he interpreted it as a security threat. But he also believed that the success of North Vietnam had ideological significance. At that time Mao was criticizing the Soviet Union for not giving enough support to national liberation movements, for pursuing détente with the United States. Thus he hoped to use the Vietnam War as a way to embarrass Khrushchev -- to show him that China had closely befriended anti-imperialist movements of the Third World.

For all these reasons, Mao was really interested in Vietnam and prepared to intervene. This means that critics of Johnson were wrong. The historical record shows that Johnson was prudent in his approach to the Vietnam War -- that he was right not to adopt more drastic measures. If the suggestions made by these critics had been adopted by Johnson, there would have been a real danger of war between the United States and China.
However, where would the front lines have subsequently ended up and would this have ultimately had any effect on the final outcome of the Vietnam War? For instance, could we have actually seen a permanent partition of Vietnam occur in this scenario as opposed to having North Vietnam conquer South Vietnam in the 1970s? Also, could Laos and/or Cambodia have actually permanently avoided and escaped Communism in this scenario?

Also, would it have been possible for the United States to occupy both Laos and Cambodia up to the Mekong River in addition to invading North Vietnam? Or would that have created more problems than it was worth for the United States?

Finally, would the Chinese troops have ever withdrawn from North Vietnam once they would have actually ended up being there? If not, wouldn't that have made it much harder for Vietnam to ever militarily intervene in Cambodia later on even if the Khmer Rouge would have still eventually ended up coming to power there since the Khmer Rouge were Chinese allies?

Any thoughts on all of this?

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by OpanaPointer » 30 Jan 2021 19:11

We saw what happened when we got too close to China. An invasion of NORVN was to be considered a threat and the ChicComs would have responded. They would have had no problem nuking NORVN to stop that threat.
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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 19:17

Nuking one's own ally doesn't make much sense, does it? Or do you mean nuking US forces that are on North Korean or North Vietnamese territory? Because that might very well provoke a US nuclear response--and the US had MUCH more nukes than China had even in the late 1960s!

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by OpanaPointer » 30 Jan 2021 19:20

Futurist wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:17
Nuking one's own ally doesn't make much sense, does it? Or do you mean nuking US forces that are on North Korean or North Vietnamese territory? Because that might very well provoke a US nuclear response--and the US had MUCH more nukes than China had even in the late 1960s!
The Chinese would have been happy to nuke an enemy outside China's borders if it would stop a supposed invasion of the Middle Kingdom. Rationality wouldn't have been an issue. There are studies of this somewhere in the five-sided puzzle box but I don't have the horsepower to pull them out.
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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 19:21

But what if this would have subsequently resulted in the Middle Kingdom itself getting nuked A LOT?

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by OpanaPointer » 30 Jan 2021 19:28

Futurist wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:21
But what if this would have subsequently resulted in the Middle Kingdom itself getting nuked A LOT?
We would nuke China for nuking North Vietnam? We didn't have any business there.
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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 19:35

We certainly would if our own troops were in North Vietnam and got nuked by the Chinese.

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by T. A. Gardner » 30 Jan 2021 19:45

I seriously doubt China would start a nuclear war over N. Vietnam. It is likely sufficient they do what they did in Korea to push the US back from their border. Going nuclear is an escalation that would engender a serious response from the US, an might even have serious negative implications with the Soviet Union.

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by OpanaPointer » 30 Jan 2021 19:48

Futurist wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:35
We certainly would if our own troops were in North Vietnam and got nuked by the Chinese.
And that's why we didn't invade North Vietnam.
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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 19:49

T. A. Gardner wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:45
I seriously doubt China would start a nuclear war over N. Vietnam. It is likely sufficient they do what they did in Korea to push the US back from their border. Going nuclear is an escalation that would engender a serious response from the US, an might even have serious negative implications with the Soviet Union.
Completely agreed with all of this. That said, though, where would the front line have ultimately ended up?

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 19:50

OpanaPointer wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:48
Futurist wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:35
We certainly would if our own troops were in North Vietnam and got nuked by the Chinese.
And that's why we didn't invade North Vietnam.
We didn't invade North Vietnam because we didn't want to start a nuclear war with the Chinese? So, would our calculations have been different had China not had nukes yet back then?

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by OpanaPointer » 30 Jan 2021 19:50

T. A. Gardner wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:45
I seriously doubt China would start a nuclear war over N. Vietnam. It is likely sufficient they do what they did in Korea to push the US back from their border. Going nuclear is an escalation that would engender a serious response from the US, an might even have serious negative implications with the Soviet Union.
I didn't say China would start a nuclear war over N. Vietnam. I said that they would happily nuke North Vietnam if there was an enemy that appeared to be heading for China via North Vietnam. The Yalu Rule in a pre-emptive fashion.
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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 20:04

OpanaPointer wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:50
T. A. Gardner wrote:
30 Jan 2021 19:45
I seriously doubt China would start a nuclear war over N. Vietnam. It is likely sufficient they do what they did in Korea to push the US back from their border. Going nuclear is an escalation that would engender a serious response from the US, an might even have serious negative implications with the Soviet Union.
I didn't say China would start a nuclear war over N. Vietnam. I said that they would happily nuke North Vietnam if there was an enemy that appeared to be heading for China via North Vietnam. The Yalu Rule in a pre-emptive fashion.
Except by doing this China would be significantly escalating this war. Much better to do a conventional Chinese military intervention as in 1950, no?

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Thumpalumpacus » 30 Jan 2021 23:10

I would imagine a large conventional intervention. I'm skeptical it'd go nuclear.

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Re: The United States invades North Vietnam during the Vietnam War

Post by Futurist » 30 Jan 2021 23:30

Agreed.

Where do you think that the front lines would ultimately end up?

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