Front Page Titles (by Subject) Vietnam: Cost-Benefit Warfare - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4
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Vietnam: Cost-Benefit Warfare - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Vietnam: Cost-Benefit Warfare
“Breaking the Will of the Enemy During the Vietnam War: The Operationalization of the Cost-Benefit Model of Counterinsurgency Warfare.” Journal of Peace Research 15(1978):109–129.
Why did American policy fail in Vietnam? The American policy was predominantly one of suppressive counterinsurgency—one that proposed to make it too costly for the enemy to continue. A false assumption underlying this approach was that the insurgents' success was due to their use of coercion, so it remained for the American counterinsurgents also to apply coercion, but to do so with greater efficiency. In fact, the National Liberation Front did not use coercion and force as “primary tactics” to gain “support from the populace.” Shultz remarks: “In revolutionary war, insurgents require a strong commitment from the populace and this cannot be secured through sheer coercion . . .as the Greek and Malayan cases demonstrated.”
The NLF's total strategy consisted of “a combination of ideology, organization, social reform-oriented policies and programs, nationalistic goals,” plus force. But the force was used selectively to “immobilize” the government of Vietnam's in-frastructure, “drive it from the countryside and replace it with the Front's infrastructure.” In regard to the general population, the NLF used “education, persuasion, and indoctrination.” Coercion was “selective” and is “well documented in the Rand projects material and captured documents . . .”
So successful was this blend of tactics that GVN Premier Nguyen Cao Ky remarked to James Reston that the Communists were closer to the people's yearnings for social justice and an independent life than was his own government (New York Times, September 1, 1965). And U.S. Senator Stephen Young became disturbed when he learned that the U.S. government (CIA) was hiring Vietnamese nationals to commit atrocities with the intent of attributing them to the opposition in order to discredit it (New York Times, October 21, 1965).
Shultz shows historically that the method of force (and the cost it develops for the recipients) has not been successful in getting those recipients to give up their goals. He notes that Walter Rostow, a chief architect of the American policy of “Rolling Thunder” bombing raids in North Vietnam, had been impressed with a similar effort in the Second World War against Germany. But Schultz writes, “the bombing was generally ineffective.” And further: “Thompson's analysis of insurgencies in Vietnam and Malaya demonstrates that excessive regime reliance on coercion and force alienates the population, driving them to the side of the insurgents.”
Shultz criticizes the cost-benefit analysis of warfare. American bombing failed in stopping the flow of supplies and men from North Vietnam.
Shultz closes out his discussion by considering the role of the American political managers and their failure to assess factors basic to a conflict. The ‘frantic activity’ of U.S. policy managers, the technological capability and the obsession to use it, failed to bring success in Vietnam. The Americans applied larger and larger doses of military firepower in a hurry-up strategy to win the war, but this strategy did not prevail.
Political and Social Philosophy
The following set of summaries ranges from ancient Greek political and social philosophy to modern analyses of class and ideology. The themes dealt with cover constitutionalism, political myth, republican ideology, civic virtue, contract theory, the nature of state and ‘people,’ liberalism, and individualism.
Such diverse themes gain focus by seeing the underlying attempt to reconcile a sense of community with the protection of individual rights. The temptation is to conflate the individual into the state in the name of the ‘Volk,’ social utility, or civic virtue. Through reification and idealization we can often lose sight of the living individual, his rights and dreams, and blindly turn to larger collectives to bring meaning and salvation. Turning to such power, however, is to forsake personal responsibility and to unleash deadly and impersonal forces that war on the individual and his voluntary choices. Another way to approach these diverse summaries is to read each of them from the perspective of individual freedom. In each case this framework of personal and social liberty raises pertinent questions and insights.