Some of the most active debate about the Vietnam War today is prompted by those who believe that the United States could have won the war either through an improved military strategy or through more enlightened social policies. Eric Bergerud takes issue with both of these positions. Carefully analyzing the entire course of the war in a single key province, The Dynamics of Defeat shows that the Vietnam War was a tragedy in the true sense of the word: American policy could not have been much different than it was and could only have led to failure.Examining the war at the operational level, where political policy is translated into military action, The Dynamics of Defeat provides a case study of the efficacy on the ground of policies emanating from Washington. Many of the policy alternatives now proposed in hindsight were actually attempted in Hau Nghia to one degree or another. Bergerud is able on that basis to critique these policies and to offer his own conclusions in a thought-provoking but utterly unpolemical fashion.Based on extensive research in U.S. Army archives and many personal interviews with those who experienced the war in Hau Nghia, The Dynamics of Defeat is a story full of violence, frustration, and numbing despair, but also one rich with lessons for American foreign policy.
Introduction -- A Note on Primary Sources -- The Challenge of Insurgency: South Vietnam, 1954–1965 -- The Front Victorious: Hau Nghia Province Through 1965 -- Prospects for War: On the Eve of American Intervention -- Search and Destroy: The Big-Unit War, 1966–1967 -- Sword and Shield: Pacification Efforts, 1966–1967 -- Battle: The Tet Offensive, 1968 -- The Accelerated Pacification Campaign -- Battle: The Tet Offensive, 1969 -- The Pacification of Hau Nghia Province, 1969 -- High Tide for the Allies: 1970 -- Last Battles: 1971–1973 -- Reflections on the War