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?The Lessons And Ghosts Of Vietnam? Essay, Research Paper

Peggy Thomas


English 112H


The Lessons Learned from Vietnam

Lorenzo M. Crowell discusses the lessons that Americans have learned from the Vietnam conflict in his article “The Lessons and Ghosts of Vietnam.” Crowell analyzes the lessons learned from Vietnam and applies them to the military strategies of today. Crowell does overlook some problems involving the power of Saddam Hussein after Desert Storm and the comparison of two dissimilar wars. Crowell is effective in his arguments with the use of first-hand viewpoints, current newsprint, and political figureheads. Although the article “The Lessons and Ghosts of Vietnam” had some weak points, overall the article is effective and informative.

Crowell’s main idea in his paper is how Americans have learned from Vietnam. He draws parallels between the Vietnam conflict and Desert Storm. The article discusses the political and military errors made in Vietnam and the solutions to those issues. Military leaders of today have learned from the Vietnam conflict and have changed their strategies on future wars, like Operation Desert Storm. The main mistake that Americans made in the Vietnam conflict was the gradual application of military force on the Vietnamese (230-231). It caused more Americans to be killed and internal political conflicts in the government. The military has learned from mistakes in Vietnam and applied a quick and powerful strategy in Operation Desert Storm without any restrictions. Another lesson that Americans learned from the Vietnam conflict was the negative impact of domestic dissent (236-238). It caused governmental hesitation in Congress and anti-war protests, led by the media on the public. This resulted in the under minding of the troops which led to the loss of the Vietnam conflict. The use and abuse of these lessons learned in Vietnam will continue to be the legacy of Vietnam.

One problem that arises in the article is Crowell trying to compare two dissimilar conflicts. Vietnam was a conflict that did not directly involve the United States. Desert Storm did involve the United States by jeopardizing our oil supply from the Middle East. The military was also prepared and ready to fight during Desert Storm where as in Vietnam the draft was introduced due to the lack of volunteer soldiers. The military strategies used in each conflict were different. In Vietnam man-to-man combat was employed over a slow period of time and Desert Storm utilized a more rapid attack using ballistic missiles. Crowell says, “…military force should be applied without restrictions, reflects an assumption that the unsatisfactory Vietnam experience might have been satisfactory without gradualism… the war could have been ended quicker, perhaps even with victory” (234). These two wars were so different that Crowell should not have compared them and is ineffective in proving his points regarding the two conflicts.

Another main issue that Crowell overlooks in the article is the problems in Desert Storm. The article mentions only the positive results in Iraq and ignores the mistakes made by the military. The main problem is that Saddam Hussein is still alive and dangerous. The threat of biological and chemical weapons that Iraq posses still lurks above our heads. Also the medical issues with exposures to the chemicals that Saddam Hussein used during the war will come up later as the soldiers’ age. Crowell was ineffective when presenting both sides of the issue of the outcome of Desert Storm.

Crowell, however, nicely explains how the military had learned from the Vietnam conflict and applied a new approach for use in Desert Storm. During the Vietnam conflict the military strategy was gradual escalation, which caused many Americans to lose their lives. The military leaders of Operation Just Cause state, “gradualism and escalation as advocated by sophisticated analysts… simply does not work. It gets more of our people killed” (qtd. in Crowell 231). The military leaders learned the lesson of gradual escalation and applied it to Desert Storm. General Colin Powell said of Desert Storm, “When we launch it, we will make it decisive so we can get it over as quickly as possible and there is no question who won” (qtd. in Crowell 233). The military also learned that fighting Desert Storm would require more technology and nuclear power than was used in Vietnam. The United States has learned several military lessons from Vietnam.

The article overall was powerful and enlightening. Crowell nicely supported his points with first-hand accounts from the media, military, and the public. Crowell used newspaper clippings from the Boston Globe, Oakland Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times to emphasize his arguments with written proof. The quotations from General Colin Powell (Army), General Robin Olds (Air Force), and Jim Waide (Marines) showed the technological advances, and military strategies of the Vietnam conflict and Desert Storm. Crowell quoted some common people who lived through the war to show the publics opinion on the situation. The insertion of these quotations in the article makes it more motivating and informative.

Crowell’s article overall is informative and effective. Crowell researched well, and it shows in his article via the quotes, descriptions, and main points made. His transitions between the Vietnam Conflict and Desert Storm are smooth and efficient. His main point that the United States has learned from past military mistakes was well made and proven.

In his article, “The Lessons and Ghosts of Vietnam” Lorenzo M. Crowell deems that the lessons the United States has learned in Vietnam are important to apply to future conflicts. Even though Crowell has some dubious issues that he omits in the article about what really happened in Desert Storm, his overall article is proficient. He clearly gets his point across that events of Vietnam should never be repeated and that the United States has learned its lesson.


Crowell, Lorenzo M. “The Lessons and Ghosts of Vietnam.” Looking Back

on the Vietnam War, a 1990’s Perspective on the Decisions, Combat, and Legacies. Ed. William Head and Lawrence E. Grinter. Westport, Connecticut, 1993. 229-240.

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