Sergio Miller’s article Building a Hollow ANSF-Vietnam Revisited argues that a useful comparison can be made between the fate of the Republic of Vietnam and the fighting quality of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces on the one hand, and the possible fate of Afghanistan and the fighting quality of the ANSF on the other. His argument stands on two legs, one is that South Vietnamese forces did not fight effectively. The other leg is that the ANSF will not fight effectively. He argues that in both cases the reason for not fighting effectively is ideological, the two sides didn’t, or don’t, believe in their cause and therefore didn’t, or won’t, fight.
The problem with his argument is that the South Vietnamese did fight effectively and for a long time. They were beaten in the end for several reasons: the Ho Chi Minh Trail was never cut; their own supplies were effectively cut (by the U.S. Congress); and they never managed to develop a highly proficient senior officer corps and a unified command structure as the PAVN did (see, for example, George Veith’s ‘Black April’; amongst others[i]). Their strategic position was impossible. But they did fight.
One of the reasons they fought is anti-communism. People nowadays forget that anti-communism was a very real and powerful force in years gone by. The South Vietnamese had first-hand experience as to the fate of people who opposed the Party. That was powerful motivation to fight.
Mr. Miller speaks of a South Vietnamese soldier manning a bunker outside Saigon in the last days of the war. That soldier did fight. The North Vietnamese can attest to that. In ‘Black April’ a PAVN general is quoted as saying, in effect, that anybody who thought the taking of Saigon was an easy thing should have picked up a shovel and helped to bury the dead.
So that particular part of Mr. Miller’s argument is wrong. One thing that is right about the two situations though is that South Vietnam did
and Afghanistan may depend on the constancy of American money and supplies is order to continue the fight. When the US cut off South Vietnam it was doomed. It was simply a matter of time. If I had to bet, I would bet that we Americans will also eventually cut off Afghanistan. The difference is that nobody was interested in fate of South Vietnam so nobody helped them once the US stopped supporting them. Many powerful nearby countries are very interested in the fate of Afghanistan and, I believe, are very likely to give important support to Afghanistan in our stead.
Carl M. Maldonado