Chaos, Clausewitz, and combat: a critical analysis of operational planning in the Vietnam War, 1966-1971
Womack, Scott Ellis
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What can theory tell us about war and the role of planning therein? This thesis attempts to answer that question by using Carl von Clausewitz's theories on war and the mathematical theory of chaos to analyze war in general and the Vietnam War in particular. It offers a critical analysis of operational planning conducted by the United States Military Assistance Command - Vietnam (MACV) during the years of greatest involvement by American forces, 1966-1971. Viewing war through the dual lenses of Clausewitz and chaos theory, it argues that war tends toward one of two ideal types, conventional or popular. This typology of war is the result of the interplay of its essential components, which are described by Clausewitz and correspond to a characteristic of a chaotic system. Conventional and popular wars are qualitatively distinct and require qualitatively differentiated responses. The thesis further argue that the Vietnam War displayed the characteristics of a popular war during the 1966 - 1971 time frame. Lastly, it argues that the operational planning conducted by MACV failed to account for the popular nature of the Vietnam War and exacerbated the deteriorating situation facing it by pursuing policies more suited to a conventional war.
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