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 Development of Guerilla Warfare in Vietnam (by Mr J P Thai)

The communist forces during the Vietnam war against the French were generally known as the Viet Minh (the Vietnamese people). When the French were defeated in 1954, Vietnam was divided along the 17th parallel. The South became the Republic of Vietnam (hereafter South Vietnam) and the North became the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (hereafter North Vietnam).

In the second Vietnam war from 1959 to 1975, the Viet Cong was fighting against the government of South Vietnam. Viet Cong was the common term referring to the to the military arm of the National Liberation Front (NLF) of the South Vietnam.

The NLF was founded on the 20th of December, 1960 and according to Pike (1966), it’s main objective was Khoi Nghia or the general uprising.

Although the NLF was organised by the South Vietnamese and representing organisation in South Vietnam, with Nguyen Huu Tho as it’s Chairman (a Paris trained Saigon lawyer). It is generally believed that Nguyen Huu Tho was merely a figurehead and that the NLF was in effect, a communist front organisation which received it’s orders from the politburo in Hanoi.

From the materials I have studied, all writers on this subject agreed that Viet Cong’s expertise on guerilla warfare was developed from the experience of the Chinese Communist Party during the Long March of 1934-1935 under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung and the experience of the Viet Minh against the French. To quote Pike (1996). The technique as worked out by the NLF was based on a mismash of piecemeal military maxims and semipolitical aphorisms accumulated over the years chiefly from the writings of Chinese and Vietnamese revolutionariers. Smith (1968) and Anthony R (1982) also give similar opinion to the same effect.

One of the Mao’s most influential writings which was quoted by pike (1996) with approval is the collection of Mao’s lectures which was published in 1954 in Peking entitled On Protected War. Mao’s principle is that when engaging a stronger enemy; withdraw when he advances; harrass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws….Smith (1986) was of the opinion that the Vietnamese have relied on Mao’s principle and become stronger every year.

Apart from that, both (Pike) and Smith (1968) also recognised that although the Vietnamese owed their success to Mao’s principles, the writings of several Vietnamese revolutionaries such as Vo Nguyen Giap and Trung Chinch are of equal importance.

Vo Nguyen Giap is an experienced Viet Minh guerilla commander who had directed the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. His works include the People’s War People’s Army and A Heroic People; Memoir from the Revolution.

Trung Chinch was the secretary-general of the Commnist Party and his work including The Resistance will win which was published in 1947, and The August Revolution which was published by the Foreign Languages Publishing House of Hanoi in 1958.


Guerilla Warfare and International Law (by Mr J P Thai) 

De Lupis (1987) defined guerilla war as "methodological War" because it can be classified according to the methods it employed. To quote De Lupis (1987) that guerillas have developed their own tactics and style of combat, largely by improvisation using the means at their disposal. In this sense, their warfare is what might be called "methodological".
According to Freymond (1973) guerilla warfare eliminates the traditional distinction between combatants and non-combatants, and the development of guerilla warfare reveals the difficulties with which any humanitarian action must contend. Freymond (1973) further held that the development of guerilla warfare destroyed the certainty of the "concept of warfare", to quote Freymond (1973) we can no longer speak of a law of war, including rules of behaviour applicable to all combatants. The myth of revolutionary war has now become so familiar as to justify recourse to any method of struggle and hence, to a diversification of tactics that destroys any common rule. Thus the very foundation of humanitarian law and action based on it are called in question. From the above statement by Freymond, it can be argued that the development of guerilla warfare creates problems in the concept of warfare in international law.
From the materials I have studied, Pike (1968) and Anthony (1982) were of the opinion that the techniques and warfare employed by the NLF during the Vietnam conflict is very different from the norm of the guerilla warfare developed in the Second World War.
As to the basic norm of guerilla warfare, De Lupis (1987) was of the opinion that Guerilla war is characterised by small units, great mobility, often rudimentary organisation and certain tactics not often used in other warfare… but there is no political content in it.
According to Pike (1968), in Vietnam, the NLF was able to achieve victory through the proper combination of political struggle and armed struggle. The main difference between the guerilla warfare developed in the Second World War and the techniques used by the NLF being that, in Vietnam, there are two types of struggle movements which make up the NLF’s revolutionary effort. The first is the political struggle (dau tranch chinh tri) and secondly, the armed struggle (dau tranh vu trang).Pike (1968) further explained that the NLF’s political struggle consists of three action programs dich van ,dan van and binh van and these three action programs together with violent avtivities make up the entire NLF revolutionary effort. To quote Pike (1968). The three action programs taken together formed the political struggle, one edge of the NLF’s doubled-edged sword; the other edge was the armed struggle, not simply guerilla military attacks but kidnappings, assassinations, executions, sabotage, or what is termed collectively the violence program.
According to Anthony (1982), the NLF’s struggle involved an extensive political strategy against the government of South Vietnam. In addition the NLF also use "guerilla warfare" as a tactic as part of their armed struggle. It is for this reason that Anthony (1982) preferred to call the flight in Vietnam a People’s Revolutionary War.