Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap passed away at 102 years of age on Friday. Giap was the leader of communist forces during the Vietnam War, and he was celebrated as a tactical and military genius, having defeated superior American and French forces over a period of more than 20 years. Giap’s success centered not just on his battlefield prowess, but on his understanding that the war in Vietnam would ultimately be determined by the political dynamics of the conflict, that winning the war would depend on defeating not the opposing military but civilian support for the war in France and the United States. The brief biography presented on CNN on Friday provides a good starting point for making sense of his role.
But the broader question of what lessons were learned is also interesting. What lessons from Giap’s strategy in Vietnam might we learn for contemporary conflicts in the Middle East? Does US foreign policy now account for the Vietnam lesson that popular support for the war is just as important as military victory son the battlefield?