In order to determine who won and who lost the war it asks three questions
(1) what was the goals of the involved parties.
(2) What price did they have to pay?
(3) The overall assessment of the war.
A- Goals of Involved Parties
1. According to the Pentagon Papers (Pentagon Papers is a nearly 4,000-page top-secret Pentagon study of US government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967. The document was declassified on May 5, 2011, and has been on display at the Library of President Nixon in California. ), the US got involved in the Vietnam War to encompass Communist China, not to help defend South Viet Nam’s independence, which was the ruse for the US containment strategy at the time.
2. The North Vietnam’s goal was to “liberate” South Viet Nam by force and to use it as a springboard to spread International Communism throughout Southeast Asia, which was also Ho Chi Minh’s goal since 1932 when he was the leader of the Indochinese Communist Party. Le Duan, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), who was believed to have said, “We fight the Americans for the USSR and China”, must have followed this goal to the letter. If so, the statement represented the true mission of the Communist leaders.
3. The goal of the South Vietnamese leaders was to defend the country’s independence and sovereignty. Since the North Vietnamese Communists enjoyed maximum supports from the USSR, China, the Eastern European Communist Block, and even Cuba, South Viet Nam had no other choice but accepted assistances from the United States and other capitalist countries to fight against the Communist invasion.
1. Communist China did not spread communism beyond Vietnam [Laos and Cambodia]. Therefore the USA won.
This issue goes to the Domino Theory. The domino theory was a theory prominent from the 1950s to the 1980s, that posited that if one country in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect. The domino theory was used by successive United States administrations during the Cold War to justify the need for American intervention around the world.
In May 1954, the Viet Minh, a Communist and nationalist army, defeated French troops in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and took control of what became North Vietnam. This caused the French to fully withdraw from the region then known as French Indochina, a process they had begun earlier. The regions were then divided into four independent countries (North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) after a deal was brokered at the 1954 Geneva Conference to end the First Indochina War.
The primary evidence for the domino theory is the spread of communist rule in three Southeast Asian countries in 1975, following the communist takeover of Vietnam: South Vietnam (by the Viet Cong), Laos (by the Pathet Lao), and Cambodia (by the Khmer Rouge). It can further be argued that before they finished taking Vietnam prior to the 1950s, the communist campaigns did not succeed in Southeast Asia. Note the Malayan Emergency, the Hukbalahap Rebellion in the Philippines, and the increasing involvement with Communists by Sukarno of Indonesia from the late 1950s until he was deposed in 1967. All of these were unsuccessful Communist attempts to take over Southeast Asian countries which stalled when communist forces were still focused in Vietnam.
Walt Whitman Rostow and the then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew have argued that the U.S. intervention in Indochina, by giving the nations of ASEAN time to consolidate and engage in economic growth, prevented a wider domino effect.
McGeorge Bundy argued that the prospects for a domino effect, though high in the 1950s and early 1960s, were weakened in 1965 when the Indonesian Communist Party was destroyed via CIA-supported death squads in the Indonesian Genocide.
The CIA denies active involvement in the killings 400,000 to 3 million] in Indonesia. It was later revealed that the US government provided extensive lists of communists to Indonesian death squads.
Proponents believe that the efforts during the containment (i.e. Domino Theory) period ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Was the Indonesian genocide needed to achieve the containment of communism ?
If North Vietnam had been allowed to conquer the South without US military involvement could it have been contained with other means ? Would Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos have gone after Thailand or Indonesia ?
2. North Vietnam was a loser, because they did not spread communism. They did win one goal of getting control of South Vietnam.
3. Republic of Vietnam was the loser because it surrendered unconditionally on April 30, 1975.
China’s economic reforms began in 1978. Nixon opening up to China, the death of Mao and Deng shifting China’s economy meant the unwinding of real communism in China.
China is now successfully spreading its influence but not exporting communism.
Vietnam economy enjoyed remarkable achievements in the first 20 years of economic renovation (Doi Moi) from 1986 to 2006. Notably, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 7.5% in 1991-2000 period. Vietnam’s Amended Constitution 1992 recognized the role of private sector in the economy. U.S.-Vietnam Trade Bilateral Agreement (US-BTA) was signed in 2001. The country’s stock market made debut trading in 2000. Vietnam became a member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995, then proceeded to full membership of the World Trade Organization in 2007, following which registered foreign direct investment (FDI) reached an all-time high of US$71.7 billion in 2008.