What specific problems does Ball identify that ultimately would make U.S. escalation in Vietnam unsuccessful? George Ball's Dissenting Opinion on Vietnam (1965)  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ball possessed a keen insight into the Vietnam conflict in some of its earliest stages.  Ball argued some fundamental principles.  The first is probably the most important in understanding his position.  Ball believed that the South Vietnamese were losing in their attempts against the Viet Cong and were losing badly.  Ball believed that the United States could not merely "support" or "advise" and expect success because the loss margin was so large.  At the same time, Ball believed that US involvement to a degree of full commitment could not guarantee success.  Ball made a keen distinction in using the term "white" in his memo to the President, arguing that there was some challenges in a foreign American battalion moving into foreign territory:

No one has demonstrated that a white ground force of whatever size can win a guerrilla war--which is at the same time a civil war between Asians--in jungle terrain in the midst of a population that refuses cooperation to the white forces (and the South Vietnamese) and thus provides a great intelligence advantage to the other side. . .

Ball's argument that this is a war outside of the scope of US expertise is not only demonstrated through the syntax of "White" to highlight the difference, but also in the invocation of a guerilla style war.  Ball understood that the Viet Cong would not accomodate Americans' wishes and fight a war in the traditional sense, but rather use guerilla tactics, terror, and a sense of the surprise including keen intelligence of the surroundings in order to achieve maximum impact.  Finally, Ball believed that the Civil War aspect between North and South Vietnam ends up disappearing once the Americans become involved, a move that would also trigger the Chinese and Russian Governments, both feeling compelled to support their North Vietcong ally.  While this might not have fleshed out exactly as Ball envisioned, he was accurate in that the Civil War aspect disappeared once America involved itself in the conflict.