Search-and-Destroy Policy in Vietnam

Overview: Through the use of a computer simulation and accompanying instructional materials, middle school students will study the point of view that the U.S. military policy of using search-and-destroy (S & D) missions to eliminate the Vietcong was a “fix” that failed.

Lesson Objectives

Curriculum Context


  • Students will identify and explain patterns of change leading up to the conflict in Vietnam.
  • Students will identify and explain causal connections between patterns of change leading up to the war in Vietnam.
  • Students will analyze the dynamics within the simulation in order to understand how actions affect outcomes that happen in the short-term vs. the long-term.
  • Students will explain the “Fixes-that-fail” archetype as it applies to Vietnam in order to show their understanding of reasons for the failure of U.S. military policy in Vietnam.
  • Students will apply the “Fixes-that-fail” archetype to a similar situation and be able to explain how it’s a fix that fails.
Middle School Social Studies,
Cold War Unit

Standard and benchmarks:

  • Identify patterns of change and continuity and historical succession of related events.
  • Understand the impact that specific individuals, events, ideas and beliefs have had on history.
  • Identify causal relationships within historical contexts.
  • Understand influences on American domestic and foreign policy during the Cold War era.


  • Change over time
  • Accumulations
  • Reinforcing and balancing feedback relationships
  • Leverage
  • Short versus long-term consequences
  • Time delays



Systems Tools

  • Overhead transparencies made from accompanying documents
  • Copies of “Search-and-Destroy Policy in Vietnam” student packet
  • One computer for every two students
  • Click Here for internet access to the simulation


  • 3 one-hour class periods
  • Fixes-that-fail archetype
  • Stock/flow map
  • Computer model and simulation
  • Ladder of inference
  • Escalation archetype
  • Iceberg

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