Vo Nguyen Giap, considered to be one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century. The... [+] North Vietnamese military leader beat the superior French military forces at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and effectively battled American forces in the Vietnam war. (AP Photo)

As Amazon expands globally, a retail version of the Domino Theory has become a reality. In order to prevent Amazon from becoming the leading retailer in country after country, Amazon’s biggest competitor, Walmart, has made the decision to take a stand and declare war on Amazon. The chosen battlefield? India.

I find this fact striking:

Distance from the Washington, DC to Vietnam = 8,634 miles.

Distance from Bentonville, AR to Bengaluru, India = 8,996 miles

What could possibly go wrong for Walmart in India?

The strategy Walmart plans to utilize in India is to leverage its recent acquisition of Indian online retailer, Flipkart, to generate revenue and provide Walmart with a foundation for growth. With sales of only $3.1 billion in 2017, Walmart paid over six times revenue for a retailer that has thus far lost money and has proved incapable of beating Amazon.

Flipkart is ranked as one of the worst managed and least capable retailers globally according to industry analysts I have spoken with in the past. Full disclosure: Flipkart has tried to recruit me on three different occasions. Walmart will greatly improve Flipkart as a company.

To make matters worse for Walmart, online retail in India makes up less than 1% of total retail sales.

K Vaitheeswaran, author of Failing to Succeed, argues that Walmart participating in the Indian retail market is a positive sign but he suggests that Walmart should focus on offline which is its strength and not online. His contention is that for a country where e-commerce is less than 1% of the Indian retail market, half of it has already gone to Amazon, leaving 0.5% to Walmart-Flipkart.

According to Vaitheeswaran “When you can target the 99%, which is your strength, why would you spend so much for 0.5% of the market. The arithmetic beats me,” he adds.

Most retail and strategy analysts I spoke with for this article were in agreement that Walmart’s decision to invest more than $20 billion in Flipkart was unwise. In fact, several Wall Street analysts expressed their confidence that Walmart would gain nothing from its investment in Flipkart.

Jeff Bezos And A Trap For The Ages

No discussion of India would be complete without discussing the advantage Amazon has over Walmart in terms of leadership. A failure in leadership was directly responsible for the inability of the U.S. to secure a victory in Vietnam.

In order to set the stage for the rest of this article, I must introduce individuals who played key roles in the U.S. involvement in Vietnam and I have assigned them a modern-day counterpart:

President’s Kennedy and Johnson were confident that they were surrounded by individuals worthy of being proclaimed “the best and the brightest.”  I’m sure there is no shortage of confidence at Walmart that its executive team is up for the challenge in India.

Regardless of public comments by Walmart giving the appearance that Flipkart’s management team will be free to run Flipkart as they see fit, let me be clear: Walmart’s executive team based at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, AR will call the shots regarding Walmart’s strategy in India.

In an attempt to “contain” Amazon as well as take advantage of retail opportunities in a country of nearly 1.3 billion people, Doug McMillon has placed a $20 billion bet that Walmart can enter a country (India) where it currently controls less than 1/10th of 1% of the retail market; join forces with an established yet operationally weak retailer, Flipkart; and successfully battle Amazon.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. Congress were convinced that the U.S. could send troops to South Vietnam; join forces with the established yet weak South Vietnamese Army; and successfully defeat the better led and more capable Army of North Vietnam.

In researching this article for Forbes, I was shocked at the similarities between the reasoning and decisions made by the U.S. government to enter Vietnam and the decision-making of Walmart executives to expand in India. Comments made by President Johnson’s inner circle related to Vietnam are eerily similar to comments made by the Walmart executives I named above when discussing why Walmart should enter India and acquire Flipkart.