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Americas Reason For Going Into Vietnam


									Americas Reason For Going Into Vietnam

The Vietnam War fought from late 1955 to the fall of Saigon in 1975 came
to be regarded as a cold military conflict which took place in Laos,
Cambodia, and Vietnam. The war was christened various names in Vietnamese
but when loosely translated it meant the American War, a name which
distinguish it from other conflicts and wars. This is because the war was
fought mainly as a resistance to the United States of America. Besides
the commonly used name the war is also known as the Vietnam Conflict or
the Second Indochina war. The war involved a number of military
organizations as well as rebel groups. For example the military
organizations included the United States military and the Army of the
Republic of Vietnam, whereas, on the other side, there was the Vietnamese
army, Vietnam People’s Army, and the Viet Cong sometimes called the
National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) [1] . The
Vietnam War came after a war termed as the First Indochina War which was
fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The former was supported
by the communist allies while the later got support from the United
States and nations that were anti-communists. In South Vietnam, a small
and lightly armed communist group called Viet Cong largely controlled the
common front by staging guerrilla war against the groups and forces
against communism in the region. On the other hand, The North Vietnam
Army otherwise known as Vietnam People’s Army seemed to engage in a war
which was more conventional. During the war, the United States and the
South Vietnamese forces heavily relied upon air strikes in fighting.
Their superiority in air strikes coupled with an overwhelming firepower
enabled them to conduct and destroy all ground operations.
The United States of America was driven to the war mainly by the need to
curb the spread of communism and communists ideals which it feared its
effects and was vehemently against it. United States, therefore, involved
itself in the war in an effort to prevent communist taking over South
Vietnam. It saw the war as necessary as part of containing this
communism. On the contrary, the North Vietnam and its allies viewed the
war from another perspective. It viewed it as a colonial war which was
initially fought against France with the support of the United States of
America and later against the South Vietnam. The early 1950s saw the
United State military advisors arrive to Vietnam [2] . The involvement of
the United States of America then escalated in the beginning of 1960s.
The United States troops arrived in large numbers in 1961 and 1962. 1965
saw the deployment of the combat units spanning operations in Cambodia
and Laos borders. This resulted in heavy bombing of these nations. The
operations took a climax in 1968 after which the forces were withdrawn as
part of observation of Vietnamization tenets. However, the war did not
completely cease even after the signing of 1973 Paris Peace Accords. [3]
Having pre-emptied why America joined the war, it is paramount to trace
the trace the history of what lead to Vietnam War. In the next section,
therefore, I am going to look at the historical path that Vietnam took
before the explosion of the war. The paper will also seek to unearth in
detail the reasons that made America take part in the Vietnamese War, a
war said to be completely unnecessary because it left the United States
of America at a loss. This statement, however, remains a bone of
contention since the United States itself claims that it achieved what it
was aiming at in the war.
Vietnam’s History.
It is paramount to acquaint ourselves with the historical path the war in
Vietnam assumed before delving into the reasons for America entering the
war. The small nation that is Vietnam is located in the south of china.
As the name suggest, Vietnamese means people who are not of Chinese’s
origin from the south. In fact, Vietnam was originally part of china
before gaining its independence in 938 AD. It is undeniably true that
Chinese rule, therefore, shaped Vietnamese culture a great deal. This
culture is reflected in the language Vietnamese speak, their
architecture, systems of government among other dominant Chinese aspects
[4] .
Vietnam saw the arrival of French missionaries in the 17th Century. The
Vietnamese people warmly welcomed the missionaries to work and live in
their country. However, the rising popularity of missionary activities
such as recruiting people into Roman Catholics, however, was a cause of
concern to the Vietnam government. This owes to the fact that the
Vietnamese people were asked to abandon some of their religious customs,
for instance, the taking of many wives. Hostility towards Christian
missionaries heightened when they sensitized on loyalty to God rather
than the Emperor. Several cases of priest murders were reported at that
time. France then sent its troops in 1847 to Vietnam to protect the
missionaries. The troops soon brought back reports that Vietnam was a
potential nation that would add to the expansion of French Empire. At
first, no initiative was taken to conquer Vietnam. It was not until 1858
that Napoleon II sent troops to the port of Danang. A long battle between
French forces and Vietnamese forces ensued. The struggle which lasted
until 1868 saw the Vietnamese Emperor succumb to the war signing a peace
treaty [5] . China, however, was concerned about the presence of French
troops on its borders making them to send troops into Vietnam. The war
went on until the sunset of 1885 when china realized that it could not
defeat the French Army and signed a treaty which recognized France as
sole controller of Vietnam. This led to addition of Cambodia and Laos to
the French Empire.
Over the years, Vietnam became a source of profit for the French. The
small nation boasted of adequate supply of zinc, rubber, tin, as well as
coal. A considerable amount of these resources were sent to France. In
addition, Vietnam also provided market for goods manufactured in France.
Surveys indicate that over 50% of all imports to Vietnam were provided by
the French companies.
In the long run, France ended up developing Vietnam. [6] It constructed
roads, canals, and railways in order to help transport raw materials and
goods manufactured. This consequently led to increase in French mines and
plantations. French just like the Chinese dramatically changed the lives
of the Vietnamese people. They forced them to assimilate to their way of
life punishing those who objected to embrace their customs and catholic
teachings. On the contrary, those who accepted to embrace French way of
life were in turn offered privileges. France also developed a small elite
class to help them in governing Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The later
has come to be known as Indochina to the French. Education also
flourished since the French needed to develop people who would remain
loyal to the French empire. Their Education though was questioned by many
students, for instance, Ho Chi Minh who was inspired by the 1924 Russian
Revolution. Ho Chi visited the Soviet Union and while in Moscow, he wrote
to a friend asserting that it was the duty of every communist to return
to Vietnam and organize the masses by merging them to fight for freedom
and independence [7] .
Ho Chi Minh in 1945 announced the intention to form the Democratic
Republic of Vietnam. This declaration was made at a time when Winston
Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin had already
decided what will happen to Vietnam after the war. This decision was made
at a meeting that took place in Potsdam. They agreed that the country
will be divided into two, which is the northern part which would be under
the control of china, and the Southern half which will be under the
British. The end of the Second World War saw France trying to re-
establish their control over Vietnam. This saw Britain withdraw its
troops from Vietnam in 1946 leaving China which later withdrew having
been promised by France that it would give up some territory in China.
The French made Bao Dai sign an accord which recognized the union between
France and Vietnam in 1948. Boa Dai was installed as the Head of State in
the following year.
Consequently, France failed to honor Ho Chi Mi declaration of the
existence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This led to a break out
of a fighting between Vietnam and France. In the war, French well
equipped and trained troops cruise over Vietminh forces with much ease.
However, the situation changed in 1949 when Mao Zedong and his communists
floored Kai-Shek of China. Zedong provided the Vietminh with a safe base
to treat their wounded soldiers and train other new ones. The Vietminh
strength grew and by 1953, they were in total control of almost the
entire North. The South, However, remained under the French who still had
a strong grip over it. When signs were written all over that the Vietminh
was spreading its wings, the French tried to negotiate a deal with them.
The French offered to set up a national government in which it would
eventually grant independence to Vietnam. This did not work because
Vietnamese leaders, Ho Chi Minh included did not trust the French even an
iota, therefore, the war did not end [8] .
There are a number of reasons that made France move against the war.
These reasons include the wounding, capturing, and killing of French
troops in 1946. Secondly, the cost of the WW II had left France
devastated and at this time, France was in the process of rebuilding its
economy. Thirdly, the French felt that it has fought in the war for over
seven years without registering any outright victory. Last but not least,
France had come to its senses that it was not morally justified in any
case to be in Vietnam.
The fall of French rule in Vietnam came by surprised. Under General
Navarre, France realized that it was running out of time and that it
needed to obtain victory over the Vietminh. He thought that if he could
engage General Giap into the battle, then he will succeed. [9] General
Navarre with his defense forces blocked the route to Laos which
Vietnamese forces used. General Giap then organized forces and attacked
the French forces at Dien Bien Phu.
On May 7th the French succumbed to Vietnam. The war waged by the
Vietnamese left many French casualties and most of its soldiers were
taken as prisoners. This led the French government to declare its intent
to withdraw from Vietnam. In an effort to do so, it met with the United
States, Britain, and the Soviet Union to try and offer solution to the
conflicts in Vietnam as well as Korea. The negotiations held led to the
following agreements. Vietnam would be divided into two, North and South
Vietnam. The North will be ruled by Ho Chi Minh while the South will be
under Ngo Dinh Diem who strongly opposed communism. Moreover, it was
decided that the French will withdraw its forces from Vietnam and that
Vietnamese will be at liberty to live either in the South or North. Last
but not list, it was agreed upon that general elections were to be held
thereafter under the supervision of an international commission. Despite
the victory at Dien Bien Phu not all members of Vietminh accepted the
cease-fire agreement. The Vietminh reluctance was informed by decision to
divide Vietnam into two. They viewed this division as dangerous since it
will divide the unity of the nation. Ho Chi Minh, however, held the
belief that this was just a temporary decision since the general
elections will see the Vietnamese elect one communist government to
administer one re-united Vietnam. This views were equally applauded by
the then United States President Dwight Eisenhower. In a letter he wrote,
Eisenhower observes that Ho Chi Minh was knowledgeable in Indochinese
affairs in that if elections were to be held at that time, then he would
be elected the communist president.
The United States started to show their interest in Vietnam in the 1994
Geneva conference. The United States delegation proposed Ngo Dinh Diem to
take the mantle of leading South Vietnam. The French informed by its
experience in the Vietnam was opposed to the idea arguing that Diem was
incapable and also mad. After much debate, it was agreed that Diem was
the preferred candidate tipped to keep South Vietnam from falling under
the control of communism.
Having risen to power, America came to the realization that Diem was
never going to be used as a puppet leader. Diem more often than not
rejected the United States of America advice and made decisions that
upset the people of South Vietnam. There were several attempts to oust
him but America had no choice but to support him despite his performance.
It is argued that the main reason why United States of America was keen
on the affairs of the South Vietnam was due to the spread of communism
and its ideals. The United States was particularly concerned about spread
and success of communism in South East Asia. In the 150s saw America lose
many soldiers in an attempt to curb communism that was starting to
establish its roots in South Korea. The United States felt that their
efforts would go to waste if communism spreads its wings to South
Vietnam. During this time, America was just fro war with Korea and
drumming up public support for another war was not feasible. [10]
President Eisenhower armed with this knowledge, therefore, resorted to
military advisors to prevent communism from taking roots in South
Vietnam. America did what was within their power to stop establishment of
communism in South Vietnam. For example in 1954, it sent a team of twelve
men comprising of intelligent agents and American soldiers to Saigon. The
team was tasked with the responsibility of persuading the people of South
Vietnam to vote against communists in the elections that were to be held.
They did the persuasion by mounting propaganda campaigns soiling
communism and its ideals. The twelve man team was led by a colonel by the
name Edward Lansdale.
When the much celebrated American President- John Fitzgerald Kennedy-
ascended to power in 1960, he stated clearly in his inauguration speech
that the United States of America under his leadership intended to
continue with Eisenhower’s policy which supported Diem’s rule in South
Vietnam. J.F. Kennedy argued that letting South Vietnam became a
communist state would put at risk all the nations that were not
communists. If South Vietnam embraced communism, then countries like
Cambodia, Laos, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and Burma would
follow suit. It felt that a quick move was needed to halt communism in
Vietnam failure to which, it would gradually spread throughout the world.
President Kennedy’s assertions came to be known as The Domino Theory, a
theory which we will analyze in detail as one major reason that prompted
America to enter into war with Vietnam. Allow me to give a skeletal
content of Domino theory. Kennedy argues that the effort to stop
communism deserves America’s energy and efforts to protect the loss of
their security through piece by piece, and country by country. Kennedy’s
leadership vowed that America was devoted and willing to bear any burden,
pay any price, support any friend, meet any hardship, and fight any foe
to see to it that liberty survives and succeeds. [11]
The above section has trace the history of Vietnam War since the times of
China, France which dominated for a long time to the United States of
America that was to enter a war which would lasted for over a decade. It
is paramount to acquaint ourselves with such knowledge because it assists
in understanding the Vietnam War as a whole. In the subsequent section, I
am going to look at the possible reasons why America threw its full
weight in the War in Vietnam.
Some of these questions still linger in ones lips at the mention of
Vietnam War. Was there a need for America to go into war in Vietnam? I
pose this question since I want to know why America got involved. Did the
war bring any monetary benefits to Americans? What was the American
government thinking when it went to war? Did it think that going to war
in Vietnam was going to benefit America’s populace? These among other
questions are common at the mention of the Vietnam War. These questions
can be answered appropriately by digging deep to unearth the factors that
made America enter the war.
There are a number of reasons as to why America joined the war in
Vietnam. Some of these reasons that I am going to look at held waters
while others were unnecessary at all. However, the reasons are best known
to America itself since it acted to protect its own interest. Some of
these reasons include curbing the spread of communism and its ideas,
paranoia, politics, the Domino Theory, Vietnam independence vs. French
colonialism, among others.
The Domino Theory.
In my opinion, I have always held that there were two types of Vietnam
wars. The first one took place in the 1960s. This one saw the involvement
of United States of America and it got deeper and deeper into it. Then
came the Tet offensive which saw the changing of American public
attitude. That is the time when we had the second Vietnam War. Going back
a little, let us reflect on the cold war and the U.S fear of what came to
be known as the red menace. The U.S.S.R had nuclear arms which targeted
the U.S while United States nuclear arms were equally aimed at them. On
the other hand, China was a communist country as well as Cuba which is
located not far from Florida. If you can recall the Bay of Pigs in the
early 1960s which left the United States of America at a brink of nuclear
war. This might have, in one way or another; this informed the position
the United States of America took in regards to Vietnam War.
The Domino Theory holds that if countries including South Vietnam, Korea
among others are allowed to embrace communism, then they would all fall
like dominoes [12] . This was purported by the advisers present in
Vietnam from early sixties onwards. I have read and consulted widely
about the history of Vietnam War and came to a came to a conclusion that
the United States foreign policy led it to an abyss of failures. It shows
that by entering the war, the United States made one big miscalculated
move. Critiques of the war in Vietnam argue that the United States of
America defended leaders who were corrupt and dictatorial in South
Vietnam just because they were against communism. They further assert
that the United States underestimated and did not understand the
nationalistic feelings of the people of Vietnam. The U.S was led by the
generals, politicians and other ideas into believing that Ho Chi Minh was
a deadly communist. In the initial stages of the war, the people who went
to Vietnam bought the Domino Theory. The Americans went to Vietnam War
willingly with thee belief that they were defending freedom and democracy
little did they know that they were mistaken. It was not until the Tet
offensive that it dawned on them that the American people were not behind
them. They realized that they were supporting a system with failed
policies and that they were not in any way fighting for freedom or
democracy. Instead, they realized that they were just pawns in the
ongoing political struggle. The mood after this realization took a
different turn.
Curbing the Spread of Communism.
This is termed as the official reason as to why the United States of
America went into war in Vietnam. The Domino effect instilled fears on
the United States of America. With Russia, China, and North Korea being
communist made the U.S use Domino Theory in suggesting that Vietnam will
follow suit. Vietnam had originally been under French colony which pulled
out at some point, and America felt that it had to take over to prevent
Vietnam from falling under the hands of communists. The Americans
believed that it was doing the right thing taking by taking over and
supporting right wing leaders who subscribed to the United States ideals.
The United States has been criticized for taking over and letting its
country’s companies to loot Vietnam resources. It was not at all
concerned with the welfare of the poor Vietnamese.
Ho Chi Minh who was seen as an extreme communist organized the poor field
laborers under communist ideologies to fight for land reforms, own land,
control their own lives, and benefit from their efforts unlike when they
were under the feudal agribusiness system that the Americans had
instituted. This was made possible because Ho Chi Minh understood well
the Vietnamese lifestyle which was semi communal and rural. He,
therefore, capitalized on the understanding of power structures and local
traditions. America, on the other hand, seemed not to care about the
local poor folks. They were only after making after making profits and
supporting leaders who could let them continue siphoning wealth from
Vietnam to United States of America. In the eyes of many, the battle in
Vietnam seemed to be the battle between the Capitalists and Communists
with each side wanting to stamp their authority. On the ground, the
battle was different in that it was a fight between the local poor folks
who preferred local control and business tycoons who were less concerned
about the impact the business had on the local folks. The business folks
went to the extent of bribing anyone in order to continue extracting
resources. This is what the U.S did in the Chile, Persia, Guatemala, and
Philippines just to mention but a few.
It appears that the United States of America has never understood local
conditions but only sees things from larger ideological struggles. These
incidences such as the case of Iraq leave the U.S in trouble. I will be
right to say that the United States of America has never cared to
acquaint themselves with the culture of a people but instead they do make
generalizations. The business oriented folks seem to think bout money at
the expense of the welfare of the people. We can, therefore, argue that
the problem in Vietnam just like in so many other countries is short term
goals and one sided interest. This is exemplified in U. S invasion of
countries of Iran, Venezuela, Rwanda, Cuba, Afghanistan, and recently
This leaves us questioning whether The United States of America will ever
learn from such incidences. They ought to be concerned about the welfare
of others. As it preaches peace and freedom, they should avoid taking
sides, eliminate corruption, and avoid manipulating local politics. It
all starts when America sends the CIA to carry out covert influences and
when it takes sides in support of dictators simply because they act to
leverage their interests. As we have seen above, when it comes to United
States of America Foreign policy, the pattern is easy to follow since it
is pretty universal. However, we should not blame United States only
since other colonial powers did the same to their colonies in the past.
It is only that America is at the top now in propagating such ideas.
The United Sates of America basically got into war because of politics.
After the WW II it saw communism stamp its authority in Eastern Europe
and soon after China fell prey. Due to the fear of Domino theory which
was promoted the U.S government prompted the U.S to act. These political
speculations saw Vietnam as he next target for the communists. In a
nutshell, America supported Diem the Vietnamese leader who began the
suppression of his own people. After J.F Kennedy’s assassination,
Americans felt that they could not let Vietnam to be a communist state
and, therefore, increased its soldiers in the civil war. Some even argue
that the military and the industrial sectors conspired to sustain the war
in Vietnam for their own political and economic reasons. However, I do
strongly believe that the botched foreign policy played a major role in
the war, in that, it served to meet political ends of the Americans.
It is common knowledge that people in power all over the world try to
create and maintain the world around them in order to keep power, status,
as well as wealth. The 17th century saw the ownership of territories and
people as a characteristic of power. This led to flourishing of slavery
and colonialism since the people with power used it as a tool to conquer
and dominate territories. They saw this as a way of creating economic and
political wealth. [13] The 19th century which marked the United States of
America imperialist age saw U.S taking over countries that were far from
its borders especially in the Pacific. This took place in an effort to
render U.S more power in controlling areas that deemed important to
either available resources or national security. These are just but a few
political reasons that prompted United States of America to join war in

In 1974, the United States of America Vowed to reduce its military aid
drastically and the South Vietnam knew that they were at edge of defeat.
In 1975, the Northern Vietnam launched massive attacks on South Vietnam
which led to its surrender. This marked the capture of Saigon in 1975 and
the exodus of remaining United States of America military personnel. [14]
The Vietnam War can be seen as a tragedy for both participants. Despite
the communist winning and uniting the country, they are still struggling
to rebuild the once devastated nation characterized by corruption and
political extremism. The South Vietnamese lost their freedom, their
livelihood, and for those who were forced out of their country, they were
left with bitter wounds that will take ages to heal. The United States on
the other hand not only lost a costly military war but its confidence in
war was shaken. There were thousands of soldiers who lost their lives,
others were severely wounded, and others are still missing in action [15]
. Most soldiers responded to a call of defending their country but it
latter appeared that a few understood why they were sent to Vietnam and
the course they were fighting for.

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