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Americas Reason For Going Into Vietnam War History Essay

Introduction

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 Iraq.

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.

Politics.

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 Vietnam.

Conclusion

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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