Vietnam1 Essay

This essay has a total of 1869 words and 7 pages.

Vietnam1




The War in Vietnam
Direct U.S. military participation in The Vietnam War, the nation’s longest, cost
fifty-eight thousand American lives. Only the Civil War and the two world wars were
deadlier for Americans. During the decade of Vietnam beginning in 1964, the U.S Treasury
spent over $140 billion on the war, enough money to fund urban renewal projects in every
major American city. Despite these enormous costs and their accompanying public and
private trauma for the American people, the United States failed, for the first time in
its history, to achieve its stated war aims. The goal was to preserve a separate,
independent, noncommunist government in South Vietnam, but after April 1975, the communist
Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) ruled the entire nation. The initial reasons for U.S.
involvement in Vietnam seemed logical and compelling to American leaders. Following its
success in World War II, the United States faced the future with a sense of moral
rectitude and material confidence. From Washington’s perspective, the principal
threat to U.S. security and world peace was monolithic, dictatorial communism emanating
from the Soviet Union. Any communist anywhere, at home or abroad, was, by definition, and
enemy of the United States. Drawing an analogy with the unsuccessful appeasement of
fascist dictators before World War II, the Truman administration believed that any sign of
communist aggression must be met quickly and forcefully by the United States and its
allies. This reactive policy was known as containment. In Vietnam the target of
containment was Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh front he had created in 1941. Ho and his
chief lieutenants were communists with long-standing connections to the Soviet Union. They
were also ardent Vietnamese nationalists who fought first to rid their country of the
Japanese and then, after 1945, to prevent France from reestablishing its former colonial
mastery over Vietnam and the rest of Indochina. Harry S. Truman and other American
leaders, having no sympathy for French colonialism, favored Vietnamese independence. But
expanding communist control of Eastern Europe and the triumph of the communists in
China’s civil war made France’s war against Ho seem an anticommunist rather
than a colonialist effort. When France agreed to a quansi-independent Vietnam under
Emperor Bao Dai as an alternative to Ho’s DRV, the United States decided to support
the French position. The American conception of Vietnam as a cold war battleground largely
ignored the struggle for social justice and national sovereignty occurring within the
country. American attention focused primarily on Europe and on Asia beyond Vietnam. Aid to
France in Indochina was a quid pro quo for French cooperation with America’s plans
for the defense of Europe through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. After China
became a communist state in 1949, the stability of Japan became of paramount importance to
Washington, and Japanese development required access to the markets and raw materials of
Southeast Asia. The outbreak of war in Korea in 1950 served primarily to confirm
Washington’s belief that communist aggression posed a great danger to Asia .
Subsequent charges that Truman had "lost" China and had settled for a stalemate in Korea
caused succeeding presidents to fear the domestic political consequences if they "lost"
Vietnam. This apprehension, an overestimation of American power, and an underestimation of
Vietnamese communist strength locked all administrations from 1950 through the 1960s into
a firm anticommunist stand in Vietnam. Because American policy makers failed to appreciate
the amount of effort that would be required to exert influence on Vietnam’s
political and social structure, the course of American policy led to a steady escalation
of U.S. involvement. President Dwight D. Eisenhower increased the level of aide to the
French but continued to avoid military intervention, even when the French experienced a
devastating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in the spring of 1954. Following that battle, an
international conference at Geneva, Switzerland, arranged a cease-fire and provided for a
North-South partition of Vietnam until elections could be held. The United States was not
a party to the Geneva Agreements and began to foster the creation of a Vietnamese regime
in South Vietnam’s autocratic president Ngo Dinh Diem, who deposed Bao Dai in
October 1955, resisted holding an election on the reunification of Vietnam. Despite over
$1 billion of U.S. aid between 1955 and 1961, the South Vietnamese economy languished and
internal security deteriorated. Nation building was failing the South, and in 1960,
communist cadres created the National Liberation Front (NLG) or Vietcong as its enemies
called it, to challenge the Diem regime. President John F. Kennedy concurred with his
predecessor’s domino theory and also believed that the credibility of U.S.
anticommunist commitments around the world was imperiled in 1961. Consequently, by 1963 he
had tripled American aid to South Vietnam and expanded the number of military advisers
there from less than seven hundred to more than sixteen thousand. But the Diem government
still failed to show economic or political progress. Buddhist priests, spiritual leaders
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