American Impact and Participation in Vietnam War
There are numerous reasons as to why wars have occurred since the very beginning. Certain approaches are used when countries’ members are unable to compromise peacefully to settle a conflict. Sadly, these various paths frequently lead to destructive hostilities known as ‘war’, which the Oxford Dictionary (2019) defines as “a situation in which two or more countries or groups of people fight against each other over a period of time”.
In this essay I will be covering the Vietnam War and the main explanations behind the flare-up of the contention. The Vietnam War had been an ongoing war in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, widely recognised as the Second Indochina War but in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or just the American War. This started on November 1st, 1955 and ended on April 30th, 1975 with the defeat of Saigon. This went to become the second war in Indochina and was waged authoritatively among North and South Vietnam. The Soviet Union, China as well as other communist allies have backed North Vietnam, while the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and any other anti-communist allies have supported South Vietnam (Hamill, 2019). This was a continuous challenge among nationalists to consolidate the territories of South and North Vietnam through a communist government as well as the United States with the help of South Vietnam to stop the development of communist ideals. From beginning to end of the Vietnam War, more than three million citizens (along with over fifty-eight thousand U.S citizens) had been slaughtered, and the people of Vietnam were more than half the dead (History, 2009). Opposition to the war in the United States deeply divided Americans, even after the 1973 removal of U.S. troops by President Nixon. From certain American viewpoints, the war is regarded a proxy war in the Cold War era. It lasted about 19 years with direct U.S. participation ending in 1973 after the Paris Peace Accords and incorporated the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, which culminated across all three nations to become communist states in 1975 (Hamill, 2019).
The fighting in Vietnam has been the consequence of strains in the country for many years and decades. France, for instance, dominated the world as part of its colonial rule in the late nineteenth century. In Vietnam, this colonial background frustrated several and created an increasing sense of distrust of external powers. Then, during Second world war, Japan governed the area. Once the war had finished and the U.S beat Japan, France tried to retake power over Vietnamese through the assistance of the Americans. (Herring, 2001). Nevertheless, this effort contributed towards the rise to prominence of Ho Chi Minh, a communist leader and Viet Minh independence movement. Thus, France were beaten in Dien Bien Phu’s fight in 1954, and Ho Chi Minh and his communist troops controlled North Vietnam.
The beginning of the Korean war on 25th June 1950, strengthened the skepticism of American policymakers as to whether the Vietnamese crisis became something more than simply a territorial conflict. The war in Korea represented a broader movement of socialism spreading to regions across the Soviet Union and Communist China. This now became apparent how a key component throughout the suppression of international communism had been the French opposition to both the Viet Minh as well as Communist China benefactor. This was also clear that the attempt by the communist Ho Chi Minh government to push away French powers was reflective to a wider revolutionary aim throughout. President Truman stated, “The attack on Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that Communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war” (Herring, 1979, p. 373).
Furthermore, Vietnam’s nation had been formally separated along the 17th parallel at a meeting in Geneva, 1954. Consequently, the Geneva Conference culminated in lack of either clear significance or contractual arrangements. The Geneva Accords was made up of six joint declarations, three cease-fire arrangements, as well as an unofficial concluding proposition. During July 1956, the open votes was to be conducted. The Vietnamese had since then been able to pick what half of the division they preferred to reside in. Nevertheless, nobody ever considered the thought that a nation could be genuinely unified by democratic elections. This seemed crazy to see dozens of people shift across one region of the world to another region just to achieve reconciliation in the space of 2 years. Professor Hans J. Morgenthau addressed, ‘The demand of fair elections that could eventually fix Vietnam’s dilemma had been a tactic to conceal the mismatch of the Communist and Western forces, but none that would accept the supremacy among all Vietnam from the other hand. This had been a tactic once again to conceal the reality that even a path of political dispute was supposed to become the path of territorial boundary” (Morgenthau, 1956, p. 69).
Communists, as well as Ho Chi Minh, controlled its northern parts. Ngo Dinh Diem regulated South Vietnam, and Democratic countries like that of the United States backed this Once Lyndon Johnson had become head of state, he was motivated to prevent the growth of communism to Vietnam. Indeed, his Defense secretary, McNamara, recommended Johnson to attempt to overpower North Vietnam’s communist troops to induce their retreat. The Gulf of Tonkin (1964) conflict would eventually witness the region’s concerns escalate quickly and push the U.S. to embark on a greater role (Miller, 2003).
The Vietnam War’s triggers are derived from the Cold War’s manifestations, elements and implications. Though there are a number of reasons as to why the U.S. had been actively engaged in the Vietnam War, the prime rationale for the U.S. intervention in Vietnam was to suppress communist spread. The U.S had pursued a containment policy towards the spread of communism until the end of the Cold War and tried to stop ideology from gaining a foothold across various places around the world (Hickman, 2019). This approach of containment is sometimes alluded to as the Truman Doctrine, as President of America, Harry S. Truman contended that perhaps the U.S should openly support Soviet Communism’s containment in the years following since Second world war. In contrast to this notion, as key aspect of the Domino Theory, the explanations for American participation throughout the War in Vietnam is often held (History Crunch, 2016).
General Marshall first introduced the domino theory in 1947, but this was not considered pertinent to Vietnam until 1950 since new Chinese communism concerns emerged. The idea had been a widely held belief throughout the Cold War era within the U.S. from the 50s to the end of the cold war. On the basis of the Truman Doctrine, the idea carried that if Soviet communism would distribute to one nation, it would have the ability to spread to all of the other nations surrounding them (Bell, 2001, p. 117). Its fundamental concept was how the American had to avoid the collapse from the first domino (nation converting to communism) in order to avoid communism from spreading.
The idea was presented by President Eisenhower that first brought forward the notion as he quoted “You’ve laid out a line of dominoes, you knock over the very first domino, and what’s going to occur to the next one is a guarantee it’s going to go over really soon”, which suggests that if communists took over a particular area, then the next neighbouring nation could collapse, and then another and so on. The domino effect metaphor has been the primary reasoning for American involvement across the world during the 1950s and early 60s (Stur, 2017). Some issues have occurred with this theory. If, for instance, a large percentage of that first country’s people would like communism? Indeed, it took place in Russia. How does one understand exactly if the next country would fall entirely into communism? Are we really certain that communism can propagate too quickly, so predictably, straight to the coasts of America? Nevertheless, fearing of communism and what this might involve tended to cloud a reasonable response to such issues.
Over 2 decades of armed violence had taken a horrific burden upon the people of Vietnam: an approximate of 2 million Vietnamese had been dead following years of fighting, whilst 3 million remain injured and further 12 million were evacuees. Armed conflict had devastated the foundation and nation’s economy, and recovery was proceeding gradually. Vietnam had been established as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam by 1976, although intermittent brutality occurred throughout the following fifteen years, involving wars between nearby China and Cambodia. Behind a new free-market strategy that developed in 1986, the economic situation started to grow, driven by sales from oil exports and overseas investment inflows. Vietnam-U.S. trading along with political alliances revived during the 90s (History, 2009). Even though the remaining few soldiers that returned home during 1973, the repercussions from the War in Vietnam will remain in the United States. The country expended greater than $120 billion toward the 1965-73 Vietnam dispute; such enormous expenditure resulted in significant unemployment, compounded by a 1973 international oil shortage but also rising energy costs. Emotionally and psychologically speaking, the results were much more severe. The fighting had shattered America’s valor illusion and split the country angrily. Most former soldiers encountered adverse responses by war critics (who perceived them as killing defenseless people) along with their allies (who regarded them as losing the fight), while also physical harm such as impact from exposures to the poisonous herbicide Agent Orange, dozens of gallons of this had been dropped by U.S. aircraft into Vietnam’s deep woodlands (History, 2009).
In contrast, the existing government plan was criticised from several historians, legislators and reporters, offering vastly differing perspectives about the main drivers of war as well as the implications. Bernard Fall, John Lewis, along with many others who were the most famous reporters and historians. They gave serious critique about the success of the war. Anti-war theories were introduced by the United states protests towards the War in Vietnam which inspired American people to vote against American participation in the war. This campaign affected Johnson’s regime’s policies, culminating towards its 1968 policy change. Scholars insist, ‘It accelerated the departures of American forces under the Nixon administration, proceeded to restrict the war, supported the erosion in ethics and order within the American forces’ (Marolda, p. 758).
Whether American participation in the Vietnam War is warranted, seems to be an important question which is on the minds of several when thinking about the long and brutal war in Vietnam? As demonstrated from the previous delineation of circumstances that led to the intervention of U.S. military forces in Vietnam, the participation of America throughout the Vietnam War seemed unquestionably wrongful. Contrary to the Doctrine of Just War, but specifically the ideals of jus ad bellum, a war may only become accepted when it corresponds with all the following: the war ought to include a moral purpose, be proclaimed by an appropriate authority, have the best of intentions, as well as offer a reasonable probability of victory (Walzer, 1977, p. 21). Though this may be asserted that perhaps the U.S. stated the conflict appropriately or seemed to have a high chance of winning, this is indisputable that the U.S. did not fight for a just cause or with justifiable motives, regardless of its loss of war.
The Concept for just War notes how only reprisals for invasion, pre-emptive attacks and direct actions count as just causes for war. none of these instances qualified for U.S. participation in the Vietnam War. With its diplomatic attempts to curb the proliferation of communism across Southeast Asia, the U.S. has been drawn towards the Vietnam War. U.S leaders assumed that Vietnam’s communist triumph would eventually contribute to more communist successes worldwide. Specifically, the Theory of Just War insists that wars waged over political purposes were unjust. The war in Vietnam is a fight among the North-South of Vietnam. It was not until the U.S. became directly involved in the war that North Vietnam showed aggressive behaviour towards America. In fact, it was America who first engaged in combat with the Vietnamese. It can be argued that the Viet Cong’s attacks were in actuality responses to American aggression (Walzer, 1977).
Furthermore, the intervention of the United States in the Vietnam War could not count as a pre-emptive attack. Although U.S. policymakers at the time might have claimed whether the proliferation of communism could eventually endanger the U.S., Vietnam’s communist government never faced a risk to U.S. territorial integrity and governmental independence. War philosopher Michael Walzer (1977, p. 81) described sufficient threat as ‘a manifest intention to harm, a level of effective readiness that renders that intention a beneficial threat, as well as an overall situation whereby waiting or doing something besides combat, greatly increases the risk.’ All of these requirements were specifically applicable to America. Regardless of how Vietnam took communism as the system of governance would not explicitly challenge America’s security and freedom. Therefore, U.S. intervention in the Vietnam Conflict as a pre-emptive attack can never really be justified.
For support of the U.S., many citizens of America argued how the war in Vietnam was an example of a civil war whereby the acts of America had been counter-interventionist in intent. Such intervention admits the presence in a civil war but also defines the position for the U.S., initially, in supporting a legitimate authority or rather second, with counter-intervention, as a reaction to the northern Vietnam junta’s secret political activities. Legitimate and reaction being the two key words here. The term legitimate suggests whereby the U.S. supported a government that had a national position, a governmental power outside of the U.S., and would therefore potentially dominate the civil war if no outside intervention is allowed to occur. The term Reaction implies the implementation of U.S military behaviour to offset the support of a different force. Those two claims being inaccurate (Walzer, 1997, p. 98).
A regime that, given considerable financial and military assistance by external states, cannot successfully control its citizens is simply not a valid government. This form of authority could definitely not be sufficient to exist by itself without the help from overseas nations. When the crisis in Vietnam deteriorated, U.S support grew steadily. This reality damns the American counter-intervention argument that counter-intervention is not allowed on a lawful government’s behalf. In addition, counter-intervention is never directed toward winning a war. Instead, counter-intervention are meant to return the equilibrium of authority to a civil war which became disrupted with the establishment of a new state. U.S has not sought to regain some degree of control in the event of the Vietnam War. On the contrary, during the conflict America was an accessible belligerent. The American justification of proceeding to battle in Vietnam with counter-intervention intent simply did not stand in light of such proof (Walzer, p. 98).
The Vietnam War acts as a significant part in the development of the contemporary world. This incident influenced millions of people’s perceptions about the understanding towards war including the position of U.S. participation throughout the major dispute. Some researchers conform that ‘in their whole context, the Vietnamese war but also its interpretation was exceptional’ due to its significant political and societal developments which arose throughout the military confrontation (Groll, 2007, p. 2). More precisely, thanks to the advent of broadcasting as an important means of political discourse including cultural socialisation, there has been shifts in press interpretation. TV grew through this time and became to many audiences the only important outlet of news. Television presented the U.S. officials with huge resources, like reporting of the conflict and general opinion. Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian media philosophy theorist, notes how ‘Television helped bring the horror of the fighting within the comfort of people’s homes. Vietnam fought in America’s living rooms and not along the Vietnam’s frontlines’ (Groll, p. 2).
To summarise, though there was some public backing among Americans during the War in Vietnam, the general war sentiments remained pessimistic. Veterans are generally thought to have been the real victims from the Vietnam War, as thousands of American citizens were unwittingly enlisted to participate in a war many did not support of, while millions of Vietnamese had become nothing but neglected war fatalities. The U.S. primarily focused at squashing communist rise in Asia but ended up engaging into America’s lengthiest, deadliest fight. Leaders Eisenhower, Truman, including Kennedy each believed how U.S. involvement was clearly needed in Vietnam to save it from ‘communist control”. In truth, Viet Minh and also its ruler Ho Chi Minh had been praised as true patriots for beating France. In this event, being an outsider, the U.S. did not have the authority in deciding as to how Vietnam should be ruled. Instead of protecting the public, in the southern part the U.S. enforced a puppet regime and safeguarded it by military means. Also, Eisenhower postponed votes for peace, while Kennedy discouraged the officials of South Vietnam from pursuing reconciliation talks (Peace et al., 2017). The U.S. continues to utilise the Vietnam War like a precedent as well as an illustration on how the country as a state has to handle itself in war circumstances, given its participation. With generations to follow, Vietnam War stories and repercussions will proceed to exist as an example.
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