The Frustration and Distress of the Vietnam War

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Throughout the course of the Vietnam War, long standing frustration and technological advancements led to both atrocities and changes in the art of modern war. In the buildup to what would later become known as the Vietnam War, the world was gripped by the tension of the two leading global superpowers of the day. The Soviet Union and the United States of America had been competing for global dominance under the mask of an economic race since the end of World War Two. On the surface, the conflict was a battle of economic systems between capitalist America and communist Russia. Deep down however, the two nations were at each other's throats due to years of mistrust, spying, and sabotage. Many nations and peoples were dragged into the Cold War, either indirectly or through proxy conflicts, which were extremely violent and brutal, as each superpower covertly sponsored a side in these conflicts in order to progress their goals and ambitions.

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Although the two nations were allies in the second world war, it was not a choice they made, but it was a forced alliance due to circumstances. Initially, the Russians had a non aggression pact with Nazi Germany and conspired to conquer Poland. Each nation controlled half of Poland. For a time, this status quo persisted. Then, in Operation Barbarossa, the Germans betrayed the Russians and invaded. Thus, the Russians joined the Allies and eventually, they won the war. After the war, Germany was split up between the major Allied powers, Great Britain, France, America, and Russia. Capitalist nations controlled the West, and communist Russia controlled the East. There was only one outlier. The capital, Berlin, was split up between the powers, but the city itself was located in the Eastern Bloc, which was nominally Russian territory. Each economic system was tried in Germany, with Berlin being the center of an economic race. In capitalist Berlin, society flourished, and people living in the struggling communist sector saw what capitalism could bring for them. Many people living in the Russian controlled territory travelled to West Berlin, never to return. The Russian controlled government saw this, and constructed a wall to keep their citizens in. Although the cold war had already begun, the construction of the infamous ‘Berlin Wall’ was one of the first major events of the cold war. The Rusians tried to starve out the capitalist sectors, and blockaded the route that supplies went through to get to West Berlin. The famous Berlin Airlift alleviated the stress of being starved out as American planes brought much needed supplies into the city via airdrop. Eventually the blockades were ended, but tensions remained higher than ever. Tensions over the wall grew so high, the incident of Checkpoint Charlie almost sent the world into a full nuclear war. Troops, mostly heavily armored tanks, assembled at the border crossing Checkpoint Charlie. Thankfully, world leaders deescalated, troops pulled back, and the world took a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, Berlin was not the only point of conflict during the Cold War.

Many proxy conflicts occurred all over the world and the violence was intensified due to foreign intervention. The newly minted United Nations continuously sent in ‘peacekeeping’ forces, which were multinational armies assembled from member nations. In the conflicts and nations where these armies were sent, the peacekeeping forces often did little to deescalate fighting, but rather controlled civilian populations and avoided actual conflict. One example of this military failure was in the Republic of the Congo. Although not a UN failure, the member nation of Belgium caused a geopolitical disaster of which the results are still felt in the region today. Since the 1800’s the Congo had been a Belgian territory, but in the 1950’s, resistance movements forced the Belgian regime to recognize Congo independence. Almost immediately, a dangerous power struggle began between local tribes and transformed into a violent war for power. The violence became so brutal and indiscriminate that Belgium was forced to send troops back into the region to evacuate Belgian citizens back to Europe. Although Belgium and the United Nations at large could have stopped the conflict through military presence, they did not. This failure in the Congo is just one of many that plagued the early United Nations. Even the United Nations itself was a conflict. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were member nations, and both had veto power. Because of this, both nations constantly vetoed whatever action the other supported. Due to this, the council responsible for passing laws was constantly locked in a state of veto. The Russians did not sit idly by in the United Nations however.

They created the Warsaw Pact, a treaty designed to secure the Eastern Bloc from capitalism. Signed by the Soviet Union and the puppet governments it created in the occupied territories post World War Two, it was an almost direct challenge NATO, an American creation. NATO was an alliance between major North American and European countries during the Cold War. Both organizations were designed to be counters to each other, and it only added to the global tension that gripped society all over the world. Major pressure on both sides to decrease militarization of lower forgein intervention all over the world. Unfortunately, this wasn’t entirely received by either faction. The worst case of this would be the Vietnam War. The country had been gripped in a civil war for many years, with a communist North at war with a capitalist South. The two superpowers saw an opportunity to flex their political muscle and gain influence in the region. The US acted first, by sending in military advisors and officers to train troops and lead by example. The Gulf of Tonkin incident changed everything. A naval task force of United States ships was stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin and were supposedly attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. This act of aggression was seen by President Lyndon Johnson as a sign that America needed to increase its involvement in the war. After the incident, America rapidly increased and expanded its involvement in the war. Troops were not only sent to Vietnam, but deployed to combat zones with orders to engage the enemy. In this case, the enemy was a ruthless enemy force that used brutal guerilla tactics to demoralize and decimate the enemy. American armed forces were not used to or trained for this style of warfare, and had seen glimpses of it when fighting Japan, but this enemy was ruthless and violent. The Vietcong, as they came to be known, blended in with civilian clothes and hid in villages as common civilians. This made it extremely difficult for American soldiers because they could not go into a village and kill everyone in order to oust a few enemy combatants. Not all American soldiers understood that, sadly.

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