The United States of America has been involved in various wars and battles over the past centuries. It is believed that America’s involvement in all these wars has been backed up by various reasons and motives. Each war had its specific cause. For example, the Battles of Lexington and Concord of 1775 is believed to have been motivated by attempts to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams; while the war between the United States of America and Japan, which led to the attack on Pearl Harbor, was caused by America’s attempt to control South Asian nations such as Singapore, Malaysia and Burma.
The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War refers to a stern fight that emerged between the United States of America and North Vietnam between 1959 and 1979. According to Tucker, the Vietnam War is the longest war that the United States of America has ever got involved in its history (2008). The Vietnam War started in early 1959 and lasted for nearly fifteen years. It finally ended in 1979 after the United States lost in the fight. Additionally, this was the first war that America lost.
The Vietnam War was progressive in nature. It started as a mere provision of military advices by the United States of America to South Vietnam. This gradually evolved into engagement of the United States military soldiers in the fights between North and South Vietnam. It progressively changed from political and economic assistance to actual involvement of the U.S. troops in the war.
History of the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War started immediately after the French colonies left Vietnam. The leader of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Ho Chi Minh, was fighting for independence from the control and rule by the French colonies. In 1954, Ho Chi Minh defeated the French colonial rule. This forced France to withdraw its soldiers and rulers from Vietnam. Immediately after the exit of France, North Vietnam, under the direction of Ho Chi Minh, started acquiring full control of South Vietnam as well. Vietnam was divided into two different territories by the French colonies. Ho Chi Minh wanted Southern Vietnamese citizens to become communists too. However, the South resisted this demand and thus started war with the North.
War historians also argue that the war between the United States of America and Vietnam was as a result of political tensions that built because of the Cold War that took place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (Peake, 2008). Immediately after the Cold war, the Soviet Union forces acquired control of most European countries and started communist governments. It was expected that communism movements would spread to other nations as well; so America had to hinder the encroachment and spread of this unwanted movement.
Causes of United States’ Involvement in Vietnam
The United States of America entered war with Vietnam in order to prevent communism from further spreading to the Southeastern part of Asia. It is believed that the American leaders got worried that communism movements would manage to take control of Vietnam. The leaders feared that the entry of communists’ forces into South Vietnam would facilitate its spread to other nations. Communism refers to a particular type of political and economic systems that the United States of America had strongly opposed to for several years.
In 1954, Vietnam was divided into two separate states, as they were busy fighting for their independence from the French. Communism emerged in North Vietnam a few years after the exit of the French forces. The split of Vietnam in 1954 facilitated the capacity of the communists to gain control of North Vietnam. The communists’ movement in North Vietnam was led by Ho Chi Minh. On the other hand, South Vietnam was led by a weak government which was non-communism. Because the United States were against the communists, it had to support the weak South Vietnam government in fighting against communists from the North. Through supporting the Southern government, the United States leaders believed that they would prevent the Northern communists from taking control of the whole Vietnam, including the South which was non-communist.
At the beginning of the war, America started by proving financial support and military advisers to South Vietnam. During his presidency, the U.S. President John Kennedy sent more military advisers to South Vietnam and, consequently, increased the number of foreign American advisers in Vietnam (from a low number of less than seven hundred advisers to more than fifteen thousand advisers).
In 1964, it was reported to the US Congress that communists from North Vietnam had attacked the U.S. Navy ships along the coast of Vietnam. This report was made by President Lyndon Johnson. This led to increase in number of the U.S. troops in South Vietnam. By the end of 1965, nearly one hundred thousand soldiers of the United States of American were in fights in Vietnam. The United States of America conducted atrocious air attacks against North Vietnam. Within one year, the U.S. Air Force had conducted more than one hundred and fifty bombings in North Vietnam. More bombs were dropped by the United States of America’s troops in 1967. By 1969, the United States had more than half a million troops in Vietnam. Data from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) revealed that the exact number of troops in Vietnam by 1969 was five hundred and sixty five thousand. Most of these troops were teenagers with an average age of nineteen years.
Whiteclay suggests that the United States of America got involved in the Vietnam War so that it could be able to stop the spread of communism to other states. Leaders from the United States of America based their arguments about the possibility of the spread of communism to other nations on the theory of domino. The domino theory postulated that if any country fell under the control of communists, other neighboring nations would soon follow (2009). The United States of America thus wanted to take control of Vietnam after the French colonial rule left Vietnam in 1956, and thus the United States of America felt the need to fill the gap it left so that it could prevent Ho Chi Minh from uniting both North and South Vietnam as a single communist state. Vietnam was divided into two different states by the French. Immediately after France left, the United States of America started sending its military advisers to assist the South Vietnamese Army in the fight against communists. The first lot of military advisers from the United States of America was sent in early 1955. The conflicts between communists and non-communists continued to escalate
The United States of America leaders such as President Truman and Kennedy viewed communism as a great threat after that the Second World War President Truman stated that his doctrine would assist governments of all nations that were not embracing communism. The United States of America considered communism theory as bad. For example, through communism, the French colonies implemented harsh rule to regulate trade. France imposed that it was only the government in Vietnam that was allowed to sell certain commodities such as alcohol and table salt. Similarly, rice has been imported from France. America also believed that most Vietnamese workers who were employed in mining industry were working under pressure and through from France. Those who attempted to quit their jobs were arrested and jailed. From the America’s point of view, such rules which were acquired by the leaders of North Vietnam could spread to South Vietnam, and consequently result into unnecessary exploitation of the South Vietnamese people if Northern communists could manage to take control of the whole Vietnam. The United States of America believed that Ho Chi Minh was a member of the French Communist Party and hence would exercise the harsh rules in South Vietnam as earlier done by France.
The United States of America became worried of the high possibility of the spread of communism and its principles in Asia. Through the French communist party, France was able to create a state of imbalance in the socio-cultural, political and economic situations of the United States of America. Under the rule of the Communists’ Party, Vietnamese people lost their peaceful life. The communists thus took advantage of this state of political instability and weakness so that it could spread its power across all nations that had been previously imbalanced by the French colonial system. Te United States of America was not impressed by such communists’ motives.
According to Dudley and Bender, the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was an extension of its Cold War mission (2010). During the Cold War era, the US Government vowed to contain and bring communist power under its control.
However, Hunt argues that the United States of America’s involvements in the Vietnam War could not be elucidated clearly due to overlapping of its starting dates. He argues that the multiplicity of the starting dates makes it difficult to know the exact motives that made America enter into war with North Vietnam (2006). According to Michael Hunt, in 1960, the U.S. President Truman and his allies regarded Ho Chi Minh and other communists as oppositions to political democracies, great violators of human rights, as well as pursuants of military violence and hostilities (2006). The United States of America also accused communists for practicing closed economic systems in most states. This restrained and held back most capitalist countries from trading with them. Thus, America and its allies were not happy with the political systems of communism and thus did not want its spread to other nations. America judged communism against contagious diseases that were easily spread. In 1949, the communists took over power in China. Consequently, America was frightened and terrified by high chances of the quick spread of communism to other Asian nations.
Secondly, President Truman believed that through offering political and military support to Southern Vietnam, it would be able to stimulate economic development in this less developed non-communist nation. Through increased economic development, the United States of America would be able to increase its trade activities with such nations. Founded on this belief, America opted to assist South Vietnam to resist invasion by North Vietnam which was already under communists’ power. Accordingly, if South Vietnam could win the war and attain its previous economic status, America could directly and indirectly benefit from its revived economy. These economic and trade ambitions were the second set of reasons that could have facilitated the involvement of the United States of America in Vietnam.
Thirdly, the United States of America got involved in the Vietnam War so that it could keep its promise to support non-communist nations from possible invasions by communist states. During the Second World War, the United States of America signed a treaty called SEATO which stated that it would continue its support to non-communist states that face threats of attack by communists. In order to keep its word, America had to support South Vietnam in fighting the North Vietnam communists. According to Frey-Wouters and Laufer, the United States of America got involved in the Vietnam War so that it could not be viewed by others nations as an unreliable government that does not keep its promises (2008).
Fourthly, American entered into war with North Vietnam due to an attack of its Navy Army along the shores of Vietnam by North Vietnamese soldiers. It is believed that the United States of America’s navy ship, USS Maddox, was attacked by North Vietnam due to the involvement of the U.S. in the fights between North and South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Communist Party in the North, was not happy with the United States’ involvements in the fights by providing financial support and sending its military advisers to South Vietnam to assist in the war. The United States of America thus responded to this attack by full engagement of its soldiers and military in the war in favor of South Vietnam. Political analysts Young Blatt, John Fitzgerald and Grunfeld Tom assert that the whole of America was neither pleased nor contented with the attacks of its Army’s ship. Therefore, the U.S. Congress unanimously passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that permitted President Lyndon Johnson to boost and amplify the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War by sending more soldiers to fight the Northern communists. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution stated that President Johnson should take callous and unsympathetic measures to keep at bay possible attacks of the U.S. army by Northern communist soldiers in future (2002).
Furthermore, Morris Robert and Julius Becton suggest that America was involved in the Vietnam War as a result of personality traits of American presidents. They further argue that various American presidents such as John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were just extending the wars as a way of showing commitment to continue with the wills and missions of previous presidents. The political administration of the United States of America changed from time to time after every election. New presidents who were elected wanted to continue with the objectives of previous administrations (Morris, 2011). From my part, I would argue that Morris and Beckon did not provide a solid reason or evidence to support their arguments and allegations on the factors that led the United States of America to be involved in the Vietnam War. The suggestions they give are mere reasons that back up why the United States of America continued with the fights in Vietnam. They fail to give an elaborated cause or basis that explains why America involved itself in the fights.
End of the War
When Richard Nixon became the President of the United States of America in 1969, he slightly increased the number of troops present in North Vietnam. However, he soon started to withdraw American troops from Vietnam. This led to the fall of South Vietnam as a result of decreased American support. At last, North Vietnam won the war and Vietnam finally reunited to become a communist state.
Effects of the War
The Vietnam War led to the deaths of millions of people. Although a few soldiers also died, most of the people who were killed were civilians. According to Wiest, the number of American civilians who died as a result of the war was estimated to be sixty thousand people (2007). The exact figures are actually not known. Additionally, more than two hundred thousand people were left with serious injuries that resulted from the shootings and bombing during the fights.
The war also resulted into massive displacement of people. Wiest estimates that nearly five million Vietnamese citizens sought refuge in foreign countries (2007). Most people were also rendered homeless during and after the war. Additionally, the deaths left numerous children orphans and thousands of women widows.
The involvement of the United States of America in the Vietnam War also caused great oppositions and political divides in America. A few years before it was terminated, various human rights activists, families of the U.S Army soldiers and soldiers themselves held demonstrations against the involvement of the U.S. in the war. According to Kimball, human rights activists claimed that many lives were lost during the war for no good reason. Economists also argued that the scarce resources of the United States of America were misused in the war (2009). Accordingly, they suggested that these resources, which included finances and military equipment, could be used more efficiently back home than in the Vietnam War. The general public also got involved in demonstrations to push the Federal Government to withdraw its solders from Vietnam. For instance, thousands of students from Kent State University in Ohio demonstratedagainst the war inMay 1970.
End of the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War ended after huge public outcries which forced President Richard Nixon to sign peace accords with North Vietnam in 1972. The peace accords called for immediate end to the war. In the peace accords, it was stated that North Vietnam should, with immediate effect, release all the American soldiers who were imprisoned in Vietnam. It also called for immediate end of hostilities between America and Vietnam.
Validity of the Causes for the U.S. Involvement in the Vietnam War
In my opinion, given that the major cause of the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was to prevent the spread of communism in Vietnam and other nations, I would argue that this cause was reasonable and valid. This is because of the cross-territorial impacts that the war imposed on neighboring nations. Wars have been known to have adverse political and economic impacts which negatively affect statuses of other host countries. Just as America presumed, the war in Vietnam could negatively affect its trade with other nations such as Britain. It was, therefore, rational and sensible for the United States of America to protect its trading and political interests by controlling power and political interferences in partner countries.
However, I would also challenge the United States’ decisions to send troops to Vietnam to kill and destroy North Vietnam communists. In my view, this reflected excessive use of force and coercion through direct control of affairs of foreign countries. The killings were also carried out in an inhumane manner.
I would conclude that although the primary objective of the States of America’s involvements in the Vietnam War was to prevent the spared of communism and to stop North Vietnam from attacking South Vietnam through destruction and killing, the United States of America did not effectively manage its military operations and thus failed to achieve its mission of its involvement in the war.
Furthermore, the effects of the war were more severe in South Vietnam than in North Vietnam. The war resulted into the deaths of millions of innocent Vietnamese civilians as well as thousands of Vietnamese soldiers. The impacts of continued involvement in the war were that of more losses to the Vietnamese people. In my view, the losses were more than the intended gains that could be possibly achieved in case of winning the war, hence, it was of no benefit to the citizens of South Vietnam. The negative effects of the fights surpassed the positive gains by far.
Additionally, the involvement of the United States of America in the Vietnam War clearly shows how awful policies may be inherited from one political era to another. This was clearly demonstrated by the continual support of incoming presidents to continue with the Vietnam War. I would suggest that great caution should be taken by political leaders to ensure that they do not pursue or accomplish unethical or unnecessary political missions initiated by their predecessors.
Last but not least, the effective push of the public to the federal government to withdraw American soldiers from Vietnam was an incredible political and social lesson. From this successful push, we learn that the public can effectively lobby or influence decisions made by their governments for the interest of the general public. For instance, several repeated demonstrations that were held by the human rights organizations and the general public forced the U.S. Congress to formulate and enact legislation requiring the U.S. President to withdraw American soldiers from the Vietnam War. In my view, the American citizens were fighting for the interest of their family members in troops sent to Vietnam as well as for effective utilization of national resources. In my opinion, the numerous resources that were used during the war could have been channeled to more productive activities that could boost the American economy, for instance, education and provision of healthcare services.