Effects Of American Presence In Viet Nam

After The War Essay, Research Paper

The American presence in Vietnam during the war had a profound impact on both

the political and social systems in both countries. Some of those changes are still being

felt today and will persist into the future.

In the fall of 1963, Diem, the president of Vietnam, was overthrown and killed in

a coup launched by his own generals. In the political confusion that followed, the security

situation in South Vietnam continued to deteriorate, putting the Communists within reach

of victory. In early 1965, to prevent the total collapse of the Saigon regime, U.S.

President Lyndon Johnson approved regular intensive bombing of North Vietnam and the

dispatch of U.S. combat troops into the South.

The U.S. intervention cause sever problems for the Communists on the battlefield

and compelled them to send regular units of the North Vietnamese army into the South. It

did not persuade them to abandon the struggle, however, and in 1968, after the North s

bloody Tet offensive shook the new Saigon regime President Nguyen Van Thieu to its

foundations, the Johnson administration decided to pursue a negotiated settlement. Ho

Chi Minh died in 1969 and was succeeded by another leader of the revolution, Le Duan.

The new U.S. president, Richard Nixon, continued Johnson s policy while gradually

withdrawing U.S. troops. In January 1973 the war temporarily came to an end with the

signing of a peace agreement in Paris. The settlement provided for the total removal of

remaining U.S. troops, while Hanoi tacitly agreed to accept the Thieu regime in

preparation for the new national elections. The agreement soon fell apart, however, and in

early 1975 the Communists launched a military offensive. In six weeks, the resistance of

the Thieu regime collapsed, and on April 30 the Communists seized power in Saigon.

In 1976 the South was reunited with the North in a new Socialist Republic of

Vietnam. The conclusion of the war, however, did not end the violence. Border tension

with the Communist government in Cambodia escalated rapidly after the fall of Saigon,

and in early 1979 the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and installed a pro-Vietnamese

government. A few weeks later, Vietnam itself was attacked by its Communist neighbor

and erstwhile benefactor, China. In the mid-1980s, about 140,000 Vietnamese troops

were stationed in Cambodia and another 50,000 troops in Laos. Vietnam substantially

reduced its forces in Laos during 1988 and withdrew all its troops from Cambodia by

September 1989.

Within Vietnam, postwar economic and social problems were severe, and

reconstruction proceeded slowly. Efforts to collectivize agriculture and nationalize

business aroused hostility in the south. Disappointing harvests and the absorption of

resources by the military further retarded Vietnam s recovery. In the early 1990s the

government ended price controls on most agricultural production, encouraged foreign

investment, and sought to improve its foreign relations. In 1990 the European Community

established official diplomatic relations with Vietnam. The country signed a peace

agreement with Cambodia in 1991 and shortly thereafter restored diplomatic relations with

China. The peace agreement also forged the way for strengthening relations with the

members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In 1991 Vietnam signed a 1976

ASEAN agreement on regional amity and cooperation. Vietnam also established

diplomatic relations with South Korea. The United States in 1994 lifted a trade embargo

on Vietnam, and in July 1995 full diplomatic relations were established between the two

governments, thus ending more than two decades of hostilities. Later in July Vietnam

became the seventh, and first Communist, member of ASEAN. The other member nations

of ASEAN put increased pressure on Vietnam to repatriate the estimated 38,000

Vietnamese refugees in Southeast Asia, and in early 1996 Vietnam announced a plan to

expediate the repatriation process.

The Vietnam War marked a turning point in the history of modern conventional

warfare both in the extent of guerrilla and antiguerrilla combat involved and in the

increased reliance on helicopters, which afforded mobility in a difficult terrain. The

Vietnam War was essentially a people s war; because the guerrilla fighters were not easily

distinguished from noncombatants and because most civilians were mobilized into some

sort of active participation, the civilian populace of Vietnam suffered heavily, in

unprecedented numbers. The extensive use of napalm by U.S. forces maimed and killed

many thousands of civilians, and the employment of defoliants to destroy heavy ground

cover devastated the ecology of an essentially agricultural country.

As a result of more than eight years of these methods of warfare, it is estimated

that more than 2 million Vietnamese were killed, 3 million wounded, and hundreds of

thousands of children orphaned. It has been estimated that about 12 million Indochinese

people became refugees. Between April 1975 and July 1982, approximately 1,218,000

were resettled in more than 16 countries. About 500,000, the so-called boat people, tried

to flee Vietnam by sea; according to rough estimates, 10 to 15 percent of those died, and

those who survived the great hardships of their voyages were eventually faced with entry

ceilings in the countries that agreed to accept them for resettlement.

In the Vietnam War U.S. casualties rose to a total of 57,685 killed and about

153,303 wounded. At the time of the cease-fire agreement there were 587 U.S. military

and civilian prisoners of war, all of whom were subsequently released. A current

unofficial estimate puts the number of personnel still unaccounted for in the neighborhood

of 2500. Less measurable but still significant costs were the social conflicts within the

U.S. that were endangered by the war-the questioning of U.S. institutions by the American

people and a sense of self-doubt.

As you can see the Vietnam War had a very significant impact on both the United

States and Vietnam in almost all aspects of life. These impacts are still being felt today in

both countries. The only way to avoid another Vietnam happening is by studying what

happened and making sure that we do not make the same mistakes again.


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