A Prolonged Civil Conflict Essay, Research Paper
The reasons why the Vietnam War lasted so long is a very controversial subject among Americans. There is no simple answer to as why the war lasted so long. Many factors have to be considered when analyzing the war. The first factor that has to be considered is whether or not the U.S. really belonged in the Vietnam War in the first place. The initial reason that the U.S. became involved in Vietnam was because they thought that North Vietnam was going to Russia and China, which were communist countries, for support. Because of the containment policy, the U.S. felt it had to defend South Vietnam from communism. They thought that Russia was trying to take over Europe and make it one communist state. Herring says, The United States formally committed itself to he containment of Soviet expansion in Europe, and throughout the next two years attention was riveted on France, where economic stagnation and political instability aroused grave fears of communists takeover (11). However, all Ho and North Vietnam wanted was for their country to be reunited. For the Vietminh, unification of their not only represented fulfillment of the centuries-old dream of Vietnamese nationalists but also was economic necessity (8). The Vietminh asked the U.S. for support but because they thought that North Vietnam was influenced by Russia, the U.S. turned them down. It was not until later that the Vietminh went to Mao Tse-tung s Chinese Communists for support out of desperateness. From the very beginning, the U.S. had attached itself to a losing cause (19). Because the U.S. was obsessed with the domino theory and a communist threat in Southeast Asia, they became involved in and were partly to blame for prolonging a civil conflict.
After the U.S. had initially become involved in Vietnam s civil conflict, they kept getting more and more involved. Besides several bomb raids the U.S. also kept sending more and more troops into South Vietnam. The massive bomb raids and the continuous flow of troops into South Vietnam established the U.S. s policy; they were willing to give full support to South Vietnam and fight in a war in order to stop the spread of communism. As Herring says, the U.S. also insisted that an important interest had been established that had to be defended for the sake of U.S. credibility throughout the world (309).
This leads to the second factor to as why the war lasted so long. The U.S. s military was not prepared to fight the kind of war that the Vietminh were fighting. They were not used to he guerrilla warfare that the Vietminh used. Americans were trained to fight against massive attacks like the ones in World War II and the Korean War, but that rarely happened. Instead they used the search and destroy methods against the guerillas. This method did not work very well at all. The U.S. never was able to take control of any land because once they came back from their mission the soldiers would go back to base. This enabled the Vietminh to occupy the very land that U.S. soldiers had just searched and destroyed. This frustrated many military leaders. The only way they could tell if they were winning the war or not was by body counts. In the beginning Americans thought that they were winning the war, but by the end of the war it seemed as though no matter how many troops or how many bombings America was sending to Vietnam nothing was being won.
There are many opinions about what the U.S. military could have done. Some think they should have trained and armed the South Vietnam soldiers from the very beginning because they knew the local geography much better that the American soldiers. Others think that the U.S. military should have fought along the seventeenth parallel in order to isolate the north from the south. Another opinion is that military leaders should have examined the war more closely in order to formulate better strategies on how to win the kind of war that they were in. And lastly, some people think that if the U.S. would have just used its military power more quickly, decisively, and without limit the war could have been over a lot sooner.
However, one thing is being forgotten here. Although Ho may have gotten help from Russia and China what he still wanted more that anything was for Vietnam to be one country. Ho Chi Minh dedicated his life to the unification of North and South Vietnam and he was willing to do anything to make it happen. He was also a master organizer and determined revolutionary who was willing to employ the most cold-blooded methods in the cause to which he dedicated his life (5). Because Ho was such a great organizer, he was able to construct a military base of revolution among the people of the northern provinces. Ho became a symbol of nationalism and the struggle for freedom to the overwhelming majority of the population (12).
The U.S. underestimated Ho s revolution. They got involved in a civil conflict which probably made the Vietnamese nationalists even more determined to win. Because the U.S. thought they were preventing the spread of communism, they ended up prolonging a civil conflict, which ended up with enormous human costs.