Vietnam In Remission Essay, Research Paper
The legacy of the American involvement in the Vietnam War is a memory that will live on forever. After reading the book titled Vietnam in Remission by James F. Veninga and Harry A. Wilmer, my first statement has been strengthened ten-fold because of the deep persuasiveness and informative nature of this book. I will begin by summarizing and interpreting the overall thoughts and perspectives that this work brings forth concerning the initiation and justification of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Next, I will paraphrase the authors’ views on legacy that this war leaves behind and provide comments dealing with what can be learned from this book and the points it raises. This study of the effects of the Vietnam War is an stirring and an instructive perspective on this sorrowful moment in history.
The authors of Vietnam in Remission begin with their thoughts on why the United States first proceeded to become involved in this overseas war, whether justified or not. This seems to be almost rhetorical because they mainly provide reasons why we shouldn’t have started the war.
Many people in Vietnam did not like the idea of being under French control at all. They resented the fact that a country that knew little to anything about them held control over their actions in an attempt for its own gain. Therefore, it was a very easy task for Ho Chi Minh to rally support for his cause. None of this was instigated by Communist influence, however. It is a known fact that the North Vietnamese regarded the Russians as “Americans without money,” and the Russians did not even assist much until the U.S. had committed itself. This is not even to say that the Russians did intervene much; most of the help received by the Vietminh was from the Chinese, which the U.S. was trying to make friends with at the time.
This leads the author to the question of why the U.S. even wanted to get involved. They were trying to befriend the Chinese, the uprising wasn’t even started by external Communist influence, and this was solely the problem of the French to deal with. What many people in the U.S. thought was the theory of the ‘domino effect’. This is the theory that if one key country in Southeast Asia would fall to the ideology of Communism, then the small surrounding would also. With the Cold War on the other side of the U.S. any country that became communist, whether very influential or not, was still considered a loss. With that in mind, an effort was made to flex muscles to scare the rebels from being more serious. However it was said that if a firm stance is not taken early on in a conflict, the other side sees a weakness. Let this be a false notion or true, but the insight is one that encourages the other side to stay strong, thus starting a war.
The next topic covered is what the roots were that grew a tree of failure for the U.S. in the war. In the beginning of the conflict, full effort was not given to the cause. This was the most vulnerable time for the Vietminh because they were still rallying for their cause and had no outside help yet. The U.S. started with only sending several troops at a time, only slowly escalating that number in an attempt to keep the issue quiet and not give Russia and China the idea to step in. If the full U.S. Army was sent at first sign of a danger, there would have be in rout without question and there would have been nothing left for the larger communist countries to support. Next, a short segment is made to how the French did not even fully commit to this issue. They had the idea that they would be forced to withdraw from controlling Vietnam after the South Vietnamese were back in power to prevent further conflicts. Because of that, they withdrew from control in the middle of the war and up until that point were wary about sending much help at all for the cause. None of this was to say that the U.S. should have made a massive attack at once and asked the French to do the same, but that would have been the correct move to make in order to win in that area.
The authors begin to question again why South Vietnam was really worth saving. The leader appointed to control the Vietnamese was for the most part incompetent, and he acted too independent, not listening to the U.S. who was trying to help him so much. Because of this he was booted and the next leaders were ones that were educated in the U.S and France; completely out of touch with the people of Vietnam. Many of the Vietnamese people not allied with Ho Chi Minh didn’t even want most of the help that the U.S. was bringing to them. The poor rural dwellers had lived on their land for generations and it was considered sacred to them, but instead they were put into U.S. protective forts that ended up being more harmful than good. How could the U.S. have handled it differently though? Didn’t the South Vietnamese want to be saved from this rebellion?
Not only did the authors of this book provide a unique look on the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, but they also concentrated a great deal on the legacies that were left behind by this unfortunate event in our history.
First what was examined was how much this war contributed to the destruction of the male ego within the American society. When the word contributed is used, it is because the war was not the complete cause, but it added a great deal to the destruction. This entire concern began with a boy not spending enough time with his father. This could be due to the increased commonplace of divorces or fathers working away from home throughout and after the industrial revolution. Male bonding between a father and son used to occur when the father needed to teach his son his work so that he could provide for his family on his father’s land when the time came. When the father works in a factory it is not possible for this type of interaction to occur and the male ego becomes damaged from lack of a strong male figure in one’s life. More things that brought the ego down were the move to suburbia containing no male community, and the women’s movement towards increased rights thus shunning male values. The Vietnam War completely finalized this shattering of male ego, though, because everyone traditionally respected the military and looked at them with admiration. When soldiers discovered that the generals and commanders were lying to the U.S. people about what was really going on, to make themselves look better, that respect was completely gone and there was no longer any strong males in the society that could be respected. The authors considered this betrayal to bring forth an almost ‘female rage’ like when one is not allowed to vote based on gender. A ‘female rage’ definitely does not enhance the male ego, and I don’t think it is a stretch to assume that this thought by the authors is mere speculation.
The last and biggest legacy that the authors give as being caused by the involvement in the Vietnam War is that titled the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’. This syndrome summed up is the necessity for complete assurance of complete success before commitment is made. Of course it makes a good deal of sense in theory, but many examples have occurred in reality. One of the most notable was the concern of the possible war in Lebanon and the need use U.S. Marines in conjunction with French and Italian forces to escort Palestinians out of Beirut. Due to the Vietnam Syndrome, orders were made that the Marines would be taken out immediately if they were ever shot upon. They were shot upon and were taken out, causing lack of the amount of force needed to perform the escort, which in turn caused the Italian and French forces to also be required to withdraw ending in a failed mission. The War Powers Resolution could have caused this lack of confidence, which is basically a direct statement of the Vietnam Syndrome. Not only does this syndrome cover the government, but the general population also is more wary now. The media no longer trusts the government officials and always tries to reveal disreputable things about previously respected leaders. When this book was written, 500,000 people or ten percent of the young men eligible for signing up for the draft broke the law and did not since it was not guaranteed to be a safe thing to do. I can see the institution of the Vietnam syndrome just looking around myself, and it is not always completely beneficial in my opinion.
Although some may argue that we are now a nation more cautious towards preventing deaths, the horrible nightmares that veterans face continue night after night to the point of an overall want to forget that Vietnam ever happened. This book is biased to the point of offering a 10:1 ratio of pages concerning the negative legacies to positive legacies. One cannot really blame the authors for this, though. They do offer a small solution for amending some of these problems, however. They say that we should do what Lincoln would have done if he were still leading us and have a public mourning displaying the complete sadness of what happened and not merely a mask convincing all that they are doing the right thing. They also say that the older men who run the country and run the military should collectively give a public apology to the younger men in an attempt to regain their respect and provide a place for the male ego to come from again. It will be impossible to forget the Vietnam War, but we can still do whatever possible to ease the painful memories and rebuild what was lost.
Veninga, James F. and Wilmer, Harry A. Vietnam in Remission