The Second Vietnam War 1960-1975 And American Involvement Essay, Research Paper
August 1954: US National Security Council decided Vietnam Settlement represented "a major forward stride of communism which might lead to the loss of SE Asia" (seeing the conflict in Cold War terms) President Eisenhower agreed to aid the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem. Facts about Diem?s Regime:> Refused to hold reunification talks or hold elections promised under the terms of the Geneva agreement. Autocratic regime. Widespread corruption and nepotism. Unfair distribution of wealth He had repressive policies (i.e.: towards Buddhists) He was associated with colonialism Effects of US Aid: Regime increasingly relied on the aid for support à no reform in order to build up local support. Economy distorted Little done for mass of the people November 1963: Dieam assassinated à
country under military Gov. Diem’s regime led to the formation in South Vietnam of the National Liberation Front (NLF) w/ both communist and non-communists. It was labeled as communist by Diem and the Americans. Causes of the Second Vietnam War:
Geneva Conference was only a partial solution to the problem. USA determined to stem the tide of communism in Asia. (Domino Theory) USA believed that communism in Indo China was part of the expansionist Chinese and Russian policies / The interest of both countries in the region was a ‘proof that an anti American plot was hatching. US failure to understand that the NLF rested more on nationalism then Marxism. American Chauvinism (US would triumph where France failed) Failure of Diem’s regime to abide by Geneva Agreement. Corruption of Diem’s regime. ‘Bipolar’ view of the US which saw the conflict in terms of the Cold War. Strategic interest of the US in the Eastern Pacific. Vietnam was a Civil War (UN Charter forbade intervention) but US didn’t see it so. Kenedy 1960-63: à
May 1961: special anti-guerilla forces sent to Vietnam US military determined policy w/ regard to Vietnam à
meant that a military solution was adopted to a political problem. ‘Strategic Hamlets Programme’: relocation of villages in South Vietnam, their fortification and imposing of a curfew. (to cut off guerillas from the people. Disastrous b/c: Moving village to another location went against the Vietnamese religion which involved ancestor worship and the sacredness of burial grounds. Use of force to ensure cooperation was counter-productive. 1963: 16,500 troops in Vietnam. Fall Of Diem: May 1963: S.V. troops open fire on Buddhists protestors. June 1963: Monk burns himself to death in the center of Saigon. Nov 1963: Coup organised: Diem killed. Lyndon Johnson 1963-68: Aug. 1964: Gulf of Tonkin incident: US ships attacked by N.V. à
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: gave Johnson power to escalate the war. Feb. 1965: Operation Rolling Thunder à
Massive air war against N.V. Feb. 1968: Tet Offensive succeeded in capturing US Saigon Embassy. à
Resulting in questions in the US as to US involvement Effects of the War on the US: Became a major issue in US politics. Provoked a self-critical analysis of society Power of politico-industrial complex questioned 10% of labor force defense related Congress increasingly critical of war Casualties 100,000 by 1967 Cost $2 Billion a month by 1968. Internal programmes cut (gave rise to riots) Draft dodging. Increased credibility Gap. Richard Nixon 1968/69-74: Won election promising to end the war (but he meant ending it by ‘victory’) Main Developments: Gradually US combat troops withdrawn as Vietnamese units were trained to take over. Phoenix Programme (assassination units to eliminate NLF influence in South Vietnam) Extended the war into neighboring countries 1970: troops into Cambodia. 1971: troops into Laos. The Pentagon Papers: Revealed the extent to which US Gov. had been misleading congress and public. 1972: Election year in US / Peace talks began in Paris / Nixon won elections Jan. 1973: Cease fire agreed and US troops begin to return from Vietnam. April 1975: South Vietnamese Gov. surrenders after fall of Saigon / Cambodia falls to communist Khmer Rouge forces. Why Did the US Fail in Vietnam? Failed to recognize that Vietcong and NLF had support of the majority in S.V. Saw conflict in terms of Cold War and committed itself to preventing a genuine peoples revolt against an unpop. Gov. Regime which US supported was inefficient and corrupt. Saw the conflict in military terms whereas it was political in nature. Considerable evidence of racism / little chance that Americans would be seen as saviors. Nature of terrain favored guerillas — US response was greater firepower. First television war à
turned public opinion in the US and elsewhere against the war. Enormous cost of the war US credibility destroyed (i.e.: w/ Pentagon Papers) à
pressure to end the war. Protest movements in the US. The Effects of the Vietnam War on Vietnam: S.V. society became incoherent/divided. Social dislocation / drift of pop. towards cities / prostitution / crime / middle class destroyed / Catholics vs. Buddhists, Capitalist vs. communists, civilian vs. military / … Economic Effects: extra load on social services of maintaining army / black marketeering and profiteering / wartime inflation. Physical destruction and permanent Ecological damage: soil erosion (i.e.: with defoliants sprayed on jungle) / homeless civilians. Destruction of Vietnam’s most important source of income: rice exports. Human losses (1,000,000 communists…) Alienation of both North and South Vietnamese populations. North Vietnam soon overran the South Flight of South Vietnamese Communism spread in Indo China The Effects of the Second Vietnam War on the U.S.A.: Breach between executive and legislative branches of Gov. / restrictions were placed upon the ability of president to conduct such a war. Crisis of confidence: blow to American prestige à
for a period after the war America seemed to have lost the ability to provide decisive leadership within the Western World. Divided American society Decrease in confidence in American leaders (credibility gap) Failure of domestic reforms (i.e.: Johnson’s Great Society programme) Human costs: 60,000 killed, more wounded / emotional problems (i.e.: post traumatic stress disorder) US allies rethink their commitment to the US. USA was seen as supporting colonialism USSR profited indirectly from the war Uncensored reporting of the war à
horrors of war. Effects on army: Conscription introduced / war morale almost collapsed / mounting casualties / crime and drug use increased within army. Led to hesitation as to whether to respond to the revolutions in Central America.
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