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Vietnam - what's the USA got to do with it?

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20.11.2006

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Why did the USA become increasingly involved in the war in Vietnam?

The Vietnam War is one of the most controversial wars of the last century. Public opinion in the USA, and elsewhere across the world, was mixed as to whether the USA should have been involved at all. The main reason for the mixed views was that there didn't seem to be much justification as to why the USA was there at all. The USA had never pledged to help Vietnam, but decided, on many occasions, to help South Vietnam. As we all know, though, the USA did get very involved with the war in Vietnam, so now I aim to examine what the USA did in Vietnam and, more importantly, why.

First, the USA got involved in Vietnam using the Truman doctrine. This was only short-term, but did cost the USA a lot. The Truman doctrine was where the USA gave money to any country under threat of communism, to help them defend themselves. The USA spent billions on this, but they were in no way simply doing this just to be kind. They believed in the domino theory. When one domino gets knocked down, another gets knocked down and so on until all are knocked down. They used this as a metaphor for communism - one country becomes communist, then its neighbour etc until the world is communist, including the USA. The USA government were terrified of communism spreading there, so they had the policy of containment - basically not letting communism spread. So, they spent billions on it. Stopping communism was number 1 on their agenda, so they put everything into it, starting with money. Part of this money went to Vietnam, and this was where the USA first started to get involved with Vietnam - trying to stop communism by giving them money to defend themselves against it.

Secondly, only a few years prior to Vietnam, the USA had fought a war - in Korea. This, in the beginning, was a factor which dissuaded them from going into Vietnam, but their mind was changed by their public. The American public, if anything, was even more against communism than its government. The American people wanted a communism crack-down - the toughness they had seen with Truman, they now wanted to see with Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. So, these presidents all had to keep up to his standards, as the thing most important to them was public support. Those 3 presidents each stepped up the USA's involvement in Vietnam simply because they knew it was what their people wanted - this is what would keep them in power. So, they got more involved in Vietnam to keep the public happy - the public wanted a communism crack-down. This American's hatred of communism lasted a long time and did influence the involvement in Vietnam many times.

Next, we come to the Geneva agreement. The USA helped to plan the agreement, which basically consisted of 3 things. The first was that Vietnam was guaranteed independence. The second was that elections would be held, under international supervision. The third was that Vietnam would be divided along the 17th parallel. The North would be controlled by Ho Chi Minh (communist) and the South by whoever won the elections. Although the agreement was not quite what the Americans had planned, they did have some input, and the reason for this input was to try to set Vietnam up so it couldn't become Communism, so that America was not under threat. Again, this is keeping with the domino theory. If they kept Vietnam free of communism, the USA had a better chance of staying free. So they tried to make the Geneva agreement as anti-communist as possible, to save themselves from communism. However, this plan from the Americans failed - the plan wasn't anti-communist at all. And this meant that Vietnam was under threat, as half of it was already Communist, which in turn meant America could be under threat soon. So, this scared America and led to it stepping up its involvement in Vietnam, using Ngo Dinh Diem, which I come to next.

The USA got extremely involved with the South Vietnamese president, Diem. At first, they supported Diem and certainly were involved in the run-up to his election. They did this because Diem was particularly anti-communist. He hated it. America wanted one thing for Vietnam - no communism. So, getting a communist-loather as president was ideal. Diem went against many laws and clearly betrayed democracy, one main thing being rigging the elections, but America even persuaded him to do this. For the USA to support such an awful democracy, they must have had some reason, and they did - to stop Vietnam, as a whole, becoming Communist. They saw Diem as their ticket to keeping Vietnam anti-communist and they did everything in their power to make sure he was president, including breaking the law. However, this plan failed. Diem was such a bad president that Vietnam completely turned on him and would rather anyone be in power than him - including communists. So, as the Americans fought against Communism, the Vietnamese began turning towards it in the hope of a better, fairer country. The only thing the Americans could do was get rid of Diem, so they did, for the simple reason that they couldn't risk him becoming more and more unpopular to the point where the communist party had to take over. America got involved so heavily with Diem to stop communism.

Then, America stepped in yet again, to keep up their policy of containment and stop their domino theory. This where America got involved more than they ever planned to. In Vietnam, civil war started between North Vietnam (the Vietcong, communists) and South Vietnam (the Vietminh). He Vietminh were fighting against communism, and losing, which was disastrous for America - this was the closest they had been to Vietnam becoming fully communist. So, America decided to step in to support the Vietminh. They knew Vietnam would become communist without their help, so they joined the war, helping with training, finance and, of course, a lot of troops. Johnson was desperately scared of communism, and was America as a whole, so much so that they entered a war to save themselves from it.

Finally, the USA's last involvement was the Gulf of Tonkin incident. This was only a very short-term involvement but was very significant. The USA, many believe, was never fired at, but decided to fire of its own accord. As we have already seen, the USA's biggest fear was communism. So, they attempted to 'pick a fight' with North Vietnam, as they knew the USA had better resources and more troops. The USA was probably spying on North Vietnam and probably fired first, to try to fight them, in order to defeat them. This was for the reason that is they defeated North Vietnam, the communists would leave Vietnam alone, which would make America a lot safer. As I mentioned before, if the domino theory happened, then communist would spread until America became communist. So, the USA wanted to get involved to defeat the communists and, again, save itself from communism.

In conclusion, I think the USA became involved in Vietnam to save them form communism. The American government hated communism, and knew it was their biggest threat. So, they went to great lengths to stop it. Also, public opinion in the USA at that time indicated they wanted a very strong crack-down on communists. The USA had no reason, no alliance, with Vietnam, but spent billions of dollars, used a great deal of resources and sent thousands of troops to their death because that was a small price to pay to avoid becoming a communist country. The USA became increasingly involved in Vietnam to stop communism ever reaching America.

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Comments about this review »

THE_ELITE13 15.02.2007 16:06

The main review was easy to read. To be honest though I found that I kept getting lost and couldn't see where a was. nevertheless Very good. Will help with my GCSE project on Vietnam and the cold war. Thanks.

coopsta133 20.01.2007 16:19

great review- coopsta

phensh 04.01.2007 22:27

fantastic review,well written and easy to read.well done and keep up the good work. Paul

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This review of Everything that starts with V ... has been rated:

"exceptional" by (21%):

  1. coopsta133
  2. phensh
  3. louisacrompton

and 4 other members

"very helpful" by (79%):

  1. sit2020
  2. Silverblue85
  3. beckywright

and 23 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.