American Involvement in Vietnam

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2012

[HST301- ASSESSMENT ITEM 1]

Question 4What attitudes to Asia, communism and America’s place in the world were revealed by the United States involvement in Vietnam in the 1960’s.

There is no definitively acknowledged date that signifies the beginning of America’s involvement within Vietnam. Rather it is a series of events, establishments and decisions, ultimately made and determined by American attitudes and principles toward Asia, Communism and their own nations prestige, power and place in the world. Within this essay the aforementioned aspects and attitudes of the American’s in regard to Vietnam will be explored further. Through this exploration, and the subsequent explanation, it will be shown that American involvement in Vietnam in the 1960’s was a decision based on American attitudes of precedence, self-interest and prestige. To establish an insight to the reasoning behind the American decision to become involved in Vietnam, one must have an understanding of the pivotal events and decisions that ultimately lead to their entry. Lewy (1978) states, America’s involvement in Vietnam began as early as 1950, with the Truman administration’s decision to establish the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Saigon, to provide financial aid to its ally France, whom at the time was seeking to regain influence in the Indochinese region which it had lost during the outcome of World War II (WWII). Following the French defeat in the battle of Diem Bien Phu in November, 1954 the U.S presence within Vietnam was furthered. As the French retreated and their interest in the Indochinese region decreased, The American’s took over the ‘advisory role’ from the French. As American influence and presence grew, the animosity of the nationalist Vietnamese grew correspondingly. Ultimately,

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in March of 1959, with Ho Chi Minh declaring the ‘People’s War’ to unite the torn nation of Vietnam, American involvement was culminated. From this point forward American involvement and military presence was only furthered with the increase of U.S combat troops and forces within Vietnam and with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964, which ultimately permitted the use of armed force on the behalf of the American’s and subsequently saw the arrival of American combat troops in March of 1965. Ultimately, Hobsbawm (1994) states that “the United States waged Ten years of war in Vietnam itself, until it was finally defeated and forced to withdraw in 1975, having dropped more high explosive on the unhappy country than had been used in the whole of the Second World War”. The U.S decision to become involved in Vietnam was a disastrous venture, that ultimately lead to an American defeat and disgrace. Herring, within his work “America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam” states that the venture would serve to be America’s longest lasting military presence and commitment, which not only cost the nation power, prestige and international reputation but also cost the U.S a national debt that was in increase of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American casualties. Such information attested to by Herring provides us with the insight that the war of Vietnam, and the U.S involvement was not one of strategy nor financial benefit, rather it was a decision made upon the American nation’s self interest, fear of communism and concern with prestige and power within international terms.

The question of whether the ‘cost’ of the war, both militarily and in casualties, was really worth it is one that often arises when the topic of American involvement in Vietnam is

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broached. Rostow (1998)within his Review Essay- McnNamara’s Vietnam War Recosidered states that, “Dean Rusk, Walter Rostow, Lee Kwan Yew, and many other geopoliticians across the globe to this day answer yes. They conclude that without U.S. intervention in Vietnam, communist hegemony—both...
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