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Ho Chi Minh: Puppet or Leader?

By scorpiogd Dec 10, 2010 2093 Words
Ho Chi Minh:
Puppet or Leader?

United States presidents from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon were wrong to think that Ho Chi Minh and his followers were "puppets" to the Soviet Union or Chinese Communist. Many policies the Presidents made throughout the war proved that they never tried to see Ho Chi Minh as anything else but communist and were convinced that they had to do everything and anything to stop him from gaining any control over the country of Vietnam. The Vietnam War, specifically the United States aid to France, agreements at the Geneva Conference, and the election of 1956, are prime examples of how far American Presidential Administrations went to exclude themselves from their own Constitution to give themselves a blank check and continuous, unnecessary escalation for war. When I look at Communism I view it as a dictatorship, someone more or less trying to control the people of the country they have control over by putting fear in the eyes of the citizens and not allowing them to live a peaceful, independent life. With that said, yes, Ho claimed to be a Communist but I truly feel that his sole goal was to conquer the independence of the country of Vietnam from forces trying to control it and give it back to his people, basically saying that Ho was a nationalist and communism was simply the most effective way to carry out his tasks. He followed the way of what the Trung Sisters wanted Vietnam to be and did everything in his power to give the “What it is to be Vietnamese” outlook to his people. The United States would view his ideology as only communism, arguing that nationalism was just a maneuver. United States involvement in Vietnam occurred within and because of the larger context of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Immediately after World War II, tensions between the United States and USSR escalated. Ho needed the help from the Soviet Union to follow out his goals for Vietnam. He obviously was not their puppet; the Soviet Union helped fund the war for the Vietminh with supplies and ammunition but half the time they made empty promises of what they would do to help. Truman feared that if Ho were to win the war, with his ties to the Soviet Union, he would establish a “puppet” state and the Soviets would ultimately control Vietnamese affairs. (New World Encyclopedia) The Vietminh were not very militarily effective in the beginning of the war and only really harassed the French troops. China gained control over the northern borders which allowed unlimited support in terms of weapons and supplies to the Vietminh which transformed itself into a conventional army between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union. (29) The idea of communist domination in Southeast Asia was all the United States needed to support France in containing communism. Gaining help from USSR and China was all Ho could do to regain Vietnamese independence. He was looking for the bigger picture and if letters from him would have been answered then the thought process of him and a communist puppet would have never existed, nor would the assumption of the domino theory. It was completely and utterly wrong, immature, foolish, and rude for President Truman to ignore the many letters Ho Chi Minh sent to him in 1945. How as the president of the most powerful country in the world just get handed letters over and over and continuously set them aside and allowed them to go unnoticed. Ho Chi Minh wrote eight letters to President Truman reminding him of the self-determination promises of the Atlantic Charter. He even sent one to the United Nations. (Zinn) Within one of the letters that Ho Chi Minh sent he offered a deep-water port in Cam Ranh Bay to be used as a military port, but still the letters were ignored. For years, Ho had tried to court the United States to support him against the French, including supplying the U.S. with military intelligence about the Japanese during World War II. Whatever hopes Ho had for securing American assistance died in anticommunist paranoia. (20) The communism is not a disease; it’s not like if you kiss someone communist you therefore become communist. This unfortunately is the ridiculous theory that Eisenhower came up with about countries trickling from one communist country to surrounding countries, to next thing having the entire world plagued with communism. After the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Eisenhower gave a speech that would become a famous and important outline of United States Cold War policy. Eisenhower stated that the United States needed to contain the USSR at all locations for its neighbors to not become Communist. The theory was coined the domino theory. The Nationalist government of China fell to the Communist forces of Mao Zedong and this started to put the United States into deep paranoia and fear that Communists would take over the world and might even be plotting secret operations in the United States. The U.S. policy makers began to see Vietnam as extremely important. If Vietnam was to be a united nation with Ho Chi Minh as its leader and become a communist country then in logic to the domino theory all of Indochina would fall and maybe even Southeast Asian countries to communism. I don’t believe that the small country of Vietnam, who was just trying to gain recognition as an independent country had that much power over its surrounding countries or even of the entire world. The popularity of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh in both Northern and Southern Vietnam had U.S. leaders in fear that the free elections promised at the Geneva Conference to occur in 1956, would result in a unified, Communist Vietnam. (SparkNotes Editors) After WWII, President Truman set up, what I think, was a fair plan to stop colonialism throughout the world. In his State of the Union speech in October 1945, he stated that he believed 1) in the eventual return of sovereign rights and self-government to all peoples who have been deprived of them by force, 2) that all peoples who are prepared for self-government should be permitted to choose their own form of government by their own freely expressed choice, without interference from any foreign source, 3) the United States will refuse to recognize any government imposed upon any nation by the force of any foreign power. (Pamphlet No. 4, PILLARS OF PEACE) These are just some of the points within the twelve stated. Unfortunately, none of these points were actually followed by the President, himself, or the United States. These points were supposed to end colonialism throughout the world after World War II, but when France asked the United States for help to continue their control and reign over Indochina, President Truman went very willing. Fear of communism was in his eyes and with the help of the USSR to Vietnam he didn’t believe that there was any other way. In May 1950, President Truman announced his decision to supply $15 million in military assistance to Indochina, but realistically just to French troops, to fight the Vietminh. (29) In order for France to fight this war without it looking like it was to gain control over a colony that they have already been fighting for, they defined it as a fight against Communism instead of a colonial war. Ho hated the French for what they had done to his country, but also hated the elite Vietnamese who enriched themselves at the expense of the poor peasants. The Vietnamese people were broken under French rule both prior to WWII and after. Truman in one week sent an abundance of supplies to the French and continued to do so for the next four years. Throughout the aids exceeding number of ammunition, weapons, tanks and other supplies were sent to both the French and Vietminh from the US and USSR and China. This resulted in the battle of Dienbienphu. In 1954, the French planned on overtaking the outpost of Dienbienphu in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Their idea was to take post in the center on these mountains and lure the Vietminh in. The Vietminh saw this strategy a mile away. They moved 40, 000 troops up into the mountains and conquered this territory. Even though there were more Vietnamese casualties than French, they had military brilliance and were more willing to a higher death toll then their enemies. (SparkNotes Editors) The victory over the French at Dienbienphu had demonstrated the triumph of Ho’s nationalism. (46) And the United States would later learn that no matter what is handed to the Vietminh they were going to fight to the death for the independence of their country. I believe and have also heard and even read that if the election of 1956 had been held that possibly eighty percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bao Dai. In April 1954, the world's powers had met at Geneva to discuss Vietnam. Many arguments can be presented for the escalation of the war. One reason is the failure of the United States to adhere to provisions in the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference on the Problem of Restoring Peace in Indo-China. In July 1954, it was decided to divide the country in two at the 17th parallel. Bao Dai was to lead the south and Ho Chi Minh the north. The meeting also decided that in 1956 there would be an election in both the north and south to decide who would rule the whole country. The election would be supervised by neutral countries. This election did not take place and the split had become permanent by 1956. Ho Chi Minh was very liked by a great majority of the people in both North and South Vietnam and Boa Dai was just a puppet to the United States to carry out their commands and also was controlled very much by the corrupt madman Ngo Dinh Diem. (Simkin) The United States and Diem refused to allow the 1956 elections to happen. Diem stated that it would only be a meaningful election on the condition that it was absolutely free. No communist was going to be democratically elected if the US had anything to say about it. All not allowing this election did was set the course of escalation to the war further in motion. I do not understand why we even needed to get involved. As Americans we believe in the right to vote and free election, that is exactly what Ho Chi Minh wanted but was denied by us, a democratic country. ( The Vietnam was an unnecessary war because of the way America handled it. The countries or nations involved had nothing to with the United States and we were supposed to take a neutral role. When we didn’t stay neutral the USSR and China stepped in and also helped. In America’s eyes that was only to spread communism, but truthfully we were no better and had every opportunity to stop this war and not allow it to escalate as it did with our help. “Vietnamese history is the history of defense by outsiders and resistance to occupation when outsiders were temporarily successful.”

References:, “Educational, Entertainment, and Research Material Relevant to the Study of the Vietnam War”

Simkin, John (BA, MA, MPhil) “Vietnam War”

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Vietnam War (1945–1975).” SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web. 28 Oct. 2010.

Pamphlet No. 4, PILLARS OF PEACE.“PRESIDENT TRUMAN'S NAVY DAY ADDRESS: An excerpt dealing with Four Military Tasks and the Fundamentals of Foreign Policy, October 27, 1945.” pages 136 and 137, Published by the Book Department, Army Information School, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., May 1946, “The American involvement in Vietnam”, 2003 - 2007. Web. 20 Oct. 2007.

Zinn, Howard. “The Impossible Victory: Vietnam excerpted from a People's History of the United States”

New World Encyclopedia “Indochina_War_(1946-54)” Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2007

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