Vietnam War—the War Option

Topics: Vietnam War, Lyndon B. Johnson, United States Pages: 6 (2093 words) Published: March 25, 2006
"Johnson had miscalculated: Even the richest and most powerful nation in the world could not do it all" (Turbulent Years: The 60s 36). Lyndon B. Johnson is a president torn to pieces by war. He glows in the passage of bills benefiting American society. He is someone who has suffered through an entire generation of rebellious teens. What impact did Johnson's foreign policies concerning Vietnam War have on American society? The Vietnam War really isn't a war. Congress never declared war and thus, it is constitutionally considered police action. The United States can have troops in an area for ninety days, but how ninety days became twelve long, bloody years is beyond even my knowledge. The war started in 1959, but U.S. involvement did not start until 1961. We withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, and it raged on for another two years. This was Vietnam's civil war, where 58,000 Americans lost their lives and Vietnam was lost to the Communists. If it hadn't been for the French-Indochina War, America might not have been so deeply involved in Vietnam. The area of Indochina, present-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, was taken away from France during the World War II and afterwards, they tried to get it back. France lured the U.S. into paying 80% of the costs used to fight Ho Chi Minh and Communist North Vietnam by the end of the French-Indochina War. Author Gini Holland said, "This ‘paying the costs' committed the United States financially, although not yet militarily, to the region" (Holland 41). So, when Vietnam was into their civil war, the U.S. felt the need to help South Vietnam. In addition to fighting Communism, the American soldiers faced the very devoted and hostile Vietcong, the pro-Communist guerilla force of South Vietnam. "It was in Southeast Asia that President Johnson ran into his greatest difficulties" (World Book "Johnson, Lyndon Baines"). He finished John F. Kennedy's term starting in 1963 and completed another term, ending his presidency in 1969. As many of us are, he was reluctant to get fully involved in the war. After ordering air strikes against North Vietnam in retaliation for U.S. ships being attacked by torpedoes, he stated, "We will seek no wider war" (Hargrove 69). Even though he did not want war, his peaceful policy concerning it was widely protested by the country. While there was a war in Vietnam, there were several wars at home, of which included Johnson's wars on poverty and racial segregation. Even before Johnson became president, he had visions of a perfect society (Turbulent Years 67). When he did become president, he pushed as many of those ideas through Congress as possible. For instance, several medical aid and civil rights bills went into Congress and were approved. This was the great achievement of Johnson's presidency. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War ate a lot of government money and some of the Great Society bills just couldn't get through because of money problems. "Guns and butter," Johnson said, "should both be funded by Congress" (Rubel 179). He was met with a lot of resistance because people rendered that idea impossible. It was obvious to everyone that the Great Society was much more important to Johnson than the Vietnam War. He was willing to leave the war to develop the Great Society, but by the time he voiced that feeling, he had pushed the war to a point of no return. Many ordinary Americans saw from the start that we could not possibly win Vietnam for the South Vietnamese. It was regarded as a "no-winner" (World Book Multimedia, 3). Even so, we supported South Vietnam with containment, which was the Cold War policy of keeping Communism within its borders, instead of trying to get rid of it. Unlike the Korean War, we fought to keep South Vietnam, but we did not fight to gain control of North Vietnam. Why did we go to war if we thought it was such a "no-winner?" The American people yielded to the war because of Johnson's weak cover-up explanations. For example, he stated in March of...

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Frazier, Thomas R., ed. Voices of America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1985.
Hargrove, Jim. Lyndon B. Johnson. Chicago: Children 's Press, 1987.

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