An Essay On The Causes Of The Vietnam War Sydney Grammar School, History Class Essay

1322 words - 6 pages

The Vietnam war was fought predominantly between communist North Vietnam and South Vietnam with enormous support from the U.S who had solidified their role as the international protectors for liberalism in the west. It was caused by a drastic miscalculation of the shifting geopolitical landscape in Southeast Asia. The U.S should have perceived this as the necessary end of colonialism in the region. However, their perspective was marred by a Cold War mindset that believed communism, working in President Eisenhower’s unproven ‘domino theory’ was the greatest threat to liberalism in the democratic West. This essay will assess the logic of U.S involvement in the region from the politics surrounding split of the country at the 17th parallel, to their involvement and ultimate failure in the conflict. It will also address the role North Vietnam in its struggle for national unification, especially their charismatic leader Ho Chi Minh and his relationship to major powers.
The main cause of the conflict was the increasing involvement of the U.S in South Vietnam, which stemmed from their fear of communism spreading from the east to threaten liberalism. America feared that if Vietnam was given independence from French colonial rule that they and France would, “fall into the Russian orbit.”[footnoteRef:1] Concerns that were exacerbated by Mao Zedong’s communist revolution in China, which President Truman was blamed for ‘losing.’ The government believed firmly in Eisenhower’s untested notion of, “the falling domino principle,” which Leslie Gelb describes, “everyone understood that in and of itself Vietnam didn’t mean much…but if we lost it that the rest of Asia would tumble to Communism.”[footnoteRef:2] A. Peter Dewey, a member of the first OSS advisors sent to Vietnam argued against intervention remarking, “Vietnam is burning…the French and British are finished here…the U.S ought to clear out of Southeast Asia,”[footnoteRef:3] Senator John. F Kennedy also warned it would be a, “foredoomed failure.”[footnoteRef:4] Despite this Cold War fear clouded the logic of decision making. This is most evident in the Gulf of Tonkin incident (1964) when reports claimed the U.S Maddox had been torpedoed by the North. Still lacking clarity about what had actually occurred congress passed a hasty resolution allowing President Johnson to, “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against US forces and to prevent further aggression.”[footnoteRef:5] This was the culmination of American misjudgment as it led to a blank cheque for military intervention that began with the implementation bombing campaign ‘operation rolling thunder’ and troops on the ground. [1: “Google Privacy Policy” Last modified: December 18, 2017.] [2: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick The Vietnam War, episode 1, (WETA-TV, Florentine Films, September 17, 2017)] [3: ,”Google Privacy Policy” Last modified: December 18, 20...


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