American Intervention in Vietnam

Although the Geneva agreements envisaged a united Vietnam, which would arise from free elections, such was not to be. Few months later, divisions occurred with the North gravitating towards communism and the south towards the US supported end to French influence, led by the anticommunist southern Vietnamese Ngo Dinh Diem (Varsori 84). Although Diem’s rule achieved a period of relative stability with Western backing, a push by the North Vietnamese, under the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong), for reunification of Vietnam in 1959, occasioned the start of a new phase of Vietnam conflict (Varsori 85). In 1960, the Viet Cong had already assumed control of many areas of South Vietnam such as Saigon. Accompanying such a development was also the onset of a civil war in Laos pitting pro-Western group and a “neutralist” group that received backing from local communist groupings and communist powers (Varsori 84).

Inability of the Diem’s regime to deal with the Viet Cong resulted into the criticism of continued support of the regime by the US back in America. However, the Kennedy administration remained committed to Diem regime culminating in the 1961 sending of General Maxwell Taylor to Vietnam (Varsori 90). On return, Taylor outlined a suggestion to enable Diem defeat the Viet Cong, a suggestion that proposed for increased presence of the US military in South Vietnam, a contravention of the earlier agreement, in Geneva, to limit foreign troops in Vietnam (Varsori 91). Although facing subtle resistance from their British allies, the increasing engagement of American military in South Vietnam had become a reality as a way to stop communist expansion by January 1962. Such engagement eventually turned into full-blown engagement that resulted into battles such as the Battle of Ap Bac in 1963, attack of US’s interests in South Vietnam by the Viet Cong in 1964, and Operation Flaming Dart bombardment authorized by President Johnson in 1965.

By the approach of the 1968 presidential elections, the prolonged war in Vietnam had elicited much criticism in the US and become a core topic for the presidential campaigns (Gould 7-12). In fact, the war was among the reasons for the failure of the incumbent, Johnson, to defend his position, and a core issue that perpetuated the campaigns for the eventual winner, Nixon, the candidate for the Republican Party (Small 515-516). However, Nixon had also to resign later as the president in 1974, a year that proved to be the bloodiest during the entire Vietnam War (Weist 10). In 1975, the North Vietnamese forces managed to capture the remaining South Vietnamese strongholds, including Saigon and Cambodia, marking the end of the war. Accordingly, the Vietnam war, although starting as a foreign policy seeking the advancement of the containment approach to deter communist expansion, ended as costly war whose implication were not only on US’s foreign policy, but also on the country’s internal affairs.

Works Cited

Gould, Lewis L. 1968: The Election That Changed America. 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Government Institutes, 2010. Web. 22 May 2012.

Small, Melvin, “The Election of 1968.” Diplomatic History 28.4 (2004): 513 – 528. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 May 2012.

Varsori, Antonio. “Britain and US Involvement in the Vietnam War during the Kennedy Administration, 1961-63.” Cold War History 3.2 (2003): 83-112. Web. Academic Search Complete. 18 August 2012.

Weist, Andrew. The Vietnam War: Essential Histories – War and Conflict in Modern Times. Illustr. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2008. Print.

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