causes, effects and justification for Vietnam War

The causes, effects and justification of war are subjects that receive great attention and controversy in modern literature. Not lacking in such controversy, was Vietnam War whose import on American foreign policy and internal affairs has been significant. Although the war was taking place in Vietnam, the forces at play were beyond the issues affecting the South Vietnamese. At the background of the war were cold-war themes pitting communist and anticommunist agenda. This paper considers the events that led to the war, major conflicts during the war and the import of the war on the US foreign policy.

Antecedent of the Vietnam War

The antecedent to Vietnam War can be traced back to the cold-war era. Following the end of the Second World War, in 1945, the US started its rise into a superpower by contesting the Soviet-led push for global communism. With the Western European countries failing to lead such an anticommunism move, the US took the center stage when, in 1946, the US president, Harry Truman, voiced the US intent to “assist all free peoples against the threats of revolution and attack from without” (as cited in Weist 10). Following, such pronouncement, the policy of containment, mainly targeted at averting the increasing rise of Soviet Union as a global power was born.

Complicating the US clamor to contain Soviet expansion was the latter’s successful testing of its atomic bomb in 1949 (Weist 10). By implication, such success of the soviets meant that a full-blown war pitting the US and the soviet was inconceivable; both possessed weapons that would result into massive catastrophes on both sides. Evidence of increasing Soviet strength was also provided by the overran of China by Mao Zedong’s, a communist, forces in 1949 (Weist 10). With the soviet and China’s efforts reinforced by revolutionaries in South America and Africa, the budding supremacy of the US was threatened.

Such events occurred in the background of the World War II, which had seen the west European countries such as France relinquish their control over Asian colonies to the Japanese. Such retreat by the French had facilitated Japanese rule over the regions that eventually became Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos (Weist 10). The entry of the US in Vietnam at this stage was in support of a communist-gravitated, charismatic leader, Ho Chi Minh, of the Viet Minh, a nationalist group opposed to the Japanese rule (Weist 10). On defeat of the Japanese, Ho declared Vietnam’s independence, pegging his success on the support of the Americans. However, recovering from their earlier retreat, the French were not ready to give up the regions of Vietnam they once colonized (Weist 10). Faced with a decision to choose between a cold war, NATO –affiliated ally and a communist-gravitated leader, the US abandoned their support for Ho Chi. Ho Chi however launched prolonged guerilla warfare against the French, receiving support from communist China after the US abandonment (Weist 11).

Fueling America’s re-involvement in Vietnam was the 1950 Korean War. Although a different war and dissimilar in many ways, as evident later, the Korean War, at the time, appeared an aggressive expansionist program of the communist (Weist 11). Accordingly, if America failed to intervene in Vietnam, the perspective was that such would imply the end of the containment policy, giving war to expansion of communism (Weist 11). Accordingly, the newly elect US president, Dwight Eisenhower, in 1952 proclaimed: “the French in Vietnam are fighting the same war we are in Korea” (as cited in Weist 12). This marked the intent of the US to engage in Vietnam, a position it held even with the defeat of the French forces by the Viet Minh fighters, under the leadership of General Giap, a day before the pre-scheduled Geneva conference to discuss Vietnam situation.

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