Ridiculous Reasons behind the Vietnam War
The Misguided Decisions and Thought Process That Brought about the Vietnam War
In retrospect, the Vietnam War was an exercise in futility. Costly in both lives and resources, it did not benefit either the United States or their war against communism in any way. Instead, it became a symbol of defeat for America.
Today, it serves as an example of how US interventionism for the sake of containment during the Cold War caused so many lives to be lost, while forever changing the perspective of the American people toward their government. The United States’ involvement in the post-WWII governments of Southeast Asia was disastrous, to say the least, resulting in the current division, armistice, and heightened tensions of North and South Korea, the displacement and diaspora of the Hmong people of Laos, the destabilization of the Cambodian government that led to the Cambodian genocide by the Khmer Rouge, and of course, the aftereffects of the Vietnam War stateside and in Vietnam.
The ideological differences between the post–World War II superpowers of the United States of America and the Soviet Union resulted in the Cold War, which led the United States to impose the theory of containment where they pledged to aid any country fighting against communism. Unfortunately, this single-minded focus on defeating the spread of communism blinded the United States to reason and led them to fight a war when the Viet Minh (communist guerrilla rebels from South Vietnam) and the Northern communist government of Vietnam were not really fighting for communism but only wanted to reunite their country after the split of the first Indochina War.
Fearing a domino effect, the then president of the United States Dwight Eisenhower argued that if one country fell to communism, then all the surrounding countries would follow. This was famously backed by then senator John F. Kennedy who said that the countries of Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines, Laos, and Cambodia would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam. This fear would not come to fruition, however, as evidenced by the failure of communism to take hold of these countries after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 (with the exception of Laos and Cambodia, but that is another story altogether).
The failure of the US policymakers at that time was that it failed to take into account the fact that the goal of the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong was limited to the Vietnamese independence from colonial powers or that Ho Chi Minh was not a pawn of the USSR or Communist China but was loyal to the Vietnamese people.
It was in the ignorance of the history of Vietnam and its culture that lead to the misinterpretation of the motives of the Viet Minh guerrillas of Southern Vietnam. The insurgency against the Southern Vietnamese government in Saigon (led by a Catholic leader) was purely the initiative of the Viet Minh and was not because of any instruction or dictate from Hanoi. It wasn’t until 1960 that the Communist Party of Northern Vietnam gave its blessing for the liberation of the south from American imperialism and the Diem presidency that mirrored what the French did to the country during their colonization.
Though there are so many other factors that brought on the Vietnam War, the fact is that it was the involvement and interventionism without proper understanding of the country and its culture was the main cause. That lack of information is a failure in itself. Unfortunately, even until now, history is repeating itself with Afghanistan and Syria. When will our policymakers cease in sending our troops to die on foreign soil? Will we finally prevail or will we suffer defeat again? Only time will tell.
Wikipedia. 2017. “Vietnam War.” Last modified February 20, 2017. Accessed on February 20. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War.
Wikipedia. 2017. “Domino Theory.” Last modified February 7, 2017. Accessed on February 20. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domino_theory.