The Vietnam War
As a prevention measure under the containment strategy, the American government was keen to prevent spread of communism by the Soviet Union. This resulted into America’s involvement in prevention of southern Vietnam occupation by the communist held north. The war lasted eleven years between 1964 and 1975. It took place in South Vietnam, regions of Cambodia and Laos borders as well as the air space of northern Vietnam (Murray, 2005). The anti-communist forces were supporting the south led by America together with it allies Australia, Britain, Australia and South Korea. The pro-communist forces were backed militarily by the Soviet Union and constituted of the Democratic republic of Vietnam and the national liberation front. The Second World War witnessed the occupation of France by Germany thus weakening France’s colonial hold on Indochina (Vietnam and Cambodia). This gave root to the emergence of a liberal government that denounced France’s rule and declared Vietnam as a free state. After the defeat Germany, France came back and reasserted its rule driving the pro-government supporters up north (Kutler, 1996). The government operating while France was away had communistic tendencies and on requesting America’s help, it was declined. Instead, America supported the French army and 1954 saw the declaration of a divided Vietnam under the Geneva accord. The domino theory made America keener on South Vietnam since the establishment of communism in north Vietnam left the whole of eastern Asia susceptible.
The war attracted extensive critique and opposition especially with ground troop deployment in 1965. The first reason for the opposition was the high troop deployment and consequently causalities. Additionally the war required a substantial economic commitment to sustain it since the south was poorly empowered. The war at its peak cost the American government 3billion dollars a month and triggered the credibility gap that marked the difference. The Cultural Revolution in America was key in escalating the opposition since the baby boomers were now in their youth while there were other revolutionary movements such as the civil rights by Martin Luther (Murray, 2005). Drafting into the war was biased from the civil rights movements where the poorer and less educated youth from low class communities received most of the drafting.
The involvement of the troops was heart felt by the youth and resulted into widespread protest and opposition the discrete nature of government decisions regarding the war left room for speculations most which were unfounded. This was confounded by the human right allegations against the American forces due to excessive use of military power and the massacre allegations leveled against the troops and air strikes (Kutler, 1996). The use of chemical agents such as the infamous Agent Orange had detrimental effects on the vegetation and the civilians that persisted in the following decades. Towards the end of the war in the 1970’s there was deteriorating morale in the soldiers to the point fragging incidents increased in frequency.
The growing resentment toward the war shaped the political landscape in America with President Nixon being elected due to his promise to Vietnamize the war and withdraw American troops. The reason for withdrawal was primarily the growing public opposition due to the fatalities, causalities and economic costs. The Cambodian incursion triggered massive rallies and protests in addition to the discretionary manner in which it was carried out. It was the result of the harbor for training and supplies Cambodian territory provided to the North Vietnamese communist backed forces. On November 1969, the American nation witnessed its largest antiwar protest where more than 250,000 people gathered to protest the war in Vietnam. President’s Nixon decision to bomb Cambodia and keep it a secret angered the American people. The fragility of South Vietnamese made the pulling out slower since the North communist forces would take advantage of decreased personnel and occupy more land. This made President Nixon look for alternative ways of ending the conflict that were more diplomatic.
The war left a legacy of questions and regrets. The questions were from the lessons learned where the effectiveness of American military strategizing emerged in doubt. For instance, the American military miscalculated the effectiveness of air strikes in coercing enemy forces to diplomatic terms (Murray, 2005). The Americans over relied on their political might and did not take time to understand the allies and the enemies as a precaution. In addition, political will surfaced as important and decisive in winning any war where the American population held a slothful attitude towards the war and could not compliment the military might to win the war. The drug problem among American soldiers had increased to high levels and most of the soldiers were timeservers looking forward to completing their terms. The environmental abuse is a legacy of the war persisting to date where the wide spread of chemical defoliants poisoned the food chain and resulted to abnormal births. Additionally, the media capitalized in the war in from of movie and film productions in attempts to create heroic figures and narrate the experiences of the veterans.
The American people were transformed by the Vietnamese war where there was a general shift toward peace and demilitarization of foreign policies. More over there has been general distrust of the government and its leaders since President’s Johnson credibility gap as shown by the papers from the defense department (Kutler, 1996). The secretly leaked papers showed the president had misled the public regarding the progress of the war and America’s involvement. The American public gave a cold welcome to the soldiers from the war and illustrated a misconception regarding the responsibility of the wartime events.
Kutler, S. I. (1996). In Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Murray, S. (2005). In Vietnam War. New York: DK Pub.