1. The French were involved in a war of Indochina prior to the American involvement. Trace the causes of this conflict and describe the key events and general course of the French Indochina War.
Traditionally, the First Indochina war started in the French Indochina in 1946 and ended in 1954. The war was a fighting or conflict between forces from France and their Viet Minh opponents. Numerous factors were involved in the conflict including the French Far East Expeditionary Corps from the French Union led by France. The Vietnamese national army supported the French against the Viet Minh whose leaders were Vo Nguyen Giap and Ho Chi Minh. The large part of this conflict occurred in the northern region of Vietnam called Tonkin, although the fighting engulfed the rest of the nation, spreading to the protectorates of the French Indochina in Cambodia and Laos (Young, 1991).
After the French reoccupation in Indochina after the Second World War, the region being in control of the Japanese, the Viet Minh started a protest or rebellion against the French authority that was in control of a number of French colonies in Indochina. The few initial years of the conflict involved rural uprising that was increasingly low key against the French. Nevertheless, after the communists from China arrived in the Vietnamese northern border in 1949, the fighting took another turn and became a conventional war between two forces that were armed with modern weapons (Jian, 1993).
The forces of the French Union included several forces from the rest of the former empire including Tunisia, Algeria, Laotian, Moroccan, Vietnamese, and Cambodian ethnic minorities. While the plan of pushing the troops of Viet Minh into launching a war on the excellently defended base was validated, the lack of materials for construction, air cover, and tanks prevented an effective defense, leading to a decisive defeat of the French forces. The Geneva conference made a provisional decision to divide Vietnam into two regions, the north, and south. The northern region was the Vietnam democratic republic under Ho Chi Minh, and the south was the Vietnam state under Bao Dai (Jian, 1993).
2. Explain how the American involvement in Vietnam was a consequence of the Cold War, including how the Truman Doctrine was related to initial U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Anticommunist sentiments in the United States were the main factors elucidating on the participation of the U.S. in Vietnam. First, America believed that overt aggression from the communists in Asia posed a significant and direct threat to its interests in the continent. It is clear that Indochina was the main region in Asia challenged by the presence and aggression of the communists. As a result, the decision of 1950 to provide direct help to the region was a crucial policy choice allowing and accepting the responsibility of the United States in preventing the hegemony of communists in the Asia. This direction of the policy was subsequently concentrated on in the following years, first by the Korean War and then by the escalations between Kennedy and Johnson during the 1960s (Gettleman et al., 1995).
It was also applied and used to both the expansible powers of the communists. Concerning China, the United States was directly worried about its involvement in regions as Korea because it feared that such an attack would determine the involvement of the Chinese in Indochina. Furthermore, when it came to the Soviet Union, the United States feared the Russians were keen on attaining domination over the world. All these fears are what led to the crucial policy paper NSC 68 that urged for a sufficient military protection or shield to curb the expansion and growth of the Soviet Union and stop the aggressive actions that where directed by the Soviet Union. Consequently, the paper policy was crucial as it represented the practical extension of the Doctrines by Truman (Gettleman, et al., 1995).
Other than the importance of foreign political aspects as critical determinants of the involvement of America in Vietnam, the factors like its domestic situation were also crucial. First, the McCarthyism wave had swept through the nation during the 1950s. This trend depended on the argument that the U.S. had suffered numerous failures during the Cold War, not because of limitations of power, but through the significant presence of communist voices in its government, an accusation equal to treason. Because of this, the administration had to take actions to defend itself from allegations of being too weak to fight communism. Furthermore, the Truman administration experienced a lot of pressure to come up with policies that would prove its resolve of anticommunism. Such policies included containment that would favor an unwavering stance in Indochina to stop the expansion of Communism (McCormick, 1989).
3. Describe the rise of Diema to power, his conduct as a leader of South Vietnam, and his demise.
The first South Vietnamese president or leader was called Diem. After the wake of defeat and withdrawal of the French from Indochina because of the accords of a Geneva conference in 1954, the leader led a crucial effort to build the Vietnam republic. The leader achieved victory during the 1955 plebiscite that was increasingly deceitful after accumulating considerable support from the United States because of his strong anti- communism ideologies. He was a Roman catholic, and because of this, he pursued policies that were religiously oppressive and biased against the Montgnard natives and its majority components of Buddhists. However, his policies were widely challenged and met with protests. Amid the numerous religious protests and disagreements that caught the attention of the whole world, the leader lost the support of the American patrons (Jacobs, 2006).
He was assassinated together with his brother. Their killer was an aide of Duong van Minh a general of the ARVN called Nguyenn Van Nhung. He was killed during a coup in 1963 that deposed his administration. As the crisis with the Buddhists increased in 1963, Vietnamese nationalists who were non-communist and the military started to get ready for a coup. Minh and his supporters overthrew Diem’s government in a quick coup. With only the palace guard staying to protect the leader and his brother, the organizers of the coup called to the palace asking the leader to surrender in exchange for exile. However, Diem and a number of his close allies escaped to Cholon where they were captured. The two brothers were killed in the back of a personal carrier by the captain with orders from their leader, Minh (Jacobs, 2006).
4. Was Ho Chi Minh more of a nationalist that a communist? Explain your response by citing historical evidence that supports your claim.
Many people in the U.S. strongly believe that Ho Chi Minh was a staunch communist. The public was flooded with tales of the leader’s visit to China and Russia. There were stories of how the communist support for him was used to take over and establish a stronghold of the communists in the southeastern part of Asia. However, many individuals fail to hear the rest of the information (Chafe, 1986). Under his leadership, Vietnam had some sort of support and an alliance with the U.S. during the Second World War the Japanese, was their common enemy and gave them a common ground where the communists provided support to the dismissal of another outside invader. After the war ended, the leader set up structures in the government in the country assuming that the country would go back to being a sovereign state (Demma, 1989).
The leader himself made several overtures to America and other nations for support as he sought independence for his country. Even the declaration of Vietnam of independence showed the nationalist views of Minh. He realized that America was not going to provide him support for independence, so as a pragmatist, he turned to China and Russia for support. As it follows, he walked a thin line between being a communist and nationalist, and played the three countries without letting go of his independence. Many believe that his ability was a crucial indication of his diplomacy. On the other side of this equation, the leader was a thorough and true communist. He breathed and lived ideologies of communists and was ruthless when it came to attaining them. Many think that he was a contradiction of his ideologies. He was known as an ultimate nationalist and an excellent communist leader (Demma, 1989).
5. In what ways was Johnson’s escalation of the American involvement in Vietnam a continuation of Kennedy’s policies? In what ways, if any, were Johnson’s decisions related to Vietnam a departure from Kennedy’s policies?
Johnson’s escalation of the involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam was not a continuation of the policies of Kennedy. As Johnson took over the presidency after Kennedy died, at first he did not consider Vietnam a priority and emphasized on the creation of his Great Society and social programs that would result to social progression. However, his priorities soon changed when he declared war against communism in 1963. This declaration came when Vietnam was deteriorating particularly after the coup that led to the death of Diem. Johnson reversed the disengagement policy by Kennedy from the region by withdrawing a thousand troops with his NSAM to accentuate the war. Johnson saw the Vietnam War as a way to appease his personal coalitional corporate base of power and to make use of the patriotism tide to falsify a consensus in the domestic arena to make way for his personal policies (Schandler, 1977).
When it came to the military goals, Johnson wanted to stop the spread of communism ideas from China, and that together with the war’s gradual escalation could be won without the approval of the international forces. He depended on the ideology that a slow war escalation could keep people from developing an interest in Vietnam. Furthermore, the gradual escalation would maintain the Chinese and Soviet Union from declaring war against America. He made crucial miscalculations by choosing to escalate the American intervention in Vietnam. He used a lot of funds to fight in a war that he could not win. Kennedy had different policies from Johnson regarding Vietnam in a number of areas. For example, he did not rely on American resources to win the war in Vietnam, unlike Johnson. His policy towards Vietnam depended on the assumption that the forces of Diem would ultimately defeat the Vietnamese guerrillas without the involvement of the U.S. He did not support the deployment of American forces because he knew doing so would lead to widespread negative political and military effects. This is different from Johnson who deployed a significant number of American troops in Vietnam (Schandler, 1977).
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