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American involvment in vietnam war

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Introduction

How can we explain America's involvement in the Vietnam War? To what extent did America get it "wrong, terribly wrong"? America's official explanation for its involvement in the Vietnam War was the containment of communism and the liberation of the Vietnamese people. As is usually the case when nations involve themselves in war, the reasons for it are not as simple as are made out. In this essay I will argue that the allied victory in World War 2, the Cold War, and the national image, all played a part in America's involvement in Vietnam. Robert McNamara, the then Secretary of Defence, wrote twenty years after the war "We were wrong, terribly wrong." So how did they get it wrong? The blanket answer is their failure to see that victory was highly unlikely and victory without massive cost was impossible. Repeated advice to that effect from their own military experts and others went unheeded. The history of the Vietnamese response to centuries of attack by other nations, the extent of their desire for independence and justice, and the grass-root support for the iconic Ho Chi Minh and his motivated resistance movement were not taken into account. I will show that these factors together with civil unrest at home and an unwillingness to lose face are why America got it terribly wrong. World War 2 ended in victory for allied forces with America emerging as a superpower. ...read more.

Middle

Buzzanco (1999, p.65) writes: one of his closest advisors, suggested that clean-cut success in Vietnam could erase the stain of the Bay of Pigs. In Saigon General Lionel McGarr, likewise noted the White House's strong determination to stop the deterioration of US prestige By the time of Kennedy's death in 1963, over 16,000 U.S. military 'advisors' were deployed in South Vietnam, against increasing strikes by the Viet Minh from within South Vietnam and from the North. Linden Johnson took over the presidency from Kennedy in 1963, and vowed to continue the policy of involvement in Vietnam. In the same year resistance in South Vietnam increased significantly so that by 1964 the possibility of the overthrow of the U.S. installed regime loomed large. Johnson responded with an escalation in U.S. involvement. By 1965, sustained, intensive bombing campaigns were being carried out on North Vietnam, and the number of American troops deployed in the South had risen to over 184,000, leaving thousands of American troops dead along with thousands of Vietnamese troops and civilians. This was despite the misgivings of leading senators who were agreed that: insofar as Vietnam is concerned we are deeply enmeshed in a place where we ought not to be; that the situation is rapidly going out of control and every effort should be made to extricate ourselves (Siff, 1999, p.40) The military also were against escalation. The Commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, General Westmoreland expressed strong reservations: Westmoreland was likewise reluctant to fight in Vietnam. ...read more.

Conclusion

Further, a lack of leadership conviction in the war caused by deep rifts in policy making and the direction it should take, inevitably filtered down through the chain of command to the white soldiers on the ground. Disillusionment in the cause for war, and exposure to the brutalities caused by it, hit morale hard, and drugs and alcohol use became rife among troops. Capps (1991, p.34) writes: What was experienced was the harshness of war: brutality, death, and atrocity without a comprehensive rationale to seal over the reality. The Vietnam War provided no transcendent meaning by which the national purpose could be interpreted American unwillingness to accept the prospect of defeat and loss of face continued after Johnson and throughout the Nixon presidency, keeping its troops in Vietnam until 1975. I have argued that the emergence of America from World War 2, as a superpower with aspirations of global expansion and a dedication to oppose Communism wherever it deemed fit, led to its involvement in Vietnam. A refusal to withdraw in the face of defeat, in order to maintain its image as a superpower in the eyes of the world, and in fear of the Communist threat, meant an involvement that lasted over two decades. The last thirteen years of it cost 58,000 American and at least 1.5 million Vietnamese lives, as well as the destruction of millions of acres of land. By misjudging the resources of the Vietnamese people, and disregarding the voice of its own people, the cost paid failed to achieve the aims for America's involvement and resulted in them getting it Wrong, terribly wrong. ...read more.

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