Assess the reasons why American military intervention in Vietnam increased from 1954

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Assess the reasons why American military intervention in Vietnam increased from 1954.

Following the withdrawal of France from Indochina in 1954, the United States took on the mantle of preserving defending Western interests in Vietnam against the encroachment of communism.  Successive American Presidents took escalating steps towards a military solution to Vietnam’s problems, by the time of Lyndon Johnson the US had a significant military presence in the air and on the ground but still failed to resolve the challenge from North Korea and the Vietcong.

After the French, who were supported with US funds, had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 by the forces of the Vietminh, the Geneva Agreements led to the withdrawal of France and the division of Indochina into Laos, Cambodia and a North and South Vietnam divided by the 17 Parallel.  It was assumed that elections would be held after two years leading to the reunification of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader of North Vietnam was confident that he could take all of Vietnam.  The United States were not present at Geneva and did not accept the terms presented, though there was little they could do except give support to the South and ignore the issue of the forthcoming elections.  The USA were aware that Bao Dai, the Vietnamese Emperor ruling the South, would be incapable of presenting a valid alternative to Ho and encouraged the accession of Ngo Dinh Diem to lead the South.  In many respects, the US failed to understand the local context, the war against French colonialism was inspired by nationalist zeal and much of the later conflict was more motivated by removing foreign (i.e. US) influence as much as it was by communism.

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The first stage of intervention was financial rather than military, Eisenhower sought to provide assistance to Diem’s regime in order to enable South Vietnam to resist communist rebels and establish a model of Western order and prosperity from Saigon.  Between 1953 and 1957 over $1 billion of US economic and military aid poured into South Vietnam but Diem failed to achieve the hoped for stability.  Much of the problem rested with Diem himself, a vain and corrupt leader whose rule was characterised by nepotism, persecution of religious sects, bribery, corruption and a lack of reform.  The image of South ...

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