The Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War

From the outset, the Vietnam War manifested itself as a conflict that could only be settled by prolonged engagement. Because the war was fundamentally an ideological struggle between the democratic, capitalist United States and the Communist bloc of the U.S.S.R. and China, the strategy formulated by both democratic and communist advisory forces in North and South Vietnam conformed to accepted Cold War military practices. However, while initially similar to the war in Korea, the war in Vietnam soon outgrew and exceeded the expectations of U.S. strategists, evolving into one the longest and most bitterly contested campaigns in U.S. history. The reasons for this relative loss of control on the part of the American executors of the war were manifold, but perhaps the most influential forces can be attributed, firstly, to the obduracy of the North Vietnamese and their allies in the South in the face of perceived American imperialism and, secondly, to the respective international policies of five successive American presidents in regards to U.S. military action in Vietnam and neighboring Laos and Cambodia. In the following essay I will provide a relatively brief but concise outline of the ways in which these distinct yet interrelated factors contributed to a protracted U.S. military presence in Vietnam.

To begin, the North Vietnamese communist represented a new wave of Vietnamese nationalists and freedom fighters. Since the earliest days of French colonial occupation, the Vietnamese people had struggled to free themselves from Western oppression. As a result, prominent leaders such as Ho Chi Minh had inherited and adopted the spirit of nationalism from earlier leaders such as Phan Chu Trinh and Phan Boi Chau...

... middle of paper ... it would; the primary difference, then, was that by 1975 the majority of Americans in both political and civilian life no longer really cared. More concerned with the fact that the war was over and that Americans were no longer dying on foreign soil, the fate of South Vietnam and the fear instilled by Dulles’s domino theory were no longer of moment for most Americans. Vietnam was left to the Communists, and with it went the source of incredible social ferment and dissent. One is left with only one question: was it really worth it?

Works Cited

- Hendrickson, Paul. The Living and the Dead. New York: Vintage Books, 1996.

- Le Ly Hayslip and Jay Wurts. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places. New York:

Plume, 1989.

- Robert J. McMahon, ed. Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War. New

York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

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