Two months ago, President Nixon announced the end of America’s involvement in Vietnam, promising “peace with honor.” This long and controversial war, its roots traceable back to the 1950s, is finally drawing to an end. America has lost more than fifty thousand men in this gruesome conflict, yet achieved little — in the end, despite all that America did to ensure South Vietnamese independence, the North Vietnamese military will be staying in the South under this agreement, and the withdrawal of American forces bodes ominously for the future of the feeble South Vietnam. There are many lessons to draw from this experience. The ideologies that lead us into this war, our decision to fight despite negative reaction from the South Vietnamese people, and the way we fought the war, are all issues that we can learn from.
Firstly, despite strong feelings that the public may have against Communism, our leaders should not overreact to Communism. Aggressions initiated by Communist leaders of small countries are often unrelated to any larger conspiracy. In Vietnam, just like in Korea twenty years ago, the Communist North’s invasion of the South was not a part of a grand Communist take-over scheme, but simply an attempt to unite a country. Nonetheless, President Johnson still decided to go to war with North Vietnam, to establish America’s strong stance on the worldwide fight against Communism. In addition, he worried that “if we let Communist aggression succeed in taking over South Vietnam there would follow in this country an endless national debate… that would shatter my presidency.” Initially, going to war was indeed a popular opinion; both the public and the Congress supported escalation. T...
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... only worse. On top of policy issues, bad military leadership on the field hindered the war effort. Officers spent six month with each of their units, not enough time to develop a close connection, and few higher officers fought on the field with their soldiers. Poor decision making lead to high casualties from friendly fire. Filled with dissatisfaction, soldiers wounded or even killed their officers. All these issues together make up a flawed military system in need of change.
The Vietnam War overall was a negative experience for America, but we can learn much from it. We must tone down our response to threats of Communism, be more aware of the feeling of people in our client countries, and bring reforms to our military system. With these lessons in mind, America in the future will be less aggressive, more responsive to other countries, and better prepared for war.
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