American Involvement In Vietnam, 1968.

American

Involvement In Vietnam, 1968.

Many people wonder how the Americans managed
to become involved in a war 10,000 miles away from their native continent,
but the initial reasons for U.S. involvement in Vietnam seemed logical
and compelling to American leaders. Following its success in World War

II, the United States faced the future with confidence. From George Washington's
perspective, the threat to U.S. security and world peace was communism
emanating from the Soviet Union. Any communist anywhere, at home or abroad
was, by definition, and enemy of the United States. With the unsuccessful
appeasement of fascist dictators before World War II, the Truman administration
believed that the United States and its allies must meet any sign of communist
aggression quickly and forcefully. This was known as containment.

In Vietnam the target of containment was

Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh front he had created in 1941. Ho Chi Minh
was a communist with long-standing connections to the Soviet Union. He
was also a Vietnamese nationalist who fought first to rid their country
of the Japanese and then, after 1945, to stop France from establishing
its former leadership of Vietnam and the rest of Indochina. Truman and
other American leaders, having no sympathy for colonialism, favoured Vietnamese
independence. But expanding communist control of Eastern Europe and the
triumph of the communists in China made France's war against Ho Chi Minh
seem anticommunist. When France agreed to an independent Vietnam under

Bao Dai as an alternative to Ho's DRV, the United States decided to support
the French position.

In 1949, China became a communist state,
and the stability of Japan became prime importance to Washington. The outbreak
of war in Korea in 1950 served primarily to confirm Washington's belief
that communist aggression posed a great danger to Asia. Truman having "lost"

China and settling for a stalemate in Korea caused succeeding presidents
to fear the domestic political consequences if they "lost" Vietnam. This
apprehension (an overestimation of American power, and also an underestimation
of Vietnamese communist strength) locked America into a firm anticommunist
stand in Vietnam.

Because America failed to appreciate the
effort that would be required to exert influence on Vietnam's structure,
the course of American policy led to an escalation of U.S. involvement.

President Eisenhower increased the level of aid to the French but continued
to avoid military conflict, even when the French experienced defeat at

Dien Bien Phu in early 1954. Afterwards, an international conference at

Geneva arranged a cease-fire and a North-South partition of Vietnam to
be made at the 17th parallel until elections could be held. The United

States was not happy with the Geneva Agreements and began to side with

South Vietnam's president Ngo Dinh Diem, who resisted holding an election
on the reunification of Vietnam in October 1955. Over $1 billion of U.S.
aid was given between 1955 and 1961, but the South Vietnamese economy deteriorated.

Nation building was failing, and in 1960 communists in North Vietnam created
the National Liberation Front (NLG) or Vietcong as its enemies called it,
to challenge the Diem regime. America introduced the 'Strategic hamlet
programme, moving South Vietnamese peasants from their homes to build guarded
camps to be protected from the NLF. This strategy failed, as the South

Vietnamese found themselves being forced to build camps against the NLF
who did not threaten them.

President John F. Kennedy, along with his
predecessor's, believed in the domino theory and also that the U.S. anticommunist
commitment around the world was (in 1961) in danger. To counter this he
had tripled American aid to South Vietnam by 1963, giving money to recruit

20,000 more troops in S. Vietnam and expanding the number of military advisers
to over 12,000. Diem government still failed to show any progress (economic
or political). Buddhists, spiritual leaders of the majority of Vietnamese,
staged dramatic protests, including self-immolation (to sacrifice ones
self) against the dictatorship of Diem. Finally, after receiving an assurance
of non-interference from the U.S. officials, South Vietnamese military
officers conducted an operation that murdered Diem and his brother also.

Whether these developments would have led Kennedy to alter U.S. involvement
in Vietnam is unknown, since Kennedy himself was assassinated three weeks
later.

Diem's death left a hole in South Vietnams
leadership. With a presidential election approaching, President Johnson
did not want to be saddled with the charge of having lost Vietnam. On the
other hand, an increase in the U.S. responsibility for the war against
the Vietcong and North Vietnam would slow resources from Johnson's ambitious
and domestic program. A larger presence in Vietnam would increase risk
of a military conflict with China. Soon, America alleged that North Vietnamese
boats had conducted attacks on U.S. Navy vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin
in mid 1964. This prompted Johnson to authorise small scale bombing raids
on