Vietnam has a long history of political instability. However, this came into global attention during the fight against communism that tore the country into pieces. The war not only involved the Vietnamese but also a number of other states. The other states that were involved in this war were the United States of America, The Peoples Republic of China, France, and the Soviet Union. One could wonder why all these states were involved in a fight that paralyzed the economy of Vietnam.
Well, it was a war between communists and anticommunists with Vietnam as the battlefield. The World super powers used Vietnam as a stepping-stone to fight the spread of communism, which they believed, was worm dangerous to their economic stability. The War or rather conflict caused much pain not only to the people in Vietnam but also to the economic superpowers, the United States being one of them. The freedom of Vietnam from French colonialism stirred a number of events.
The impact of the war was a consequence of these events. The big question remains: was the fight against communism a success? Different historians have different opinions concerning this issue. This paper explores the events of the Vietnam conflict with respect to the support that an individual received that made Vietnam stick in war for twenty-one years.
Propagation of the war
After hundred years under French colonialism, it was time for freedom to the Vietnamese. In 1954, the world’s super powers held a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the matter. In this meeting, the delegates decided to divide Vietnam into two parts at the seventeenth parallel.
They also named the people who would lead the two parts. Ho Chi Minh was to lead the Northern part while Bao Dai was to lead the Southern part. They signed an agreement that there would be elections in 1956 for the Vietnamese to choose their leader in a democratic way.
The agreement however remained a dream in this country since it took so many years before any peaceful election could took place in Vietnam. It is important to mention that the two parts of Vietnam resulted from the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China pressure on the Vietnam delegates that attended the meeting. It is due to this reason that the delegates agreed to partition their country temporarily.
It was during this meeting when France and Vietnam signed the Geneva Peace Accord. The Northern part comprised of the communist society while the Southern region was made of anti-communists.
Martin Luther Jr. said that, “Communism is the positive abolition of private property, of human self alienation and thus the real appropriation of human nature through and for man. It is the resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man. Communism is the true solution of the conflict between existence and essence” (Dorros 346).
The single aspect led to enmity between the Northern and the Southern regions of Vietnam. At the time when the split occurred, both parts had an equal population of approximately sixteen million people (Brickham 6). The Secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, did not agree with the accord. It is because he thought that the Accord gave too much power to the communist society. His disagreement is responsible for all the events that constituted the fight from 1954 to 1975 in Vietnam.
The United States’ policy makers as well as most Americans compared communism to a very contagious disease. They regarded it as a vice and the antithesis of all nations. Owing to the state of the Vietnamese community from 1954-1956, the Americans acknowledged that if Vietnam held its elections in 1956 as proposed in the Peace Accord, Ho Chi Minh would be the Vietnamese leader.
It is important to mention that Chi Minh was a staunch communist and if he became the Vietnamese leader, he would lead masses to embrace communism. This propelled the Americans to come up with a way to stop the elections that were supposed to take place in 1956. Rotter attributes this to the fact that no American leader, especially Kennedy and Johnson, was ready to allow any country to embrace communism (Para. 5).
With the support of the Americans, Southern Vietnam carried out elections in 1955 whereby Diem became their leader. This led to the birth of South Vietnam or the Republic of Vietnam in the same year. It is imperative to note that Diem was a staunch anti-communist-just what the Americans were looking for. It did not take a long time before he came up with claims that the communists had started attacking his newly created government and that they wanted to take it forcefully.
Each of the parts had its own supporters. The Americans supported the newly created Republic of Vietnam while the Soviet Union and the Peoples’ Republic of China supported the communists in the Northern part of Vietnam. During that time, the Peoples Republic of China was under the leadership of Mao Zedong, a staunch communist. Minh, the leader of the Northern region initiated the training of the guerillas that went to the south to spread communism.
They were not using any force in this mission (Isaacs 124). They embarked on helping the people of the south anti-communists in their daily chores while persuading them to embrace communism. In 1957, Diem launched a military attack to the communists in the North. This occurred with military help from the United States. When things grew from bad to worse, the People’s Republic of China with assistance from the communist nations such as Russia trained the guerillas to become military fighters.
This was in an attempt to strengthen the communists’ fight against the anticommunists. Both groups in Vietnam had massive support from external forces. The war between the two groups had taken a different dimension where use of firearms against each other was the order of the day. Importantly, before Diem initiated the military war, the guerillas had achieved substantial influence over the rural communities in the Republic of Southern Vietnam.
This proved helpful because these people formed a movement that opposed the rule of Diem in the South. Between 1956 and 1960, this group held relentless fights against the leadership of Diem. Diem used this as a platform for more intensified fight to the communists. In 1959, the communists in their fight for the freedom of the south adopted more violent/brutal tactics.
The fight between the communists and the anti-communists continued with an alarming rate. Historians argue that towards the end of 1960, the communists had achieved substantial success since the anti-communists in the south were then engaging in a fight with the converts.
In December 1960, the communists in the south formed the National Liberation Front (NLF), which was open to anyone with the goal of opposing Diem. Consequently, the United States under the leadership of President Kennedy sent a team to Vietnam purposely to assess the strength of Southern Vietnam in the fight. In December 1961, the team compiled a report to the president, which they referred to as the White Paper.
According to this report, Southern Vietnam was in dire need of military, economical as well as technological help. Owing to their zeal to win this fight, the Americans acted or rather responded immediately. The US supplied military machinery and advisors to the anticommunists (Olson and Roberts 130). With this, Diem embarked on intensified military fight in the rural areas within his state.
This fight targeted Diem’s subjects who were communist converts. In retaliation, the communist community targeted the Southern Vietnamese leader as well as the American president. This led to the murder of Diem and his brother in November 1963 (Brigham Para.12). It also led to the assassination of the US president (Kennedy) on the streets of London three weeks after their death.
The murder of the three leaders made matters worse in Vietnam. The United States retaliated in full force. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson-the successor of Kennedy declared war to the communist community in Vietnam. In 1965, Lyndon authorized his military to fight the Northern communist society in Vietnam.
He also authorized the dispatch of 3,500 marines to Southern Vietnam. Sustained bombing of the US air force in Northern Vietnam marked the severity of the US attack on the communist society. The American leaders thought that this attack would grant them victory over the communists.
However, the communists did not rest until they had achieved their goal. They changed their tactics against the Americans. They engaged in a war that the US, with its military power, could not win. It had turned to a psychological war. They embarked on drawing attention of anti-war activists especially on the US. This was a successful move since the number of anti-war activists in the US grew substantially. It is important to mention that almost all the Americans felt the impact of the war.
It made the Chicago police to engage in protests against US intervention in the war against communism in Northern Vietnam. This led to a reduction in the number war volunteers in the US. The US had no other option other than to withdraw its attack on the Vietnamese. It is evident that psychological battles are more effective than military ones especially when fighting with a nation that has military and technological stability.
The war ended in 1975 when the National Liberation Front with the assistance of the North Vietnamese communists captured Saigon, the capital city of the Republic of Southern Vietnam (Brown 38). They began by evacuating all the Southern Vietnamese civilians as well as all Americans who were still living in that city. Historians say that this is the largest helicopter evacuation experienced in the world.
Thereafter, the Northern Vietnamese troops replaced the Southern Vietnamese flag in the presidential palace with theirs. The formal reunification of the Vietnamese under the communist rule began. The Northern Vietnamese named the Saigon city Ho Chi Minh City-after their staunch communist leader.
It is true that one man’s words/opinion caused a war that lasted for decades: a war that led to innocent bloodshed; a war that was not only military but also psychological; a war that led to the loss of a battle by a World’s supper power-the United States. John Foster Dulles by disagreeing with the Geneva Peace Accord stirred the war in Vietnam. His opinion and support for anticommunism made the Vietnamese to embark on a course to fight for communism.
It is because the Americans with the leadership of President Kennedy chose to support Dulles. To prevent the spread of communism in Vietnam, the Americans supported the Southern Vietnamese community in fighting the North. When the Americans realized the Northern Vietnamese were seemingly stronger that the Southern Vietnamese, they decided to give full support to the Vietnamese anticommunists. President Lyndon Johnson, the successor of Kennedy played a major role in intensifying the war in Vietnam.
The Northern Vietnamese on the other hand received massive assistance from communist nations. The American relentless efforts to support Dulles cost the US a lot yet they did not stop communism in Vietnam. Overall, by the time the Americans accepted defeat, Vietnam had suffered a lot.
Thousands of Vietnamese had already lost their lives and the conflict paralyzed Vietnamese economy. It is important to mention that though Vietnamese suffered immensely during the war, they were fighting for a worth course for their nation. Dulles opinion, which got a lot of support from the Americans, endangered Vietnamese economy as well as the community as exposited in this paper.
Brigham, Robert. Battle Field Vietnam. A Brief History of Vietnam, 1999. Web. 2 June 2011.
Brown, Weldon. The Last Chopper: The Denouement of the American Role in Vietnam. New York: Kennikat Press, 1976.
Dorros, Sybilla. “The People’s Republic of China.” Philippine Law Journal 51.6 (1976): 337-346.
Isaacs, Arnold. Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1938.
Olson, James, and Roberts, Randy. Where Domino Fell: America and Vietnam. New York: St. Martins Press, 1996.
Rotter, Andrew. The Causes of Vietnam War. Modern American Poetry, 1999. Web. 02 June 2011.