Archive for U.S. Involvement in Vietnam

The Victory That Never Was

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History with tags , , , , on October 10, 2011 by Ian Pham

The Vietnam War.  Arguably the most controversial conflict that America had ever gotten herself into.  The outcome of the war should be no secret to anybody, we lost, big time.  From the American entrance into Vietnam in 1963 to their humiliating exit in 1972, the United States had been fighting a losing war, or so they thought.  Many in the U.S. during this era called Vietnam a quagmire, a lost cause, a war that can’t be won.  These kinds of descriptions have convinced us for decades that by moving into Vietnam, the U.S. was hurling itself into impending doom.  However, a stark contrast arises from what the media falsely described and what actually went on in the front lines.

Despite what historians, analysts, and the media have claimed for the past five decades, the Vietnam War was not an impossible war.  The U.S. had many opportunities for victory prior to their entry, during their engagement, and even after they’ve pulled out.  If one were to look at the war from a more hands on point of view, one would see that even though the U.S. lost the war politically, the American soldiers, along with their South Vietnamese allies, were actually victorious on the battlefield.

The U.S. Army and the A.R.V.N. fought brilliantly, defeating the N.V.A. and the Viet Cong in many confrontations.  For instance, the famous Tet Offensive saw the forces of the North ransack and bombard the city of Saigon with heavy artillery and thunderous force.  Even with the ambitious nature of this onslaught, the Viet Cong were conclusively defeated in this attack, driven out of Saigon, and resulted in the failure of the North Vietnamese operation.

The successful warding of the North Vietnamese from Saigon in the Tet Offensive is a good example of how the Americans, despite winning the battles, could not prevent the North from breaking their will.  On many occasions, the allied forces of South Vietnam and the U.S. had crushed the Communists in battle.  Even so, the U.S. could not maintain their high spirits and their determination to fight.  As a result, the Americans began to accept defeat, not realizing how much strain they and A.R.V.N. had put on the Communists.

It is true that the U.S. should never have entered Vietnam in the first place.  They knew nothing about Vietnam, and had no business messing with another’s domestic affairs.  Their involvement put South Vietnam in a very difficult position in the eyes of the world, giving North Vietnam the ammunition to demonize them.  Even with this obstacle, victory over the Communists was still a real possibility.  As I have pointed out before, the Americans, as well as the South Vietnamese, were actually more successful than the Communists were in the field of battle.  The difference maker was the breaking of the American will, their subsequent withdrawal, and the cutting of all American aid at the end of the war.

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson was largely responsible for increased American involvement in Vietnam.The ideal recipe for victory would have been for the Americans to not have entered at all.  If the U.S. had just supported South Vietnam morally and financially, letting them deal with the Communists in their own way, victory may have come much quicker, and the war may have never been an American quagmire.  Even after the U.S. made the mistake of joining, they could still have defeated the Communists, for their military capabilities were much superior to the North Vietnamese, making them victorious on many confrontations.  In the last scenario, the Americans should still have funded South Vietnam’s war efforts after their withdrawal, instead of accepting defeat and leaving the South to crumble.

It was America’s ignorance of Vietnam that led to such a disastrous outcome.  The Americans knew nothing of Vietnam, as a result, they had made all the wrong moves in dealing with the war.  For every major mistake that they had made, there was a solution that could have been acted upon.  Unfortunately, the Americans could never understand the situation, ultimately leading them to the complete and utter failure that still reverberates in the hearts of the White House today.  The war in Vietnam could have gone in a much different direction, America could have won.  Sadly, the U.S. failed to understand their own capabilities and the capabilities of their allies.  As a result, the chances were lost, and the victory never came.

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The Rescue of 1975, America’s Untold Accomplishment

Posted in Did You Know?, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Ian Pham

When South Vietnam fell to the Communist forces of North Vietnam on April 30, 1975, a wave of Vietnamese citizens fled the country in order to avoid persecution by the new regime.  The former South Vietnamese Navy, with the help of the Americans, would succeed in saving an estimated 30,000 Vietnamese refugees.  This accomplishment would go unrecognized for nearly thirty-five years.  The American soldiers didn’t regard the rescue as anything significant, viewing their rescue as just part of their duty.

The USS Kirk, an American military vessel, encountered the Vietnamese refugees on and around Con Son Island, immediately providing them with food, water, shelter, and medical assistance.  The USS Kirk then led the Vietnamese naval vessels, fishing boats, and cargo ships, filled with refugees, to safety, meeting up with other US Navy ships.  As a result of their efforts, approximately 30,000 Vietnamese refugees were taken to safety in the Philippines and out of the Communists’ reach.

It is only recently that this great humanitarian accomplishment became largely recognized.  Since America held a feeling of bitterness towards Vietnam after the tragic conclusion of the war, the public was not interested in the happenings in that general area.  Also, the soldiers themselves never considered what they did to be anything extraordinary, so the story was never widely publicized.  Today, rising interests in humanitarian work have prompted journalists and investigators to explore the American feat in Vietnam, so the story of this great rescue is finally known to the world.

The Vietnam Syndrome: America After Vietnam

Posted in Modern History with tags , , , on June 4, 2010 by Ian Pham

When the Americans entered the war in Vietnam, they believed they could win the conflict in a swift and easy manner.  The outcome, as you may know, turned out much differently than what was expected.  Not only did the Americans lose, but were taught a valuable lesson by the North Vietnamese.  After the Americans pulled out of Vietnam in 1972, the foreign policy of the United States shifted dramatically from forceful to passive.

 

U.S. President Richard Nixon, 1968-74

 

In the past, following the Allies’ victory over the Axis in WWII, the Americans were lauded as war heroes and emerged as one of the two dominant superpowers in world politics (the other being the Soviet Union).  As a result of this prestigious political, economic, and military clout, America wielded the authority to shape the actions and policies of other countries in world politics for the next several decades.  However, after the disastrous results of the American campaign in Vietnam from 1963-72, the power held by the United States seemed to have slipped substantially.

For the next two decades, American foreign policy would be less militarily driven and more involved with moral and economic support.  A good example of the decline in military involvement is when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the Americans supported the Mujahideen with weapons and supplies but never through the military itself.  It appears that American use of the military during the events after the Vietnam War was quite minimal, often exerting their influence through proxy wars rather than direct military confrontation.

It was only until 1990 did America begin to use the military in direct combat again.  This was during the Gulf War period when American forces were sent into the Middle East to confront Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait under the order of Saddam Hussein.

The Vietnam War proved to be a humbling experience for the Americans.  Due to their failure in the conflict, the prestige of the U.S. was damaged significantly.  The trauma associated with the war reverberated on the minds of Americans from all corners of the country.  The protests, disturbing images of wounded soldiers and civilians, condemnation from the American public, and the subsequent defeat at the hands of the North Vietnamese eventually lead to the shift in American foreign policy in the coming decades. The shift can be characterized by the reluctance to use military force as a means to achieve one’s objectives.  This opposition to war and armed conflicts on the basis of non-support from the public and fear of impending defeat came to be known as the Vietnam Syndrome.

Why the U.S. Should Have Stayed Out

Posted in Modern History with tags , , on June 2, 2010 by Ian Pham

There are several reasons why the United States should never have entered the war in Vietnam, the outcome of the war being the most obvious reason of all.  However, there are other reasons that the Americans should have stayed out of Vietnam which will be discussed here.

Ho Chi Minh often accused the Republic of Vietnam of being a puppet of the United States, a false accusation that proved to be a strong catalyst for the North to invade the South.  President Ngo Dinh Diem knows this, which is why he stood firm on keeping America out of Vietnam’s internal problems.  One of the strong points of the Vietnamese people thoughout history is their devotion to the country and their determination to fight invaders at all costs.  When an invader comes, the Vietnamese people fight fearlessly.  Both Ngo Dinh Diem and Ho Chi Minh were aware of this fact, which is why President Diem so strongly opposed American intervention in Vietnam’s affairs.  Ngo Dinh Diem would do everything in his power to keep out the Americans until his assissination in 1963 by the U.S. government under President Kennedy (above).  It was only after the fall of Diem that the U.S. became involved.  When the Americans entered the war, Ho Chi Minh siezed the opportunity to characterize the South as traitors of the country, puppets of imperialism, and welcomer of invaders.  This alone ignited the patriotism and anger of the North, giving them the fire to defeat the Americans, and subsequently, the entire South Vietnam.

Not only did the American involvement raise the fighting spirit of the North Vietnamese, but at the same time damaged the morale of the South Vietnamese soldiers.  After the assassination of President Diem, South Vietnam was plunged into a period of chaos and civil disorder that would last for three years.  The Republic of Vietnam under President Diem was truly a prosperous nation, successfully keeping Ho Chi Minh and the Vietcong  above the 17th parallel.  The American assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem created a golden opportunity for the Communists to launch their offensive campaigns.  Before the death of Diem, North Vietnam only resorted to terrorist acts and fruitless invasion attempts.  It was only after Diem died did the Communists start making successful advances downward into South Vietnam.

The final reason that the United States should never have entered Vietnam is more closely associated with the end of the war around 1970 onwards.  It was during this time that the United States of America was laying the groundwork for pulling out of Vietnam.  The war was too costly, the American people could take it no longer, neither could their soldiers.  America wanted out and were willing to do anything to achieve that end.  After nearly ten years of fighting, the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, leaving the South to fend for itself.  After killing an able ruler of the South Vietnam government in 1963, losing more than 35 thousand soldiers, allying with Communist China, and having difficulty controlling the second President of the Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, the Americans decided that they’ve had enough.  The Americans involved themselves in a Vietnamese conflict, unprepared for what lay ahead.  So basically, after they came in and caused more harm than good to the people of South Vietnam, the Americans departed and left the South to drown in the mess that the U.S. helped create in the first place.

The U.S. involvement was detrimental to South Vietnam for these reasons.  First of all, U.S. involvment helped enforce Ho Chi Minh’s accusation that the South was the puppet of external powers who invited American invaders into the sacred land.  Secondly, in order for the Americans to come in, they had to kill one of the most able men in South Vietnam.  After Diem’s assassination, the North Vietnamese were finally able to advance on the South.  Sadly, the Americans didn’t realize this consequence until it was too late.  From the beginning, the United States was not aware of what they were getting into.  This brings us to the final reason that America should never have been involved: they didn’t understand the nature of the war, who they were fighting, and why they were fighting.  To America, the war was fought over the containment of Communism and the fear effect created by the idiotic “Domino Theory.”  To the Vietnamese people, the war was about independence, freedom, and anti-colonialism.  It wasn’t America’s war, that is why they should never have gotten involved.